HADN’T intended to blog today, but you can blame the Tory MP Philip Davies for sending me to the laptop. Oh, and the Sun newspaper, too.
It’s fashionable to disparage the Sun nowadays in certain quarters – often the quarter when I tend to wander. This tendency worries me sometimes. Supposedly tolerant people turning intolerant about something they don’t isn’t healthy for a society, is it? Not that I would ever buy the Sun.
As for disparaging Philip Davies, that is the sacred duty of every clear-thinking citizen. Davies, you may recall, is the Yorkshire Tory much devoted to the cause of misogyny, forever barracking and blocking debates in the Commons with cries of: “What about the men?” and so on. He is the most infuriating man in an infuriating place – and he would do doubt take that as a compliment.
Anyway, this morning the Daily Express has fallen for one of his silly stunts under the front-page headline: “Foreign aid outrage.” This is the suggestion that British taxpayers will pay poorer nations’ insurance premiums for new insurance cover against natural disaster for the next four years, as reported more sensibly by the Times. The cost of what sounds like a smart idea – to prime a new market which encourages fragile states to insure themselves against floods and hurricane and so on – is £30m.
That’s peanuts in government terms, but it’s enough to turn the key that sticks out of Davies’ back. Off he goes, labelling this move as “completely unjustifiable” and saying the money should instead be spent on his constituents who can’t get insurance cover against floods. The Sun dips into to rubbish pun drawer, which is becoming a bad habit lately, to describe the scheme as “floody obscene”.
No, what’s obscene is the endless belittling of foreign aid, usually by ranters on the right (yes, that’s you we’re talking about, Philip). We have promised to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid. It’s a tiny amount in relative terms – but it does a lot of good. It also changes the world for the better, helping to turn around poorer countries that, in turn, becoming emerging markets. Just the sort of markets that the Brexit-obsessed think we should be seeking out.
Foreign aid spent well can also reduce migration, as few people want to leave where they are from, but do so out of grim necessity. Try and reduce that grim necessity and perhaps they will not wish to travel – something which should please the very people who drone on about foreign aid.
It’s a small amount of money, relatively speaking, and it shows that we are a responsible, thoughtful country that wishes to help the wider world. This is something that should always be encouraged, but especially when we are increasingly looking like a basket-case country intent on putting up the shutters so that we can argue ourselves to death.
Reaching out from this small but important island is important, and we should be proud of that, rather stupidly grumbling: “It’s not fair. Why don’t they spend it here?”