DAVE Our Leader (may his beneficent power be as that of a hundred-thousand wind turbines) has been inspired by an idea. It fell about after this fashion.
Dave’s sensitive antennae had detected that the public was anxious he should do something – urgently – about immigration. So, like the listening leader he is, he hopped on to an aircraft, flew to India and pleaded with its huddled masses to come to Britain in larger numbers.
India, for the benefit of those whose school reports contained the caveat “weak in geography”, is the struggling Asian nuclear power with its own space programme, the tenth largest economy in the world, the third largest standing army and the seventh largest military budget, to which we have committed to donate £1.4 billion of British taxpayers’ money in aid over four years. A year ago, India’s finance minister told parliament that the aid from Britain should be relinquished: “We do not require the aid. It is a peanut in our total development spending.”
That must have been pretty dismaying for Dave, who has so much surplus cash at his disposal he is at his wits’ end how to spend it. Some callous commentators went so far as to suggest paying back a small instalment of Britain’s £1.16 trillion debt – the debt that was £843bn when Dave entered Number 10 and began his programme of savage cuts. Even bleeding-heart liberal commentators conceded the money might be better donated to Africa, to which India itself contributes £3.5bn on the insane “aid” merry-go-round.
At any rate, whether spurred by rejection, criticism or his oxygen intake on a long-haul flight, Dave came up with a plan so cunning, as Blackadder was wont to remark, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.
How would it be, wondered the cerebrally formidable heir of Blair, if HM government, having painted itself into a corner by ring-fencing foreign aid from cuts so that it is about to increase by 32 per cent in one year, spent the money on military requirements instead, while still calling it “aid”? Eh? Eh? Cunning, or what? Do we see on this the fingerprints of Mad Oliver, the magus and projector in his turret room at CCHQ from which so many ingenious initiatives have emerged to promote the fortunes of the Conservative Party to their present zenith?
This is potentially a seismic moment in politics. Having devised this exciting new concept, why stop at international aid? Why not devote the NHS budget to the proliferation of wind farms, the education budget to promoting more intensive immigration and the transport budget to culture? That would fox Labour when interrogating ministers in Parliament.
This wheeze certainly enthused Tory backbenchers, who were queuing up to dance in the streets. Conservative MPs who retain any vestigial hankerings for Toryism as it used to be, for more than three centuries before the advent of Dave, greet every small nugget of conservatism they think they glimpse amid the tons of Cameronian dross with hysterical relief. They resemble the laboratory technicians straining to detect the tiniest percentage of horse carcase in school lunches. The notion that, through any device whatsoever, Britain’s military capacity might amount to more than just the Beefeaters by 2015 induced a pathetic euphoria. To any objective observer, however, this latest absurdity further exposes the incapacity of the shambles called the Coalition Government.
The grandstanding inanity of ring-fencing the budget of the Department for International Development (DfID) was part of the Tory “modernising” agenda. It gave undeserved immunity to the most wasteful of all government departments. A report last month from the think-tank Civitas exposed some of the outrages perpetrated under the umbrella of “aid”. One-third of UK aid is used by the European Union for projects such as promoting tourism in Iceland, financing a French tourist resort in Morocco and funding a Turkish television station.
Even when the money goes to Africa it is liable to be misspent: £300 million of British aid to Ethiopia was allegedly doled out in food by the regime, but as a bribe for political support.
Government-to-government aid is a discredited model. It has prolonged under-development and poverty in backward countries. Private organisations funding self-help projects represent the only viable assistance. Nor is there any virtue in charity based on fiscal confiscation. Let Britons keep more of their money and they will not be backward in donating to the genuinely needy through agencies of proven integrity.
Meanwhile, the defence budget has been irresponsibly run down and subverted by scandalous incompetence in procurement: in 2009 the Gray Report found the average project overran by 80 per cent, or five years, with cost overruns amounting to £35bn. That is the one budget that needs to be ring-fenced. «