Yes, we’re electing a prime minister, but we’re also electing a world leader

Let’s hope we elect a world leader who will act on the global stage


It probably won’t surprise you that a recent poll conducted by ComRes for ITV News revealed that the British public chose managing the NHS as the biggest priority for the next government. It’s probably not too shocking that controlling immigration and growing the economy for everyone in Britain came next.

Indeed, if you own a television, read a newspaper, or have attended an election hustings in the local community centre (which really needs to be re-painted), you’re probably sick of hearing about them.

But throughout the election campaign, among the heady concoction of domestic issues and political point-scoring, there have been rare glimpses of what a prime minister has to deal with – global issues. From the recent floods in Nepal, the devastating stories of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean and the Ebola crisis, it’s pretty clear that a UK prime minister will have a lot on his plate.

In terms of our international standing, this election coincides with a hugely important year for the world. In September, the UN General Assembly will meet to create a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (building on the Millennium Development Goals) with an aim to tackle extreme poverty, climate change and inequality among many other global issues.

That’s on top of the Climate Summit in Paris, the G20 in Turkey, and G7 hosted by Germany’s Angela Merkel which comes just four weeks after May 7 – election day. All are important and all demand global leadership.

The question is why has the international agenda been pushed to one side? Sure, the parties may cover a couple of points about overseas aid, global health and international tax dodging in their manifestos, but it’s usually on page 95. In a time of intense global change, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of electing a new world leader who has the ability to change the lives of people around the world.

So, what will Number 10’s new resident have to deal with and how can they make sure that the UK remains top of the international pack?

A landmark piece of legislation was introduced in the closing weeks of the last Parliament, through a Private Members Bill, which enshrined in law the 40-year-old UN commitment to invest just 0.7 per cent of gross national income in overseas aid. While this is great news for the world’s poorest people, long-time supporters and campaigners, we must not be complacent – there’s more to do.

Quantity is important, but aid quality is essential. Current projections* show that in the coming years, the majority of the world’s poorest people will live in the least developed countries. This election, we at ONE are calling on candidates to sign a pledge showing their commitment to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, putting girls and women at the heart of development in the next Parliament. Our Just Say Yes campaign is asking the class of 2015 entering the House of Commons to make sure that by the time they leave in 2020, the majority of overseas aid is invested in the least developed countries.

In a hugely significant year both at home and abroad, the UK election is the starting-gun for those who want to see change around the world. Let’s hope that whatever the political stripes of our next PM, we elect a world leader who will act on the global stage.

* Data from P. Edward and A. Sumner, Growth, Inequality and Poverty (GrIP) model and ONE calculations

Billy Hill is campaign’s assistant for ONE

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