Or the UK poor, come to that
Today, Priti Patel became the latest Conservative leadership hopeful to call for the aid budget to ‘redefined’.
Speaking at the launch of a new report on aid by the secretively-funded ‘Taxpayers Alliance’, she said that peace-keeping, counter-narcotics and insurance against natural disasters to be defined as overseas aid.
The UK has a target to spend 0.7% of its budget on overseas aid. So ‘redefining’ aid, this would mean less money being spent on actual overseas aid.
Patel’s support for this anti-aid agenda should come as no surprise. In 2013, she called for the Department for International Develompent to be abolished.
Later, this did not stop her accepting a job as the head of this department but she had to resign after she held unofficial meetings with the Israeli government without telling the UK government. Despite the scandal, she got a £17k taxpayer payout.
Her latest position though has angered charities. Tim Pilkington, chief executive of the charity World Vision, said:
“An anti-aid agenda is now becoming brazen within parts of parliament. It is unacceptable for the world’s poorest to be used as a football in a Brexit-fed political power struggle.
Others using the world’s poor as a football include Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt.
Johnson, along with Tory MP Bob Seeley and former Labour but now independent MP Iain Austin, recently also backed a Henry Jackson Society report calling for aid to be ‘redefined’ and DFID to be taken over by the Foreign Office.
While Patel said aid money should be spent on peace-keeping and counter-narcotics, the Johnson-backed report wants it spent on Foreign Office and military projects and the BBC World Service. Oxfam’s head of government relations Jon Date said:
“Redefining Britain’s aid budget in this way would be a recipe for disaster. The primary purpose of aid is – and should continue to be – to fight poverty. Any other approach risks aid being spent badly and jeopardising the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.
Even the actual International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has joined in.
Although she talks endlessly about being a “former aid worker” (she spent her gap year in a Romanian orphanage) she is disliked in her own department and in the aid sector.
One reason for that is that she offered her department’s money to the military for the building of Royal Navy ships.
For all his faults, David Cameron and his government did at least spare overseas aid from their vicious cuts – if only to help detoxify his party and promote his husky-hugging image.
In the next leadership election, several front-runners will have no such concerns and will be promoting themselves as the anti-aid candidate.
Joe Lo is a freelance journalist and a reporter for Left Foot Forward
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