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Westlake Legal Group > Overseas Aid

Theo Clarke: Investing in Africa will be key to achieving a Global Britain

Theo Clarke is MP for Stafford.

At the start of a new decade, there is no better time to consider emerging opportunities for Britain. Our exit from the European Union is a chance for us to reassess our place in the world, and to renew and strengthen our relationships with neighbours near and far.

One key regional partner as we make this transition will be Africa – home to five of the fastest growing economies across the world in 2019. This growth, set to continue at an extraordinary pace in 2020, has the potential to yield fantastic opportunities for the people of the continent, and for the people of Britain too, including my constituency of Stafford.

As we chart a new course for our country, investing in the economic power of Africa’s burgeoning and youthful economies will play a vital role in the success of Global Britain. Today’s UK-Africa Investment Summit, which brings together governments, business and international institutions, represents an ideal stage for Britain to make clear its intention to be an open, collaborative partner to nations around the world.

The potential growth of the continent is evident for all to see. Africa is home to 16 per cent of the world’s population, and this is set to double by 2050. Additionally, the continent’s GDP is expected to reach $3.2 trillion in the next five years. Angola alone, Africa’s fifth largest economy and one of the fast-growing economies in the world, is projected to see a 49 per cent growth in its population between 2018 and 2030.

Thanks to its rapidly growing population, by 2050 Africa will be home to a quarter of the world’s consumers. This is exciting news for British businesses looking to connect with new customers and build strong export markets across the world. Locking into this export potential is a compelling opportunity for many up and down the UK, and is especially pertinent as we shape our own independent trade policy outside the EU.

Indeed, Alok Sharma said last week that Brexit means Britain will be able to “turbo-charge” relations with Africa – a statement I wholeheartedly endorse. Our strengths, including our record as a leading source of private investment in Africa, mean that we will be at the front of the queue to help support the growth and development of the continent.

However, trade is just one part of how the UK can support the growth of Africa. Aid is just as important in strengthening the developing world – in fact, they are two sides of the same coin.

Around the world we see clear evidence of how the UK’s development budget is stimulating job creation and economic growth, helping to nurture new businesses and grow them into potential export partners. A good example in my constituency is JCB who have a local manufacturing plant in Hixon from which they export generators to numerous countries in Africa. By creating more opportunities for local businesses to export to emerging markets we can create more jobs in Stafford.

I was lucky enough to visit Africado in East Africa, and see first hand the direct benefit of UK aid – the jobs it’s created, the businesses it’s built and the lives it has changed for the better. Founded in 2007, Africado was previously an abandoned coffee plantation. Today, it is a successful farm exporting 2,600 tonnes of avocados annually, and the largest grower and exporter of avocados in Tanzania, which are stocked directly in British supermarkets.

Throughout my travels in Africa, whenever I ask local people what they need, time and time again they say jobs. To be exact, 50,000 new jobs are needed a day across the continent to meet demand. Africado is a fantastic example of how our aid budget has kickstarted and built up an entire industry. Thanks to the initiative, over 2,000 farmers in the East African country supply avocados for export meaning they now have financial security – Britain alone spends an average of $144 million on avocados every year. The result underlines the fact that trade and aid are not mutually exclusive, instead working in tandem to turn our developing partners today into our future trading partners.

Supporting the development of growing economies is not only the right thing to do, but is also firmly in the UK’s national interest. A great example of the power of UK aid in building opportunities home and abroad is South Korea. A former aid recipient, today South Korea is a high-income country and a leading economic partner of ours, trading £7.2 billion worth of goods and services with Britain in 2017.

With the UK setting out on our ambition to become a truly Global Britain, we must understand the huge role that development plays in promoting ‘brand Britain‘ around the world. The Conservative Party manifesto, that I and my new colleagues in Parliament stood on, made clear that our party views the UK as a “force for good” and will aim to “strengthen Britain in the world”. The UK-Africa Summit is but one more opportunity to put this into practice and to showcase the values we want to celebrate of compassion, enterprise and leadership.

So as delegates gather this Monday, they should view trade and aid through the same prism. It is not a case of one or the other – both can unleash the huge potential of Africa’s young population.

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WATCH: Sharma says that ‘more scrutiny’ is needed over aid spending

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Edward Parson: Keep the International Development Department. But scrap the 0.7 per cent aid target.

Edward Parson is a former Sevenoaks District Councillor and International Development Consultant, and contested North Durham at the 2019 General Election

At the height of election fever in December, there were mooted reports of a Whitehall shakeup – this included a possible merger of DFID with the Foreign Office, but more recent reporting suggests a reversal. This article will highlight why DFID should be kept intact as a separate Department, and why it is more important than ever to protect the aid budget.

Keeping DFID as a separate department

Whilst Britain spends £14 billion (2017) on overseas aid, 30 per cent of the aid budget is now spent outside of DFID, with departments like the Foreign Office taking an increasing portion under its control.

As a consultant, I supported aid work with both departments, and found that DFID managed its portfolio with far greater efficiency and scrutiny than the FCO. This view is supported by a National Audit Office report which found the lack of transparency in departments outside of DFID gave uncertainty that UK aid was being used effectively.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending requires specialist knowledge and tools to ensure public money is dispensed overseas in the best way. DFID has had many years to hone this model, maintaining a focus on outcomes rather than process.

However, to continue as a separate department, DFID should improve how it aligns traditional aid objectives with Britain’s strategic goals. Part of the reason that the aid budget is being hived off from direct DFID control is for other departments to spend aid in a non-traditional way.

The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund is a good example of such a hybrid model, combining typical aid outcomes such as global peace and prosperity with UK national security objectives. There is no reason why DFID can’t adopt this mind-set wholesale, ensuring that aid spending always works to benefit Britain and the recipient state. This measure would help DFID to take back control of the aid budget, permitting the high levels of transparency and scrutiny that come with it.

Preserving our ODA Spend

An even greater reason to commit to DFID and its funding is for the supporting role it plays in enabling strong foreign policy. This role will be critical as we leave the EU, and is broken down into three aspects:

  • Soft power: It is becoming less common for our aid to be “tied” (conditional on political reform) and this is a good thing. Despite this, aid still helps to open doors and engenders goodwill in the beneficiary state. This allows us to exercise influence and support the important diplomatic work of the Foreign Office. Aid can also be applied more directly to instigate positive overseas reform. For example, using aid to lead investment in sustainable solutions which tackle global environmental challenges.
  • Trade: With Britain leaving the EU, we will have an independent trade policy for the first time in decades. In order to develop strong trading relationships, we’ll rely on free and fair markets, which can be facilitated through a concept known as ‘Secondary Benefits’. The idea is that by developing overseas economies we open up markets in which to do business – an approach that’s been championed by Alok Sharma. Secondary Benefits also emerge incidentally during the implementation of aid programmes. For example, an aid funded health programme could be leveraged to sell NHS expertise, within or beyond the scope of that particular programme.
  • Global Leadership: The UK still operates at the top table of international affairs, and this comes with certain responsibilities. The UK sets a high bar in giving generously to less well off states and we must think about the example we would set in abandoning our serious commitment to aid. Furthermore, much of our aid has a subsidiary effect of promoting our closest held values, such as democracy, the rule of law, and equality. These beliefs are by no means globally ubiquitous, and we face a challenge from countries like China and Russia aiming to spread their own contravening set of values. China, in particular, has been accused of rigging their aid, creating one sided conditional arrangements that aim to politically or economically exploit less developed countries. We must contrast this, by offering a fairer option for vulnerable nations in need of help.

Removing the 0.7 per cent overseas aid pledge

These points could appear obvious, but need reinforcing to illustrate the important and sometimes neglected benefits of retaining our leading position on aid. However, this does not mean to say we should preserve the model as it is.

We pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid, which is an arbitrary amount devised over 50 years ago based on a suggestion by the World Council of Churches. More than anything, this pledge is rigid and makes it difficult to cancel failing and wasteful projects.

We must replace this target with an outcomes-based budget, which focuses on what we want to/can achieve, rather than how much we want to spend. This could mean spending more than 0.7 per cent in some years and less in others, based on what our goals are and what’s achievable at that point in time.

Overall, DFID must continue specialising in the dispensation of aid, with the resources and Cabinet level representation that an independent department provides. Equally, our strong commitment to aid should be unwavering, as an integral arm of our foreign policy.

However, we must devise a replacement for the 0.7 per cent GDP target and make our aid as mutually beneficial as possible. This will ensure the most efficient use of public resources, and help guarantee popular support for this vital work.

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Tom Tugendhat: The three foreign policy actions that Johnson should take now that he has this huge majority

Tom Tugendhat is MP for Tonbridge and Malling and is one of the leaders of the One Nation Group.

The moment a revolution happens is often only clear with hindsight. Last week’s landslide needs no time for review. It was a lightning bolt releasing an energy that has jolted Parliament and our country into action – and could kickstart new partnerships around the world.

For the first time in a political generation, the UK has a leader able to make a mark on the world. With a five-year term looking certain, a voice tested on the G7, the EU and NATO, and with the ability to legislate others can only dream of, Boris Johnson is positioned to achieve what he has previously only spoken about: Global Britain.

He now has the mandate to act to make this more than a slogan.

 Over the coming months many will focus – rightly – on the EU trade talks. They are going to determine much of the change that is coming to our economy and the relationships our businesses build with the world.

But despite its proximity and economic weight, it won’t be in Brussels that our future is written, but here in London. How we decide to act will shape our future.  

To harness the storm, there are three things we should do now.

The first is to build a new partnership of democratic powers. The creation of a new alliance of those orbiting between the might of the US or China would see mid-sized democratic nations – the Mid-Dems – defend the rule law and economic system that has made us largely prosperous and peaceful since the Second World War. As newly freed-spirits, we can lead a new way of working together. On defence, there is no doubt that our American alliance is the underpinning of our sovereignty, but on trade? That’s where China’s importance grows.

China poses its own challenges. We want closer trade relationships, but the absence of the rule of law, the undermining of civil liberties, the lack of respect for intellectual property and more, leaves little chance to freely exchange ideas and deepen relationships.

That’s why a networked alliance is what we should be looking for. Together with other Mid-Dem countries, such as  Australia, Chile, Germany, France, South Korea and Japan, we can build a partnership to defend the rules that have made us all stronger, working together on climate change, and protecting us all against the whims of powers more inclined to use leverage than law.

Working together would help reawaken many of the existing institutions. In the United Nations, for example, where the US has played less of a role than many of her allies would like, China has become dominant. Buying votes on UN bodies like the Food and Agriculture Organisation may not sound a good investment until you factor in the influence it has on UN members dependent on aid who will be voting in the upcoming ballot to lead the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

As companies like Vodafone know well, WIPO controls international use of frequencies that modern technology relies on, and sets the norms to prevent the IP thefts now normal in China. Beijing is slowly taking control of the existing international order as America steps away. We need to work with like-minded states to protect what matters and contain what doesn’t.

As well as new partnerships, we should join existing bodies, like the TPP.  Opening talks with the members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the new club of 11 states was recently renamed, would expand our horizons. Setting a new trade agenda without aiming for the harmonisation of the European Union will give us reach. Though the geography sounds distant, shipping costs are near historic lows, and our alliance with countries from Mexico to Japan, who have already invited us to join, would build on existing trading relationships and demonstrate to suitors that Britain has options.

That’s the only way we’ll get the deals we need. If we look like beggars, we’ll get crumbs and would be selling ourselves short. We have a huge market, a skilled workforce and some of the most innovative technology in the world, matched with the rule of law and the firm expectation of five years of stable government. So we’re in a stronger position than anyone to benefit from the network building TPP.

The third decision we must take is to invest in ourselves. A house divided makes easy prey for other and the fractures in the United Kingdom are clear for all to see. That’s why the One Nation agenda is so important. Uniting our country so that we’re more than a city state of London with a UK hinterland is essential to everything we seek to achieve. Investment in rail, road, communications and education are as essential to our future prosperity as reforming the Foreign Office.

The new strategic policy review could bring all this together. For the first time in decades the levers of British influence – defence, diplomacy, aid and trade – could sit alongside domestic efforts in education and infrastructure to give the Prime Minister the strength to act.

While Emmanuel Macron has pension problems and a looming election, Donald Trump is going through impeachment and a coming poll, and Angela Merkel has already announced her resignation, Johnson can look out with confidence at the coming five years certain his majority and with a more distant horizon than any of his global peers makes.

This is a chance Britain can grasp to shape not just our home but our world. I’m confident that the Prime Minister can bring his words to life and make Britain global again.

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Garvan Walshe: Merging DfID and the FCO makes sense in these tough times

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy

When the Department of International Development was created in 1997, it appeared as the capstone of the post cold war world order. The Berlin Wall had come down. Eastern European countries had adopted democracy. The Bosnian civil war had been brought to a negotiated conclusion, and in the Kremlin a promisingly competent young liberal Vladimir Putin had yet to take office as First Deputy Prime Minister to ailing President Boris Yeltsin. With peace and security in our neighbourhood assured, it seemed natural to move up a version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and focus on providing the world’s poorest with material help and advice, provided not out of narrow national interest but out of principle.

The International Development Act circumscribed what DfID could spend its money on. It later evolved into an instrument for meeting an international target, that rich countries would try to spend 0.7 per cent of their GDP, on activities that fitted an international definition of “Official Development Assistance”, and whose primary purpose was the alleviation of poverty (though, in practice a considerable amount has been used for state building and other security related activities through the instruments like the Conflict Security and Stability Fund).

As well as being motivated by idealism, it extended a new kind of kind of international policy-making, where countries agreed long term goals, and devised mechanisms to keep each other honest in meeting them, in an area beyond military security and the stability of the international financial system.

The years since haven’t been kind to the idealists’ hopes; 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the failure of most Arab Spring revolutions, the civil war in Syria, Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, and growing Chinese aggression in Asia, including in Hong Kong, call that noble aspiration into question.

This collapse in the international order has begun to have direct repercussions on Britain, whether it’s Russia assassinating people on British soil; Beijing threatening Hong Kongers; or even the Russian airforce penetrating British airspace, and increased submarine activity in British waters.

Donald Trump has rendered the US unpredictable at best, while Brexit has deprived Britain of its share in the EU’s commercial clout. Not only has the need for security grown greater, new means of contributing to the global public goods on which it depends need to be devised.

If done well, bringing DfID back into the Foreign Office could be part of this solution. The idea has been met with swift opposition from 100 aid NGOs. This could be thought understandable: a government department that caters specifically to them is under threat of abolition. But their worst fears: the subordination of development to narrow commercial interests (and a repeat of the Pergau Dam scandal, where aid was given to Malaysia in exchange for an arms deal), need not be realised. Rather the best parts of development policy, in particular a long-term focus and international collaboration could work, in a term I coined for William Hague more than a decade ago, for the “enlightened natural interest.”

The UK is a mid-sized power. Rankings of economic size, (like “fifth” or “sixth” largest economy) in the world, belie the huge difference size difference between US, EU, and, increasingly, China; and the rest. UK GDP is a sixth of America’s and a fifth of the EU27’s. Though the UK’s military strength is relatively greater, there are few missions these days where it would not act as part of an multilateral force, or under the auspices of NATO or Emmanuel Macron’s European Intervention Initiative.

For a mid-sized power, the enlightened national interest lies in securing the international public goods that enable it and its people to pursue their interests with relatively little disruption. These include, of course, organisations like NATO and the WTO; development assistance measured according to agreed guidelines; support for international financial institutions; and contributions to dealing with climate change and other aspects of environmental protection.

If the FCO/DfID merger is to be more than just a rebranding exercise, it should be part of a refocusing of British foreign policy on making the world safe for mid-sized powers like the post-Brexit UK by contributing to the provision of the global public goods this relies on.

The nature of this exercise is that it cannot be set out in detail in a column, but is something a government with a majority more than large enough to last a full term can afford to take the time to implement seriously. It would do well to start studying this in depth, and I can think of no-one better to lead such a review than Nick Herbert, the recently retired MP for Arundel and South Downs, who has the necessary background in development (he’s currently chairman of the Global TB Caucus) and long experience in thoughtful institutional reform.

The International Development doctrine of the 1990s was right at the time. Now is the chance to update it for our more unstable world.

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“Get out of London.” Now watch Johnson and Cummings turn the world upside down. Or try to.

“You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich Remainers’.” (Dominic Cummings, September 2019.)

– – –

Britain’s political and economic model from Margaret Thatcher through Tony Blair to David Cameron had roughly the following in common.

A dominant capital city, London, with its south-eastern hinterland.  A flourishing City of London.  An economy based on services rather than manufacturing.  A high level of immigration, at least recently, to service its needs – both internally and externally.  Pressure in this wider South East on schools, hospitals, roads, rail, cohesion, and especially the price of housing.

An Ascendancy class of civil servants, lawyers, journalists, academics, and media workers doing well out of this system, whichever of the main parties governed.  Government focus on message and spin to feed the London-based newspapers and media.  A recent Ministerial and Whitehall preoccupation with Parliament, reflecting the unwillingness of voters to elect a government with a strong majority since 2005 – and the increasing rebelliousness of backbenchers.  A currency that some believe to have been overvalued (further reinforcing this system).

Outside this greater South East, a provincial Britain in relative or sometimes absolute recession.  A growing gulf between its view of this system’s success and London’s.  A sense that it has done less well out of the growth of the capital city, the universities, the media, services, the law – and infrastructure spending.  A less favourable view of immigration.  Less expensive housing but also lower wages.  Skills and employment gaps.

– – –

All this is about to change – at least, if a new post-Brexit Conservative Government based broadly on Thursday’s results, serving at least two terms and with Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings in place, has its way.

Perhaps wrongly, I read the briefing in much of Sunday’s papers about the new Government’s intentions as Classic Dom.  In the short to medium term, expect to see the following:

  • Less of a focus on Parliament and the media.  Johnson has a majority of the best part of a hundred.  He won the election despite, even arguably because of, intense media scrutiny, opposition and pressure.  I suspect that the Prime Minister won’t care much what Labour, which is likely to vanish into chaotic opposition for the best part of a year, or the Liberal Democrats, who have just lost their leader, do or say in the Commons, at least for the moment. Furthermore, Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke, Amber Rudd, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve* and his most persistent critics are no longer there.  And Cummings won’t be remotely flustered by what’s said on a Today programme or a Newsnight or by an Andrew Neil that, in his view, only the Westminster Village bubble is bothered about.
  • A Government restructuring to concentrate on delivery.  Johnson and Cummings thus won’t worry too much if Ministers flounder in the Commons or TV studios – at least in the early part of this Parliament.  They will want delivery, delivery, delivery for the new blue seats in the Midlands and North.  That will mean tearing up the Government reshaping undertaken by Nick Timothy for Theresa May and starting all over again.  Briefing that Business and Trade will be amalgamated; that the Environment and Climate Change, a Johnson and Carrie Symonds preoccupation, will again have its own department, and that the Foreign Office will absorb much of DfId sounds about right.  A post-January post-Brexit reshuffle will reveal all.
  • Ministers appointed to govern rather than perform.  Monday’s reshuffle will see gaps filled at Culture – which will have an important role with regard to digital and the media – and Wales.  I expect the bigger January shuffle to see Cabinet Ministers appointed who Number Ten expects to work with outsiders to transform Whitehall.  There will be a big emphasis on NHS spending, police numbers, border control, northern infrastructure, skills and, maybe especially, Cummings’ spoor: the words “Invest in Science”.The sort of names to look out for include Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden, Robert Jenrick, Jesse Norman, maybe Chris Skidmore and the rehabilitated Michael Gove.
  • Expect the unexpected.  All those are men.  Johnson will want to appoint a lot of women – an intention made all the more intriguing by the fact that many of the Ministers currently being tipped for the sack are female.  The most senior women outside Cabinet itself are Esther McVey, Caroline Dinenage and Lucy Frazer, who could easily slot into one of the Law Officer posts.  But there is no way of knowing what Johnson, Cummings, Downing Street and the Whips will come up with. And other names in the mix include Victoria Atkins, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and a revitalised Penny Mordaunt.  Cummings’ instinct will be to bring in good outsiders as Ministers and promote quickly from the massive new intake of Tory MPs if necessary – over the head of convention and perhaps advice.

There are some oddities about bits of the briefing, or at least parts of what’s being written.  For example, if a new department for Borders and Security is to be set up, what becomes of the Home Office – which under the Theresa May/Timothy reforms became a department for security and borders?  Is it to be amalgamated once again with the Justice Department?  Might Johnson want to mull reviving an updated Lord Chancellor’s department?

And if the SNP is to campaign for a second independence referendum, with Northern Ireland undergoing huge post-Brexit change, wouldn’t it make sense to have a Secretary of State and department for the Union – perhaps headed by the ubiquitious Gove?  What becomed of the traditional power of the Treasury?

Finally, Johnson could do all the restructuring and appointing available to him with his near three-figure majority…and find that the economic and political model he inherited is too entrenched to be shifted.  Because the commanding heights of our culture have so big a stake in it that they won’t willingly let it go.  Buy your ringside seat now for the clash between the Ascendancy’s instincts and Cummings’ Nietzschean plans. With Johnson refereeing.

– – –

* Mr Grieve…we’ll see what he is right about.” (Cummings, August 2019.)

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Lord Ashcroft: An open letter to Alok Sharma, the new International Development Secretary

Dear Alok,

Congratulations on your richly deserved elevation to the Cabinet. The job of International Development Secretary is always a challenge for a Conservative politician, given our desire for fiscal responsibility and understandable scepticism among Party members over the sanity of fixing aid spending as a proportion of national income rather than determined by need. The struggle must be especially acute for someone who was trained in accountancy.

As you have no doubt already discovered, the Department for International Development seems to see itself as closer to the charity sector that it funds so lavishly than to the rest of Whitehall, which can only look with envy at the department’s constantly-rising budgets. Even as Tory prime ministers oversaw the imposition of austerity policies in Britain, Dfid’s budget doubled in a decade to more than £14 billion. Little wonder there is such public concern, since this is more than we spend on our hard-pressed police forces in England and Wales as they grapple with issues such as gang violence, knife crime and cyber-theft.

Although pleased for you personally, I am disappointed the Prime Minister did not do as he suggested earlier this year by folding Dfid back into the Foreign Office to maximise the potential of Global Britain. ‘We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO,’ Boris Johnson told the Financial Times. ‘The present system is leading to inevitable waste as money is shoved out of the door in order to meet the 0.7 per cent target.’

This apparent shift matches that of some of your predecessors, whose prior scepticism mysteriously disappeared on taking on taking on the job. With his experience working in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, Rory Stewart had even admitted the public was being duped by politicians claiming they could create jobs in poor parts of the planet and impose stability on fragile states. He pointed to some astonishing sums being frittered away such as £4.5 billion spent in Malawi over half a century – yet it ended up poorer.

India provides another example. Though we no longer give aid directly to its government, Britain still spends tens of millions of pounds of aid money in the country, despite its economy being forecast to overtake our own as the fifth biggest in the world. India has both a thriving space programme and its own aid agency giving large sums to poorer nations. These alone are valid reasons to question if it still needs our charity, even if you ignore that nation’s constant struggle against corruption. And a leaked memo from Nirumpama Rao, a former foreign minister, once pointed out the damage caused by the ‘negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID.’ The drip-drip of such depressing imagery of developing countries as basket cases desperate for Western aid also causes fury in Africa.

I am glad you have already managed to visit Uganda to highlight the fight against Ebola. Few critics, not even sceptics such as myself, would begrudge aid going on the vital struggle to defeat this cruel disease when almost 2,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding areas have already lost their lives. But nor should we avoid the facts. One reason the last outbreak in West Africa took off so tragically was the failure to control and monitor aid spending, resulting in weakened local health sectors. A British parliamentary inquiry found the European Union gave £19 million in the year before the devastating outbreak to Liberia’s health ministry, but only £2.5 million reached its destination. No wonder academics have used this country as a case study in aid’s failure to stabilise fragile states. Western donations also poured into Sierra Leone, despite systemic corruption in the health services that failed to thwart the ravage of Ebola when it struck with such appalling force.

You have highlighted the difficulties of delivering life-saving Ebola treatment in a conflict zone. So perhaps you should ask why we keep pumping money into despotic states run by leaders with bloodstained hands such as Rwanda, the cause of so much misery in the region, and Uganda, which was even found to have been inflating refugee numbers in its most recent aid scandal last year.

If we believe in the concept of Global Britain, as I do, then surely we should stand as a beacon of democratic values in a dark world. Instead Dfid ignores the wisdom of development experts who point out that these massive aid flows can achieve the opposite of their aims by undermining the evolution of democracy, especially when showered on societies under the thumb of repressive regimes. Other critics say it fosters conflict and corruption. I know there is so much cash swilling around this sector it is hard to find untainted experts, but might I suggest you listen hard to those without a personal stake in the aid boom rather than those consultants and charity chiefs who make their living from the aid industry?

Unlike many commentators, I believe this to be an exciting time as Britain strikes out boldly to reassert our independence as a nation. Disruption can be a creative process, as I have seen often in the business world, and Westminster definitely needs to be shaken up. This makes it an ideal time to look again at the sheer lunacy of having a fixed aid target that is swelling each year despite the decline in poverty around the world and number of urgently pressing domestic issues.

I know many Tories who want to help those in desperate humanitarian need, but few who think this target is the right way to go about it. Some fear that the mega-charities, which failed to stop gross abuse by staff, will claim the ‘nasty party’ is back if the Conservatives dare to ditch their precious aid target. But if you want to help the world’s poorest people while setting Britain on a brave new course for the future, please turn off those golden taps and change course, so our success in this field is measured by the good we achieve, not just by how much we spend. It is both right, popular and smart – a rare mix in politics.

Yours sincerely,

Michael

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Patrick Spencer: Some advice for the new Conservative leader. Stick to these three ideas to boost productivity.

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The Conservative leadership contest has proved to be the battle of ideas that the party wants, needs and should probably have had back in 2016. Yes, Brexit has dominated the discussion, but in amongst chat of proroguing, No Deals and backstops, we have heard interesting ideas about, for example, tax reform, a national citizens’ service and early years support for young mothers. During the Parliamentary stage of the contest, the Centre for Social Justice hosted the Social Justice Caucus of Tory MPs, holding their own hustings event for the Conservative leadership, and the candidates didn’t disappoint.

The litany of new ideas stem from the fact that most of the candidates felt it is time to reshape the Government’s fiscal strategy. The last nine years have been defined by successive Coalition and Conservative government’s support for fiscal rebalancing. David Cameron and George Osborne successfully formed governments after two general elections on a platform of fiscal prudence.

However, the political landscape has changed. Younger voters who weren’t around to vote in 2010 now make up a sizeable chunk of the electorate. Years of austerity, job growth and a much healthier national balance sheet has meant that ‘austerity’ is increasingly unpopular.  Combine this with the perceived economic harm that a No Deal Brexit may cause, and the case for loosening austerity is compelling.

In this vein, Boris Johnson has argued for lower taxes on higher earners as well as increased spending on education. Esther McVey wanted to cut the International Aid budget and spend savings on the police and education. Dominic Raab called to raise the National Insurance Threshold and cut the basic rate of income tax. Michael Gove hoped to reform VAT so that it becomes a Sales Tax. And Sajid Javid said he would slow the rate of debt reduction, which would free up £25 billion for new spending commitments.

Even outside of the leadership circle, Tory MPs and right-of-centre think tanks are advocating for a new spending strategy.  Neil O’Brien has coined the ‘O’Brien Rule’, which allows for budget deficits as long as debt as a percentage of GDP is falling. This sentiment was echoed by Philip Hammond, who called on every leadership candidate to commit to keeping the deficit under two per cent of GDP as long as the national debt was falling.

Considering the appetite to do something, the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister should be warned that spending for spending’s sake is not a good idea. If the decision is taken therefore to loosen the fiscal taps, it should be carefully targeted so that this increases growth and more importantly, productivity.

The Centre for Social Justice released a report in 2017 that highlighted a clear policy agenda that used tax and spend policies to boost productivity across the UK. It is roundly recognised that the productivity conundrum in the UK has not been the result of any one issue but, rather, is a confluence of factors that have taken hold of our economic and social machine.

First and foremost, British companies do not invest and innovate enough. Compared to other countries we have lower levels of capital investment, lower uptake of new-generation technologies such as robotics, and entrepreneurs sell out too early. Britain has a proud history of innovation and technology, and yes we do have several world beating unicorn companies, but in recent years we have lost ground in the innovation stakes to the US, Germany and the Asian economies.

The CSJ recommended a raft of policies that could help reverse this, starting with a ramp up in public funds available for research and development. Public cash for R+D has a crowding in (as opposed to crowding out) effect. We also called (counter-intuitively) for the scrapping of Entrepreneurs Tax Relief. It is expensive and does little to help real entrepreneurs, and only acts as a tax loophole for asset strippers (this policy has recently been advocated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation). We also called for simplification of the tax system. Look at the Annual Investment Allowance, for instance, that was decreased by 75 per cent in 2012, increased by a factor of 10 in 2013, doubled in 2015, only for it to then be almost cut in half in 2016.

Second, the CSJ called for a radical increase in support for vocational education in the UK. While businesses needed some help to innovate and compete, the labour market needs support in terms of skills and competencies. Recommendations included a new spending commitment for FE colleges and more support for adult learners who are in low skilled work. The Augar Review called for the Government to make £1 billion available for colleges, a good start but realistically the Government will have to go much further in the future. here is an example of where public money can make a big difference in public policy.

Last, if the next Prime Minister wants to support productivity growth, they can look at rebalancing growth outside of London across Britain’s regions. London is home to less than a quarter of the UK’s population but contributes to 37 per cent of our economic output. It attracts a disproportionate number of high skilled and high paying jobs. Public spending on infrastructure in London dwarfs that spent in the North and Midlands. Reversing this trend will of course take a generation, but by boosting transport spending on inter-city transport (most obviously Northern Rail), tax breaks for companies that set up in struggling cities such as Doncaster, Wigan or Bradford, as well as more money for towns and cities to spend on green spaces and cultural assets (such as museums, public art, restaurants and bars) that attract young people.

These three productivity-generating policy areas will allow any Government to loosen the fiscal taps without bankrupting the country. When the next Prime Minister appoints his Chancellor, he or she would be well advised to stick to the basics of cutting taxes, spending more on education and rebalancing growth outside of London.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Mansfield: Brexit by October 31. Stop using the Left’s language. And stand for skilled workers. Essentials for our next Prime Minister

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

Our next Prime Minister will take office at the most challenging time since the 1970s. Not only is there Brexit – an issue of fundamental national importance, that has destroyed the last two Prime Ministers and poses an existential challenge to the future of the Conservative Party – but the old political assumptions are changing. Across the West, traditional voter coalitions are shifting, as citizens reject centrist compromises. Flatlining productivity, unaffordable houses and millions of voters feeling abandoned, either culturally or economically, are just some of the challenges they will face.

Many of those who voted for David Cameron in 2010 are lost to the party, alienated by Brexit. In Britain today, age and education level are better predictors of a person’s vote than class. To win a general election, our next Prime Minister must forge a new coalition of voters that unites the traditional Tory shires with the left-behind Leave voters in the Midlands and North. Even more importantly, they must deliver authentic right-wing policies that address the causes of ordinary working people’s dissatisfaction. People want change and, if the Conservative Party does not deliver it, they are likely to seek answers in the flawed blandishments of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism.

In that context, there are three essentials that our next Prime Minister must prioritise for the good of the people, the nation and the party:

  • Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed.
  • Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left.
  • Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes.

Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed

Not only is delivering on the outcome of the referendum a democratic imperative, it is vital for the continued existence of the party. Recent polling shows that, if we have not left the EU, the Conservatives are likely to suffer devastating losses in a general election; these figures could be even worse if large numbers of members, councillors or even entire associations defect to the Brexit Party. Many members have held on over the last few months purely out of hope that the next Prime Minister would deliver where May failed: another betrayal in October would see these members permanently lost.

Leaving with a deal is preferable, if some changes to the backstop can be agreed and Parliament will pass it. If not, as I have argued previously on this site, we have nothing to fear from No Deal. Preparations for such should be put into top gear on the first day in office. The Prime Minister must make clear that they will under no circumstances ask for an extension; and that they are, if needed, prepared to systematically veto any measure put forward by the EU on regular business if the UK is for some reason kept in. While every effort should be made to secure a deal, if it cannot be reached, Parliament must be faced with the simple choice of permitting a WTO exit or voting no confidence in the Prime Minister – a gamble, admittedly, but one that is preferable to another disastrous extension.

Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left

In recent years too many Conservative politicians have allowed our opponents to define the playing field. We cannot beat the socialists by adopting the language and assumptions of socialism. Our next Prime Minister must stop feeding the narrative of identity, grievance and division, with its assumption that an individual’s potential is defined by their characteristics, that so-called ‘burning injustices’ are solely the responsibility of the state to address, and that the government always no best.

Changing the narrative will be a long endeavour. The systematic appointment of those with conservative values into key ministerially appointed positions; an authentically right-wing approach to policy making in Whitehall; and the withdrawal of state funding from the network of organisations that maintain the left’s grip on the policy narrative are essential. But over and above this, the Prime Minister must be willing to personally stand up and champion individual liberties and freedoms; to condemn progressive authoritarianism and to be visibly proud of Britain, our culture and the rich global heritage of our citizens.

Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes

Young, metropolitan graduates may once have been natural Conservatives, but no longer. There is little hope of reversing this in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Instead of squandering our effort here, our new Prime Minister should instead make the party the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes, particularly in the midlands and north.

Such voters have a natural affinity to the traditional conservative values of low tax and individual liberty, but also greatly value and rely day-to-day onn strong public services. This places the Conservatives in a difficult position after a decade of austerity: Labour made hay campaigning on cuts to police numbers and falls in per pupil spending in 2017. But how to fund significant increases in core services without raising taxes or alienating core Conservative voters, such as via the disastrous proposals on social care in the 2017 manifesto?

To find the funding the next Prime Minister must be bold enough to slay the progressive sacred cows that soak up billions annually in public funding. Three immediately spring to mind:

With the additional £15 billion plus a year, the Prime Minister could at a stroke increase police funding by 25 per cent (£3 billion), boost school funding per pupil by 20 per cent (£8 billion) and increase spending on social care by 20 per cent (£4 billion). And then split the proceeds of further growth between public services and tax cuts.

As well as this, we should champion the interests of the high street, enterprise and small businesses and oppose crony corporatism. Multinational companies that make use of aggressive tax avoidance, abuse their market position or actively work against UK sovereignty should not enjoy government grants, procurement or time in No. 10. Fundamentally, our next Prime Minister should spend more time listening to the Federation of Small Businesses and less time listening to the CBI.

Conclusion

As members, we have two candidates set before us. Both are able politicians and tested leaders who represent the best the Parliamentary party has to offer. As we assess who should be not just our next leader, but our Prime Minister, we should do so against their ability to deliver these vital elements.

Both have committed to delivering Brexit by October 31 – but which one has the ability, the genuine will and the courage to do so by any means necessary? Both are true-blue Conservatives – but which one will truly champion our values, taking the battle to our adversaries with the eloquence and conviction of a Thatcher or a Churchill? Both recognise the importance of reaching out to new voters – but which one can devise and push through the policies needed to unite the Tory shires with the Leave voters of the north? Consider carefully and cast your vote.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Clark Vasey: Only Johnson can deliver Blue Collar Conservatism

Clark Vasey is the founder of Blue Collar Conservatism and was the Conservative Candidate for Workington in 2017

Since we first set up Blue Collar Conservatism in 2012, I have worked with Esther McVey to encourage the Conservatives to focus on the working class voters who have been taken for granted by Labour. They have been consistently let down by that party, and have been turning to the Conservatives in greater numbers than any other group. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of posh metropolitan socialism followed by the Leave victory in the EU referendum, we were well placed to achieve an historic realignment.  But in 2017 with a Brexit message diluted by unpopular policies we lost ground.

With our failure to deliver Brexit, what was once an opportunity now poses an existential threat to the party. Rather than winning over working class voters we now risk losing them hand over fist to the Brexit Party, as both the European elections and the Peterborough by-election demonstrate.

If we are still in the EU come 1 November, we risk irreparably breaching trust with these voters and offering Corbyn a route to power. Yet if we can deliver a proper Brexit at the end of October, thereby depriving Nigel Farage of his narrative of betrayal, then the potential of connecting with these voters remains. Corbyn does not speak for working- class people and, with Tom Watson determined to turn Labour into a party for metropolitan remainers, Labour are dropping any pretence of speaking for its traditional communities.

This is why Esther relaunched Blue Collar Conservatism earlier this year. Once we have delivered Brexit, we must build an agenda for working people by focusing on the issues which matter most to them. Being on the side of the people who need us most is not only the right thing to do, but is the only way in which we can win a majority. And it is only with that majority that we can keep out the most destructive socialist government in our history, and transform our country with the opportunities which will follow leaving the EU.

I was proud to support Esther in a campaign which put Blue Collar Conservatism on the agenda of this leadership contest. When the dust has settled, people will look back and see that she presented the most coherent and costed campaign in this contest.

This was possible because we applied three simple principles of Blue Collar Conservatism – 1) that resources should be focused on things which really matter to people, 2) that we must always ensure people are able to keep more of their own money and 3) that we must use Conservative policies to grow the economy to enable us to do 1 and 2.

You do not win working class voters by dipping into Ed Miliband’s bag of tricks. We need a Conservative agenda which delivers the things which really matter, not watered-down Labour policies.

This is what Esther did with her calls for more spending on police and schools funded by taking the DfID budget back to 2010 levels. This why Esther talked about public sector pay and fantastic initiatives such as a new Police Covenant. This was about genuinely shifting the dial on these issues which cause us huge pain in constituencies across the country. It was also about challenging orthodoxies within the party such as the 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid, which would have an important symbolic effect of showing we are listening, and are not just focused on Westminster priorities.

Over the coming weeks and months Blue Collar Conservatism will continue to make the case that the party must win over the support of working people, particularly in the Midlands and the North. Esther’s Blue Collar Conversations pub tour is making its way around the country talking to people who would not normally engage with Conservatives. This is helping us build up a body of ideas which our voters and potential voters actually want. But the most important challenge for us now is that the new leader recognises the importance of this agenda for our party and our country. This is why it was so welcome that Boris Johnson endorsed Esther’s Blue Collar agenda.

When it comes to shaping a popular agenda incorporating Blue Collar Conservatism there is only one remaining candidate in the contest, and that is Johnson. This is not about an individual’s background, but their ability to connect with people and present radical Conservative policies which will make a positive difference to them.

However, first we must deliver Brexit. If we are not out of the EU by 31 October we will never be given a hearing on what comes after, no matter how positive. Johnson is the only candidate who can restore trust on Brexit and deliver Blue Collar policies which will secure a Conservative majority and keep Corbyn out of Downing Street.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com