|UKIP – the new “Nasty Party”|
Some years ago, at a Conservative Party conference, Theresa May famously said that her party had a reputation as “the Nasty Party”. People believed that the Conservatives were against the poor and were supporters of the capitalist system, not to improve the lot of everyone, but because they and their rich friends gained in consequence. In order to succeed at the next election their aim had to be to change that impression and show that the party had at its heart the problems and preoccupations of everyone and not just the rich. Difficult. But it was the reason for the subsequent promise in the manifesto to maintain economic aid to third world countries at 0.7% of GDP in accordance with the UN's 'Millennium Project'. In fact, this means that foreign aid amounts to 1.2% of the total cost of government – not much as a percentage, but still £11 billion per annum.
But it seems that now we have another candidate for their title: my favourite cartoon party – UKIP. The MEP Godfrey Bloom said the other day:
"How we can possibly be giving £1bn a month, when we're in this sort of debt, to Bongo Bongo Land is completely beyond me. To buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid. F18s for Pakistan. We need a new squadron of F18s. Who's got the squadrons? Pakistan, where we send the money.".
All the journalists criticised him for his use of the pejorative term 'Bongo Bongo Land', to describe the third world. But opinion was divided on the question of continuing to give foreign aid when we ourselves need to borrow so much to continue to survive as a country.
Where to start? If I needed to max out my credit card(s) and ask for loans from my friends without the ability to repay, then I would certainly not be justified in making gifts to charity from that money.. It is probably this idea which Mr Bloom had in mind when making his assertions. But it seems to me that his thinking is confused. His views would be justified in the case of, say, Greece which is in economic chaos and simply unable to repay its debts. But a country like ours is not in the same position. We are more like someone who has a mortgage which obviously is not going to be paid off immediately, but which will be repaid in the ordinary way over the lifetime of the loan. We wouldn't expect the owner of a house not to give to charity simply because he had a mortgage . And neither should we consider it an excuse for our country to cut off aid simply because we are having to tighten our belts.
Not only was a complete lack of empathy revealed in Mr Blooms remarks, but there was an obvious desire to live in the past. In the cold war era when foreign aid was a political tool used to create alliances with poorer countries to exclude the influence of our cold war enemies, it is true that the money provided almost invariably found its way into the bank accounts of the governing classes, often the local dictator's wider family. But things have changed very much since then. Now, we require audited accounts. And we have recently decided to discontinue aid to the Indian government, for example, a country which now has its own space programme. Not that this prevents UK government aid via NGO's which work in the country on specific projects which would benefit directly those in dire need in that country of great contrasts. It is not a perfect system by any means, but according to all that I have read, the vast majority of the aid now goes more or less where it was intended. And when there are even now so very many people who live in such poverty (less than a dollar a day), I am quite prepared to accept the waste of even a significant percentage of the aid if the rest can do good for those living in grindingly poverty.
And then there is the fact that Mr Bloom's demand is inconsistent with his party's own policies. One of the central pillars of UKIP is the prevention of immigration into this 'overpopulated' country of ours. But what is the main reason for the desire of so very many people to come here from the third world? The fact that we are so much better off here than they are. Thus it seems to me to be rational to promote the economies of such third world countries in order to diminish the ratio of the perceived benefit to the cost involved in trying to get here illegally. But no, we see the true nature of this party in its refusal even to take practical measures to realise its own policy when it implies the payment of money to poor foreigners. We see their hatred of 'the other' who is not a part of our group.
I suppose that the ideal solution would be for Mr Bloom to go to the jungle in his Bongo Bongo Land where he might find himself in a cannibal's cauldron. By this means, he would have the satisfaction of having his worst prejudices confirmed and at the same time making a personal donation to the poor. A definite win-win situation.