The pledge to almost double Britain’s international aid budget was made in the boom
years, when the government actually had money. In the bust, there is something deeply strange — almost perverse — about borrowing money from China and giving it to India. It’s time to
reassess Britain’s aid commitment, and The Spectator is having a debate about it tomorrow night. I hope CoffeeHousers will be able to come because it is, I think, a crucial issue.
Alan Duncan is the man to thanks — or blame, depending on your point of view — for the Tories committing to spend 0.7 per cent of economic output on foreign aid. He made the pledge in
opposition, and the depressingly brilliant Andrew Mitchell (who succeeded Duncan) persuaded Cameron that his fiscal credibility depended on keeping it. Duncan will be on the panel defending what
is, to me, a very statist way of seeing things.
Isn’t the Big Society about trusting people to do things themselves? Shouldn’t Conservatives actually take heed of the fact that the British public are actually the most generous in Europe and
don’t need overseas donations forced out of them via the tax system? I’m in favour of aid, and believe some of it is done best through the tax system. But I think it should be frozen, or
"protected" if you prefer, not increased by 36 per cent at a time when we’re evicting the unemployed from council houses.
Ian Birrell, who is speaking for the motion (and against aid), has travelled extensively in Africa and will be talking from experience about how aid can often harm the very countries it’s supposed
to help. He has written about it here, "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2012074/David-Camerons-foreign-aid-How-money-squandered.html">here and "http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/13/we-help-dictators-to-steal">here. On his team is Stephen Glover, the Daily Mail and Independent columnist. He’s written about aid "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2022169/Its-parody-lavish-aid-corrupt-dictators-leave-Britain-defenceless.html">here and "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnists/article-1312452/David-Cameron-wrong-think-foreign-aid-important-Britains-defences.html">here. The third member of their team — Richard
Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society — has written "http://www.amazon.co.uk/Africa-Altered-States-Ordinary-Miracles/dp/1846271541/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320146185&sr=8-1">a book about how the west misdiagnoses Africa’s problems.
On Alan Duncan’s team: economics Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University — who has written about why aid works — and Richard Miller, Executive Director of ActionAid UK, one of the
most forceful advocates of the aid agenda.
To ensure scrupulous impartiality, the debate will be chaired by Rod Liddle. Do come along and join us: it’ll be in the Royal Geographical Society in South Ken tomorrow evening. For tickets, click