Ashcroft on Aid: ‘We can’t afford it’


During the recent reshuffle the government shifted rightwards in both tone and substance . Cameron has long aimed to stop the Tory party from being known as the ‘nasty party’, but he is undoubtedly failing.

This was reaffirmed today by the comments of the infamous Tory donor Lord Ashcroft on the current amount of aid spending. Today, Lord Ashcroft wrote a rather surreal open letter to the new International Development Secretary Justine Greening. Lord Ashcroft claimed that we ‘we can’t afford the aid budget’.

This is a hotly debated issue but for a serial tax avoider to weigh in shows sharp hypocrisy. Ashcroft has avoided 3.4 million in tax, highlighting one of the main reasons why the state does not have as much money as it should – indeed his argument that ‘we can’t afford it’ would have more weight if he paid his fair share of taxes.

Further facts that make his criticism hard to swallow is the £200 million the Department for International Development spent on an airport for St Helena, after Lord Ashcroft’s lobbying. At the time Andrew Mitchell argued this was provided to boost tourism, thus bringing more money to the area.

However consider that the £200 million spent on this project was equivalent to the entire amount spent on water and sanitation you may not believe this was the best way for DFID to spend its money.

The recommendation put forward is to scrap the DFID altogether, a truly regressive step that pre-dates 1997.

Furthermore under inspection Lord Ashcroft’s numbers do not stand up. In a clear attempt to scare the public, Ashcroft claimed that the DFID budget costs £300 per family, but actually for those on £15,000 a year £27 of a total £2,700 tax bill and for those on £26,000 a year £60 of a £6000 tax bill.  Also a Daily Mail article used by Lord Ashcroft also proved to be misleading, because the EU money spent on ‘Turkish sewers’ mentioned in the piece comes from the EU budget but not the UK’s aid contribution to it.

Ashcroft states that a cut in DFID will be in the ‘best interests of people in poverty’ . If Government holds firm, and refuses the advice of Ashcroft and the Daily Mail then UK aid will put over 15 million children in school, provide over 80 million children with vaccines against life-threatening diseases and ensure better nutrition for more than 9 million people over the next four years.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

13 Responses to “Ashcroft on Aid: ‘We can’t afford it’”

  1. Dan Smith

    India don’t want it to be fair.

  2. daggsat

    Yeh! you’re right. We should keep giving India money to fund thier space programme

  3. James Doughnut

    Daggsat, don’t forget the Indian Grand Prix, that don’t come cheap

  4. Selohesra

    If Labour/BBC did not continuously talk down the economy maybe e’d all feel prosperous enough to afford this generosity

  5. Lord Lindley

    It’s about time this foreign aid was stopped. If UK public want to give to charity, fine. You give. We are forced to donate because of the govt making themselves feel good & then pay again through the EU! All AID should be stopped, especially to countries that are trying to kill us at the moment!

  6. Richard Coates

    The figures only include direct taxation – there will be a cost in indirect taxation too – i.e. it is inherently significantly more than that figure. I assume what Ashcroft has done is something like DFID budget = £7.7b (2010/11) divided by 22m households in the UK ( = £350 per household. If the DFID budget increases to £10.6b, that figure per household would be £481. You might well want to argue that, because rich people pay a lot more tax, this doesn’t show you what the average family pays, but its no more inaccurate than trying to argue that the only tax people pay is direct taxation. That’s particularly important when poorer people proportionately pay a very much larger part of their income in indirect than direct taxation.

  7. Newsbot9

    Thanks for arguing for tax reform.

  8. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, “talking down” the economy, when the Tories are burning the basis of a modern economy. Yes, keep victim-blaming.

  9. Newsbot9

    Great, then the UK can shut up and stop that nasty “trade” thing.

    And no, it’s YOU who is trying to kill poor Britons, nobody else.

  10. gbd

    I think the economy is doing fine. if you want to work there are jobs there, if you don’t there’s the welfare state. i’ve hardly noticed the ‘downturn’. just seems house prices are going up slower than before

  11. newsbot11

    aid kills. it is widely recognised. private charity can play a role but gets crowded out by ham fisted governments trying to ‘help’ which usually involves large amounts of mnoney ending up in swiss bank accounts and people poorer than ever.

    and as for india! it has it’s own aid program, space program etc. and they don’t want our aid – it embarrasses them!

  12. Newsbot9

    Right, typical when you’re insulated from reality by your wealth. Back in what the 99% have to deal with…

  13. Terence W

    Thanks for the critique. The trouble with Lord Ashcroft is that while he claims allegiance to the to the facts, his letter is factually wrong, or at the very least misleading, in quite a few instances. He completely represents the aid effectiveness literature, for example. I go through this in some detail here:

Leave a Reply