Poverty is political

February 3, 2013 2:46 pm

The launch of the Enough Food IF campaign by a wide spectrum of British NGOs is to be warmly welcomed. The demands of the campaign, if met, would transform the lives of people around the world who currently suffer poverty, hunger, malnutrition and the appalling diseases that often come with them.

In his speech to the World Economic Forum, David Cameron professed support for the campaigns’ aims, promising that the 0.7% aid target will be met and pledging action at the G8 on tax, food and transparency. With David Cameron also chairing the Panel that will decide the new goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015, it might be thought that Development is the one area where the difference between this Conservative-led government and Labour is small.

That perception is wrong. The difference in the values and ideals of our Parties is large and profound. The divergences in policy outcomes are therefore wide and important.

Practical examples of that abound:

  • The Tories ideological attachment to austerity is not just hurting millions of vulnerable people in this country, it also means that the aid budget is as much as £4.25 billion less than it should have been, because GDP forecasts are down and because George Osborne froze the aid budget for two years.
  • Whilst claiming to support action on tax avoidance and evasion, they have consistently fought against attempts in the EU and G20 to create an international Financial Transactions Tax, and the measures in their March Budget will create a loophole that will allow British companies to avoid paying developing countries up to £4 billion in tax.
  • Their bias towards de-regulation at all costs has seen them block Labour’s proposed amendments to the Financial Services Bill that would increase transparency around food and commodity speculation.
  • There is growing recognition by UN agencies and others that any new Post-2015 goals must explicitly target inequality. Yet, despite co-chairing the Panel that will work on the new goals, David Cameron remains worryingly silent on the issue. Maybe even he recognises the obvious gaps that would be seen between equality rhetoric abroad and inequality reality at home.

Ahead of the World Economic Forum in January, Oxfam launched a new report on the challenges of dealing with global inequality. It is no coincidence that the country that has made the most impressive strides towards reducing inequality in recent years – Brazil – is governed by a social democratic party. President Lula’s Bolsa Família programme, which has continued under President Dilma now reaches 46 million poor families, cutting the number of Brazilians living in poverty by half. Clearly, progress towards reducing poverty and inequality does not happen by chance. It happens by choice – through progressive action undertaken by progressive politicians rather than regressive actions which impoverish whole societies.

That is why last week’s speech by Shadow International Development Secretary, Ivan Lewis MP, outlining Labour’s vision for what should replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 gave huge encouragement by injecting politics and a strong sense of purpose into a discussion that had become far too technocratic. Labour can be proud that it now has a framework for the way in which the next Labour government will promote social justice and human rights, and help to achieve a more equitable and sustainable economic growth around the world.

As Ivan himself acknowledged, that future Labour government could not do it alone. In a global economy we need to forge partnerships with fellow progressives around the world if the vision he outlined is to be fulfilled. We need a new network that brings together not only our old friends, from the Democrats in the US to the Arbeiderpartiet in Norway, but progressives across the globe, from the Partido dos Trabalhadores’ in Brazil to the Indian National Congress in India to the ANC in South Africa.

Such a network should share learning and build a new, radical centre-left policy agenda fit for the 21st Century. And because the battle of ideas cannot be won without organisation, the network should also focus on how we can better assist each other to win more elections – not least by showing how effective development policies have resonance among voters who realise that this will be, more than ever before, the interdependent century.

Poverty is political. It will rise or fall because of the change we choose. Only with social democratic values propelling policies of care, enablement, opportunity, justice, security and liberty, progressive economic thinking, and audacious leadership will we achieve a world in which mass poverty is confined to the past and unknown in the future.

Glenys Kinnock is the Honorary Co-President of the Labour Campaign for International Development. To find out more about LCID and become a member visit LCID.org.uk/joinThis post is part of International Development weekend on LabourList – you can join the debate on these issues at YourBritain.

Latest

  • Comment Fairness dictates that we show concern for both sides

    Fairness dictates that we show concern for both sides

    We have all been shocked to see the surge in violence between Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. This conflict is causing enormous hardship on both sides. Particularly distressing is the sight of civilian casualties. The scale of human suffering in the current escalation is immense and every civilian casualty is a tragedy. The people of Gaza have the right to live in peace and freedom, just as Israelis have the right not to fear for […]

    Read more →
  • News Are Osborne’s spinners block journalists from asking questions they don’t like?

    Are Osborne’s spinners block journalists from asking questions they don’t like?

    An intriguing story emerged from a copy of the Express and Star last week, the regional newspaper that covers the West Midlands and Staffordshire. Daniel Wainwright reports that during a recent visit from the Chancellor, a radio journalist said she wanted to ask George Osborne about food banks, and was told that he simply wouldn’t answer it. Here’s the story: “Talking of George Osborne, here’s a little insight into what goes on in the run up to getting an interview. These […]

    Read more →
  • News Alexander intervenes on Gaza escalation that “shames our shared humanity”

    Alexander intervenes on Gaza escalation that “shames our shared humanity”

    Douglas Alexander, Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, has made another intervention on the Gaza conflict as the crisis in the Middle East continues to escalate. Alexander condemns the attack on a UN school in Gaza, describing the deaths of children there as “[shaming] our shared humanity”. His latest comments seem to be aimed largely at lobbying Israel to stand down the level of the force, and to recognise that as a democracy with “vastly superior technological and military capabilities, comes particular responsibilities”. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour changes track – and now it can win

    Labour changes track – and now it can win

    Labour has not generated many headlines this week. There haven’t been game-changers. David Cameron wasn’t trounced in Prime Minister’s Questions. The polls haven’t shifted. The meeting with a post-stardust Obama passed by without significant benefit or incident. Yet, this has been Labour’s best week for some considerable time – certainly in this Parliament. Heading into the final furlong of the election race, Labour has three strategic weaknesses: its perceived weaknesses on leadership, an absence of a strong governing story and a […]

    Read more →
  • News This is just one of the reasons why the Tories will never do well in the North East

    This is just one of the reasons why the Tories will never do well in the North East

    David Cameron has been on BBC Radio Tees – that’s the radio station for the Middlesbrough area, and the Tees is the name of the river there. Except this happened (via Buzzfeed): Presenter: “You keep mentioning the River Tyne. That’s not our region prime minister. I’m sorry, we are the River Tees.” Cameron: “I’m sorry, I thought I was doing….” Tyneside is of course around 50 miles North of Middlesbrough – it’s home to Newcastle, and Gateshead, and those of us who are […]

    Read more →