Daily Mail wrong to criticise Foreign Aid

October 21, 2010

Today’s bold headline in the Daily Mail lambasts George Osborne’s decision in yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review to hit the UN target of 0.7% of Britain’s national income to Foreign Aid.

Among all the stories of job losses, pupil premiums, the pension age and police funding, this is what the Mail decided to headline with.

Criticising the decision to honour the UN’s goal and to help other countries who really know what poverty is, is pathetic.  The tone is playground stuff, wailing ‘Why should other people benefit while we suffer? It’s not fair!’

Let’s not forget why many of these countries are underdeveloped.  A people colonised, abused, manipulated and traded as slaves, then left largely to look after themselves.  Sorry, you mentioned something about fair?

The Coalition have got this one right and I applaud them for it


Michael Martin: Scapegoat?

May 18, 2009

Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, today gave his speech in the face of adversity, over calls for him to stand down

Michael Martin

Michael Martin

Barraged by MPs, both from within the Government and without, Mr. Martin stumbled through the questioning after an unconvincingly delivered speech.  Yet the bumbling buffoon image that he portrays (no smoke without fire) may have worked in his favour, as he looked increasingly victimised, each MP growing in boldness in calls for him to stand down.

Tory Mp Douglas Carswell outrageously voiced his concerns that the leadership who dragged the house into this mess, would be unable to have the moral authority to drag the house out of it.  Unfortunately Mr. Carswell, MPs have dragged themselves down.

It was Bob Spink (Independent) who was the voice of reason, pointing out that the public don’t want to see the Speaker made a scapegoat, while MPs get off scot-free.  Now, I don’t claim that Mr. Spink speaks for the public, but he speaks for me.  It was unimpressive to see MPs attempt to deflect the whole of the blame onto this man, who although he has made many many mistakes throughout his time, and should stand down on the basis of his unprovoked attacks last week alone, is not responsible for the food claims, the invisible mortgages, the lightbulbs etc etc.

I don’t buy into the public fury on the whole thing, but we must not allow a full house of MPs to sleaze seize the opportunity to deflect blame away from themselves and onto the Speaker.

Is Protesting Fashionable or Functional?

May 16, 2009

I’ve blogged a few times on protesting, mostly with regards to students

Suzy Dean, a 23 year old wrote an interesting column in The Times on Thursday, complaining that “Demonstrators today seem more interested in mouthing platitudes than marshalling the case to advance real causes.  The article (which can be found here), raises some good points and highlights just how ‘fashionable’ it is to protest, and actually how little can come of it.  She succinctly articulates,

“I’m just here to raise awareness,” was another common response from demonstrators. Actually “raising awareness” is now a standard part of demo discourse: from the Put People First coalition to Stop the War marches, protesters gather to make the public “aware” of a cause. No one seems to think beyond awareness, or believe that convincing the public to join your cause counts for much.

If we are unable to articulate what we’re demonstrating for, the act rather than the aim of protesting takes centre stage.

The differentiation raising awareness and raising support has probably become very cloudyd it’s a fairly easy trap to get caught up in.  I mean, apart from being angry at bankers, who actually knows what many of the protestors at the G20 were protesting at?  And that’s undoubtedly been the most famous protest this year

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns and Communications with Save the Children wrote a reply in the letters section yesterday.  As it’s reasonably short, I’ll copy it fully underneath.

Sir, The Make Poverty History white band I still wear every day is a little less white than it was and I wish it could be described as “demo chic”.  Rather than a fashion statement, it is a simple statement that the avoidable death of a child every three seconds is unacceptable — and a reminder to me that the small actions of human beings can change this reality.

Suzy Dean is right to say that campaigns need to go beyond raising awareness alone. But when a quarter of a million people marched in Edinburgh at the peak of the Make Poverty History campaign and called on world leaders to act, they did, with a promised $50 billion aid increase. That campaign went beyond awareness to action and there are children alive and in school today as a result.

Many people joined organisations at the peaceful Put People First march to urge the G20 to keep those promises in the face of a global recession. My guess is most of them came not to strike a pose, but to make a point.

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Save the Children

University of Ulster drops 16 places in University Guide

May 12, 2009

The Guardian’s University guide lists UU in 75th place, out of the 117 Universities listed.  Queen’s drops three places to 49th.  Queen’s have particularly underperformed.  With an average entry tariff of 353 points there is no university with a higher tariff below them, while several universities with lower entry requirements are above them, such as Heriot Watt (22nd, with an average entry tarriff of 346)

% satisfied with teaching – % satisfied with feedback – Student/Staff Ratio – Career prospect – Avg. Entry Tariff

Queens – 85 – 58 – 16.0 – 76 – 353

UU – 76 – 60 – 17.9 – 63 – 269

Victims Commissioners – What are they doing?

May 7, 2009

Patricia MacBride

Mike Nesbitt

Brendan McAllister

Bertha McDougall

Where are you?

Victims Commissioners

 For the past month, these four names have only appeared in the news on two occasions.*  Once was to tell us that they were giving evidence on the Eames-Bradley Report to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. 

And the other instance is in the debacle surrounding the appointment of Bertha McDougall as Interim Commissioner, an appointment now deemed as “not lawfully made.”

Their website shows a slowing down of diary appointments from early February, with 23 appointments in February, and 13 in March.  There are none listed for April or May. 

So, where are these Commissioners, and what are they doing to justify their £65,000 salary?  And if they are working, why aren’t we being told about it?  Where’s the accountability?

*Google news search

‘God isn’t really back’ according to The Times

May 7, 2009

In a response to his paper’s article on Saturday, David Aaronovitch entitles this week’s regular column, ‘Rumours of God’s return are greatly exaggerated,’ well worth a read.  Discussing the rise of Christianity in Africa in China, he attributes this to “a mark of mobility.”

Aaronovitch curbs optimistic talk of a church on the rise with a reality check

In this country, for example, the British Social Attitudes Survey showed that 74 per cent of Britons belonged to a religion and attended services in 1964, but only 31per cent did so in 2005

God of Justice or Justification?

May 2, 2009

In my previous post I quoted from an article in today’s Times, which stated

evangelical missions sometimes spend more time trying to convert poor people than trying to help them.

It’s speaking of missionaries in Africa, yet the same applies to Christians here.  There is a Christian culture of helping someone’s ‘spiritual’ needs first before meeting their ‘non-spiritual’ needs such as their hunger, their lack of job, their need for comfort.


Gordon McDade (Ballynahinch Baptist) argues that there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular, and that God is not just concerned with issues of justification, but also issues of justice.

A column in Wednesday’s Times by the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, reveals a side of Christianity that is concerned with the needs of the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed.   He writes

The treatment of refugees is about the obligation – which civilisations much older than ours have known in their bones – to care for the stranger in need. What’s the point of “human rights” becoming a mantra for every special-interest fad if we ignore the most basic human rights of deeply vulnerable people?

In Isaiah 58 God sets out what he thinks righteousness is

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
       only a day for a man to humble himself?
       Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
       and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
       Is that what you call a fast,
       a day acceptable to the LORD ?

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

  Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe him,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

See also Tony Campolo – The Fast that God Requires (one page)