Coffee House

Why can’t Justine Greening pretend to enjoy her job?

29 September 2013

4:11 PM

29 September 2013

4:11 PM

Does Justine Greening enjoy being International Development Secretary? I ask only because while the text of her speech to the Conservative party conference contained a lengthy defence of aid spending, the minister managed to sound about as thrilled as someone who had just discovered their bus fare had gone up by 10p when she actually delivered it. If nothing else, the speech demonstrated that Andrew Mitchell was a loss to the case for ring-fencing the aid budget when he made his fateful journey from that department to the whips’ office. Mitchell always launched into an impassioned and compelling explanation of the liberal interventionist case for development spending. Meanwhile Greening is known to disagree with that target: today she hardly sounded like she had caught any passion or conviction for it after a year in the job.


Funnily enough, the bits of the speech when Greening did come alive were on her commitment to cutting down on wasteful aid spending, which this magazine has urged her to do since her appointment. She told delegates:

‘As a former Treasury minister I’m not instead in schemes or programmes that fail to make a long-term dent in extreme poverty. And I’ve taken decisions to exit aid programmes in countries that are successfully developing and able to invest for themselves, like India and South Africa.’

Perhaps Greening thinks that a sceptical conference will be better convinced of the case for aid spending by a focus on cutting out the waste, rather than its effects itself. But as Fraser explained a while back, it will always be difficult for sceptics to trust Greening’s department when it is forced to spend to a target.

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Show comments
  • Will Millard

    I’d gnaw my arm off for her job. The thing is, she’s just boring, doesn’t matter what role you put her in!

    • Rockin Ron

      This space reserved for contrary aside by Telemachus.

    • ArchiePonsonby

      Perhaps she’s just completely embarrassed to be chucking our hard-borrowed dosh at bottomless sink-holes in sub-Saharan Africa and suchlike when our people are crying out for lower taxes!

  • itdoesntaddup

    Left to her own devices, Greening would probably lop at least £5bn off the aid budget, just as she managed to lop much of the cloud cuckoo economics off HS2. She simply lacks the clout to follow her own convictions at present, but is clearly biding her time towards securing a more prominent position at a later date. Resign, and she would simply be ignored on the backbenches.

    • Daniel Maris

      Convictions? Are you sure?

  • HookesLaw

    So all other departments are not forced to spend to a target? What rubbish is this?
    All deparments have a budget. They usually aim to spend to it.

    Greening seems to be something of a sourpuss so I am not sure I take to the conclusion.

  • Alexsandr

    if the international development job is too nasty for her, she has a simple remedy. resign. No-one is making her do the job.

  • ButcombeMan

    The ring fencing was always ridiculous and too much foreign aid, (not just ours but also EU to which we contribute), gets wasted in corrupt bong-bongo lands.

    We should cut back ours and spend it on equipment and facilities, through the armed forces, to make British Aid the most effective immediate disaster relief provision in the world. We should badge it accordingly and use, as far as possible, British Equipment (JCBs etc) .

  • Nicholas chuzzlewit

    Any straw you can grasp at to make the Tories look bad eh Isabel? I for one would like to hear a good deal less from Isabel Hardman and a good deal more from Carola Binney.

    • HookesLaw

      The have to keep feeding the inhabitants ob Bonkers-Bonkers land.

  • MikeBrighton

    The ring-fenced foreign aid budget just to burnish Cameron’s liberal credentials pleases only the Guardianistas who will offer him no credit and certainly won’t vote for him. An exercise in wasting an epic amount of money in epic self delusion

    • telemachus

      It is the moral and caring thing to do
      Further it gives us enormous street cred in the world corridors of power
      The hidden benefits to our economy are incalculable

      • MikeBrighton

        The hidden benefits to our economy are very well hidden…..
        It is simply money sunk in foreign rat holes and then broadly transferred to Swiss bank accounts, mercedes dealers and the manufacturers of exotic yachts and private jets. We might as well transfer a material amount to Germany and Switzerland and cut out the middle men

        • Will Millard

          If you knew anything about International Development, you’d be aware that the poorest billion people in the world have become poorer rather than richer in the last 30 years. As the BRIC countries rise these people are left behind by purely by the fact that destiny bore them in a different country. We have a moral obligation as humans to impart a little of our extravagant wealth upon those less fortunate.

          • telemachus

            Brilliant post
            This resonates with those who have an ounce of compassion
            For the rest the self interest of benefit to the hidden economy and our political influence should be trumpeted

          • dalai guevara

            yes, but where DOES the money end up?

          • Last Man Standing

            There is no reason why African countries should not become developed nations other than that they are utterly corrupt. Africans don’t need to invent anything as the British did during our Industrial Revolution. They just need to look on the internet and its all there. But their Governments don’t want development. They want a backward, ignorant people who will attract Aid which can fund their own lifestyles.

            India is a fabulously wealthy country. It has a space industry, a nuclear industry and bomb, and a vast army. But more people are forced to poo in the street in India than anywhere else. And a large proportion of Indians have no access to clean water.

            Is that our fault and our problem? Or must India use its own resources to solve these problems themselves? Here’s an idea. Buy 100 trucks with water drilling rigs. Train some of the army to operate them. Have them produce 20,000 clean water wells each year.

          • MikeBrighton

            Really. It doesn’t seem to be working or perhaps I’ve missed it?
            Perhaps the solution isn’t pouring our money into corrupt kleoptocracies to enrich Swiss bankers and Mercedes-Benz.
            You just want to double down on failure and spend more money we don’t have I guess?
            PS Don’t impart you morality on me btw, I can make my own choices and fankly the government has no business forcibly extracting tax revenue from me to spend on your “moral obligation”
            PPS What extravagant wealth? If you didn’t notice we are actually bankrupt as a nation. International Development spending is frankly paid for by debt that my children and their children will have to repay

            • dalai guevara

              Correct, we ought to insist Africa keeps delivering cheap coffee beans, dates, chocolate etc so that those sprogs get a good head start.

            • Tom M

              Quite agree. What I can’t get my head around is that we are giving away money we don’t have.

              On the basis of the posts above I feel sure that all of these people with a moral conscience must be borrowing money from the bank to give to charities (overseas of course) to satisfy their “moral obligation to the less fortunate” etc etc. Sounds logical to somebody I’m sure.

  • Abhay

    Why is there even a ministry / secretariat for international aid?

  • Austin Barry

    Bleeding-heart millionaire Cameron’s fanatical commitment to ring-fencing the foreign aid budget, particularly to loathsome countries like Pakistan, just annoys more voters, burdened by austerity, than it pleases.

    Does Cameron realise how many voters his aid policy alienates? Or does he find self-deluding refuge in that politician’s cliche for pious idiocy “it’s the right thing to do”?

    • Daniel Maris

      We certainly need a rethink on aid. As can be seen from all the footage of Kenya recently, a lot of it looks no different from our major cities – except perhaps most of the people look a lot healthier than their equivalents in our inner cities I’d say.

      I am in favour of international development aid but it needs to be the right kind – supporting democratic development, not interfering with local markets. So it’s better to just help build infrastructure such as roads, rail and mobile phone masts, rather than interfering with local food markets or encouraging an army of “aid workers” (aka young people having fun) to distort local economies. Education and cultural development is good as well.

      • Will Millard

        Micro-economic development is amongst the best forms of int’ dev’ though can admittedly create a false economy. Where it works it works well, yet there is no magic wand.

        I take umbrage at ‘young people having fun’ how demeaning! Perhaps you ought to go out yourself and see how difficult it really is in the middle of war torn, disease riddled corners of the world where even a bag of rice brings tears to eyes. I’d go on but I’m too disheartened by all these comments, maybe another day.

    • HookesLaw

      I was at a talk on Water Aid, only the other day. I suppose if like you you are cruel and heartless and intollerant then such things would not bother you. But people who can relate to the suffering in the world (mostly be small children) I do appreciate measures to alleviate it.

      Being totally selfish about it – the poor of the world are our future markets. Does it make sense to leave them to rot? As a nation we are entitled to a foreign policy, its in our interest to have a foregn policy and using money to further than foregn policy is itself a reasonable policy.
      Helping the world by spending money not blood seems a good idea to me.

  • Mynydd

    Maybe Justine Greening is a true to Conservative principles, cut taxpayers money to the welfare dependant, also means cut taxpayers money to the aid dependent countries, let them stand on their own two feet

    • Daniel Maris

      Or maybe she’s just a poseur.