Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gordon of Khartoum

Some years ago, when I was visiting Africa, a friend who worked for the World Bank, pointed at a non-descript African gentlemen sitting at a table in the restaurant we were in. “There”, he said, “is where the £36 million pounds of aid to repair the country's road system went. You’ll have noticed the sorry state of the roads I’m sure.”

In today’s Sunday Times, Rod Liddle writes:

“What a lovely photo. Gordon Brown in Maputo, the Mozambique capital, last week beaming like a big benevolent white god, a bunch of happy little black children hunkered down at his knee. It was only when you read the copy that you found out that the benevolence was all yours.

Brown had flown a bunch of hacks to Mozambique so he could be photographed being nice to Africans with enormous amounts of your dosh. In a week when we learnt that our National Health Service is some £750m in the red and a British woman had to go to court to screw the money from it to have her life prolonged with Herceptin, the requisite anti-cancer drug, Gordon bunged a staggering £8 billion over 10 years to Africa.“ Read on..

Ed: It's sad that the actor Charlton Heston, who has played Moses, Ben Hur and Gordon of Khartoum in his time, is now too old to play Gordon Brown. It would be a great part in an epic movie but the role will now go to comedian, Rory Bremner.

44 comments:

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Eradicating 3rd world poverty and giving hope to those who are weak or impoverished is a laudable aim. This issue should be near the top of every national politicians agenda, whatever the party. If there are problems to be overcome, then we should tackle them by whatever means are at our disposable. Cynicism from the media is to be expected, but I believe that the people of this country will rise above that.

DrMoores said...

Certainly a laudable aim but I think that if it was put to the vote then the people of this scountry would prefer to put their money into the NHS or somewhere a little more accountable than watch a good 20% disappear into a Swiss Bank account in commissions.

Anonymous said...

Martin Wise in the post above - are you serious????
With all the problems we have here in Thanet and England due apparently to budgetary constraints - can we really afford to give large lumps of money away to countries who cannot control their own population to a level maintainable by their own prospects of food production and labour?
If we had no need of the money ourselves I would spend any amount on trying to re-educate Africans to behave responsibly (which unfortunately would probably be a waste of time anyway)but WE DON'T HAVE IT!
Spend it on Cliftonville first, then Thanet, then England, include Scotland and Wales if you must, then when all their problems are fixed we can give it to people with problems abroad.
Of course I suppose if we give all this money away now then maybe we won't get so many refugees coming to UK......................

Anonymous said...

It is a false comparison. There are many more things less laudable that government wastes its money on. To balance expenditure on Africa with the NHS is unfair on both situations.

Chris Wells

Anonymous said...

You have to be joking Cllr Wise? Yes laudable, but only if you can afford to and only if there's an accountable system in place that allows for an audit trail to be established, which being Africa, I very much doubt. We should keep our money to ourselves until we sort our own problems out and not allow spineless politicians to give it away for their own political ends.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately we cannot expect one of the posters on here to object to giving money to incredibly large families who could not be sustained by the parents own efforts without state aid, whatever their county of origin.
It takes all sorts.

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Many of these are exactly the responses I expected. I believe that our problems in Thanet and the UK are miniscule in comparison to those in many many other places in the world. As one of the Big 5 and a former colonial power we have responsibilities to others. If we believe this should cease then perhaps we should close the borders and take the Great out of Great Britain?

Anonymous said...

Yeah whatever, you don't address these African nation's (in)ability to create an audit trail of where the money goes. Oh hold on we know, lots goes into the pockets of the people in power. The fact we were a colonial power isn't my generation's fault too so why should WE pay for it? A friend of mine was in the Foreign & Commonwealth office in the 50s in one of the African states and lots of these countries were set up with a fully functioning civil service, health system and education system. It's only because of Marxism and corruption that it went belly up. If you think Cllr we have problems that are small in comparison you shouldn't be in a position of power.

Anonymous said...

People are fed up with politicians and minority high profile groups telling us the people what we should do, think, eat, spend money on. Who does this councillor think he is saying 'exactly the responses I expected'? This country faces massive problems. I see 22 Nigerian Police couldn't stop former Liberian President and suspected war criminal Charles Taylor escaping. Typical isn't it? One a war criminal wanted for genocide the other a state so inept it can't hold a high profile prisoner in custody. Want more examples?

Anonymous said...

Oh get real. I'm sick of this sanctimonious claptrap about how everyone else is worse off then us and we owe the world a living because we once had an Empire. Lots of ethnic groups have been oppressed by other ethnic groups since the beginning of time.
Sheltered liberals have now decided to beat us all up for the sins of our fathers and in the process have given certain groups a licence to just sit around and wait for the money.
That doesn't help them at all.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Clearly there are no fat cats in Britain then? No corruption? Never mind if we once had an empire, are you truly comfortable making comparisons between the availability of advanced cancer treatment drugs in the developed world, and provision of clean water elsewhere?

I say again, this is a false premise. There is room for both in a properly managed economy and budget in an advanced democracy. I do not tell you what to think, merely ask you to step back and ponder as objectively as you can the parameters of debate. If there was no health service crisis would you care as much? It is the inability to provide the one alongside the sheer chutzpah of milking the other that grates, not the issue itself.

The debate on climate change suggests as a society we are living in the UK at a consumption rate that would require 3 planets worth of natural resources to sustain. Where does the imbalance of that consumption come from?

I invite you all to the Thanet Local Board on Tuesday 25th April at King Ethelberts School to hear the sober truth on climate change and its implications for our lifestyle here in Kent. As Chairman of the KCC Select Committee on this subject I am hearing many uncomfortable truths that are changing my opinions.

Chris Wells

Putapon taxpayer said...

The poor will always be with us and not only cos the Govt changes its definition of poor upwards as wthe country has grown more prosperous.
I think improving education in a whole continent like Africa a very laudable goal that is best left to Africans.
There is a trend amongst our national and local leaders that throwing money (other peoples i.e. taxpayers money) at a problem will solve it; it hasn't worked with the NHS and our own TC so what makes anyone think that £8 billion of this country's taxpayers money will have an impact in Africa? The US Treasury figures show that since the 1960s 80% of all Foreign Aid to Africa over a 40 year period has been hijacked by corrupt individuals at Country or local level.
Let Brown dream of his world statesman role and his committment to mis-spend our money over the next 10 years; me I'm going to be working at making sure he will be out of office by then and urge the rest of you to do so to.

Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown promised an end to child poverty in THIS COUNTRY. Remember all the hype about that?
He cacked all that up so now he needs to take the spotlight to another continent where they can't vote him out when he cacks it up there too.
Still, worth a few nice pictures of him patronising the locals and playing the great bwana!
New Labour !
New Empire !

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Gordon Brown (!) ending child poverty in this country will probably take 20 years, and is more about changing attitudes than throwing money at the problem. Tho by definition ending poverty means extra money from somewhere.

Yes, most of the work in Africa will come from Africans, but they will often need a kickstart to get things going and think longer term. Its not so hard if you think about it.

Chris Wells

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Simon - the callous inhumanity displayed by some of those posting on your site does it no credit. Nobody is asking for a penny of unaudited funding to be handed out to anybody. But to consider that we should not make this a big issue for the coming decade and beyond is inconceivable. Powerful nations have a moral obligation to run down corrupt individuals and to ensure that money gets where it is needed. There is no excuse for not doing that, or for allowing a single child to die from lack of food or water in this day and age. We can do it - it is just a question of will. This is not liberal or fanciful thinking, just plain fact.

Anonymous said...

The reason it doesn't work in Africa is because Africans prey on Africans. If Robert Mugabe was white, everyone in the world would be outraged by his policies of mass murder and starvation. As it is, nobody protects the people of all colours he is killing.
Maybe Gordon Brown could deal with that as a real issue.
No, I didn't think so.

DrMoores said...

Martin, what people choose to write on this website in response to a larger Sunday Times story, is not my responsibility. This is of course an open forum with a strong acceptable use policy which most readers follow.

I read all the comments with interest as they are "pushed" to me automatically for review but I have no wish to exercise any level of censorship on the valid opinions of others. The very fact that so many comments are appearing against this post, suggests that there is an issue which needs to explored and debated rather than buried.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear Dr Moores!

Martin Wise (Cllr.) said...

Simon - my point is not about the story, but rather the extreme views of many of those who responded to my post.

I have no sympathy for those who will not help themselves, or who work the system to their own advantage because they will not take personal responsibility for their actions. But there is a difference between them and the truly poor.

As a Tory local politician I have no particular regard for Gordon Brown, but you do not have to be a socialist to have concern about real and total poverty, or to respect those who wish to make a difference. And I am not as cynical about Gordon Brown as Rod Liddle from the Sunday Times.

Anonymous said...

Children die from lack of food, water and violence in this country. Many could be saved if social services had the financial resources to employ more people to protect them.
Incidently Cllr Wise the awful people who comment here also gave more money than the Government from THEIR OWN pockets to Tsunami victims.
PS What have our comments got to do with DRM? Aren't we allowed to write our opinions even if you don't like them.
Its called democracy.

Pedagogue said...

I hope that Mr Brown will give teachers in this country an opportunity to spend a year on full pay and despatch them to suitable countries in Africa to teach. According to a documentary on a Brit family staying in a poor African village, they will find large but well behaved classes; a discipline system that is immediate and effective and pupils with a real enthusiasm to learn.
The only problem other than possibly not wanting to come home is the way they might be regarded as superior white neo-colonialists by certain African Governments Education Ministers.

Anonymous said...

As far as Martin Wise ( who is only a local councillor in a tinpot council, not some highflying politician) is concerned he was elected to represent his local people, not to support government giving money away to foreign countries which should be spent here.
When he has fixed all the problems in Thanet then he can move on to expressing views on other countries problems.

Anonymous said...

But Martin is also entitled to his own opinion on such an issue, is he not? I also believe social services in this country spends more than enough money already. And yes, most of the money that is spent effectively overseas is fundraised not government. If we wait to fix all the problems of this country before helping anyone else, many many will be dead without good cause. This is not about politics, this is about humanity.

Chris Wells

James Maskell said...

Anonymous 2:14pm, Are you saying that hes not allowed to give his opinion on issues because he is a Councillor?

Anonymous said...

Why can't this money be distributed through the charities like Oxfam and the Red Cross. These people have a history of helping local people to help themselves by drilling boreholes, setting up collective farms etc. This would then stop the problem of Government corruption. As for our past empire, although we undoubtedly did loot the countries we ruled, we also did a lot to set up good government, and good economies. Zimbabwe is a prime example of how giving power over to the indigenous people has destroyed what was once a successful country.

James Maskell said...

Good point Anon 3:01pm. Governments cant be fully trusted to spend the money well due to the corruption so prevalent. Charities are a better vehicle for that as they would have the knowledge of the worst hit areas and how to target the money to the best areas.

Dealing with the Governments, any funding should be provided subject to the Governments being tough with corruption and a paper trail to show where the money is actually going.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon of 2.14, TDC is not a tin-pot council and Cllr Martin Wise is not by your implication a tin-pot councillor; so don't get personal! I agree with your other sentiments but he is entitled to express an opinion like any-one else. As for trusting Charities like Oxfam; beware. I may not be accurate here but a study a few years back showed that only about 10p out of each pound donated to Oxfam was actually getting to starving masses; didn't Oxfam have a problem more recently with disappearing Tsunami money in Sri-lanka or was it Indonesia; £30 m odd had filtered away!

Anonymous said...

James and Chris, of course Martin is entitled to express his opinions, but he was elected to represent part of Thanet, not use his title to pontificate about Africa.
And if TDC isn't tinpot then its at least Toytown!
And KCC isn't much better in my opinion, having just wasted the equivalent sum of half of what is TDC's annual budget on the failed and ridiculous Turner project with nothing to show for it.
Do they have any brains?
Thanet and Kent and England first, Africa afterwards.

And Chris - is it being humane to give money to Africans who will then have even bigger families who will, in the natural course of events, eventually suffer and starve to death.
We will be interfering with natural selection, which will always win in the end.
Africans need to get responsible, they need to have smaller families they can support with their own food production and they need to get organised and work in a planned and productive manner.
I would like to see that but many Europeans have tried to help them for over a century now with little good results to show for it.
I think we will do no more than exacerbate and prolong the suffering if we give them money and food.
Its a very sad situation and one to which I don't know the answer, maybe you do?

DrMoores said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DrMoores said...

Sorry.. I deleted my own post there.. I'll start again..

An interesting thread which I never imagined would provoke such strong feelings when I put it up. Let's please remember not to use personal adjectives, such as "Tinpot" which have the potential to cause offense when aimed at individuals, although I'm sure it was not intended.

James Maskell said...

"not use his title to pontificate about Africa"

I think you may well have the wrong end of the stick there. I dont think he was using his title with reference to Africa. Its just a title his electorate offered to him upon his election. A wo/man's title should not be a barrier to his/her right to speak and give their own opinion on an issue.

Your second section's an interesting one. Do you believe Britain has a moral imperative to help those in the third world? If we have the means is it not our obligation as a global power to help those who wont be helped by their own governments. nB, I write this while reading about the Darfur crisis.

Anonymous said...

James - the thing is - are we actually helping Africans long term if we give money and food now? They have come to expect aid instead of dealing with their own problems.
I am all for educating them however , and this of course does cost money, and unfortunately may not be successful, but is worth trying again.
I am reminded of how India dealt with overpopulation to some extent successfully by offering free transistor radios to men who had a vasectomy. That actually worked as an incentive scheme amazingly.
And China has for many years had a 1 child per family scheme in effect, although they had punishment for larger families which I don't agree with.
I know these countries are both very populous but without these schemes they would be grossly overpopulated.
Instead of which they are at least selfsupporting and China is now well on the way to becoming again one of the richest countries on the planet, like it was for 18 out of the last 20 centuries.
I do apologise if I offended anyone by describing TDC the way I did, although that is how I see it having been a resident here for 45 years, I do not say all the councillors are tarred with the same brush, and certainly not Martin Wise or Chris Wells, both of whom are reasonable people.

Anonymous said...

The best aid, at home or abroad is that which allows people to establish their own earning power so they do not need aid in the future. It is the very basis on which interventions such as Sure Start at home were founded, though I have to say, many involved do not fully understand this point; and the best aid for Africa, the boring bit providing farmers with the ability tofarm, etc. Yes, war and corruption will get in the way, as they have done throughout european history, and for every forward step, there will be a couple of backward ones. Will we stop putting funds into the NHS because it does not mend immediately? I think not. Why then should we take the same attitude to the grinding poverty of Africa. Everywhere women have been given access to birth control measures, population growth has fallen. It is an education and understanding matter, relating to death and desease rates as much as anything else.

I am sure Bob Geldof would find this exchange infuriating, re[resenting much he has fought against during the last 20 years or so. Has he stopped because of reverses? NO, he has redoubled his efforts because the need is so great. We should all be a little humble in light of his evangelism.

Chris Wells

Anonymous said...

Not surprised Chris Wells reacted to anon of 6.33. Perhaps we should send him a radio??? !

Anonymous said...

Never mind Bob Geldof and Africa, we need to sort out Thanet first, especially those of us who are meant to represent the people of Thanet.
As elected representatives councillors should remember they are meant to act according to the wishes and aims of those who elected them.
Or is it a case of get elected and afterwards do whatever they want?
There don't seem to be many voters here who want to sort out Africa first and leave Thanet with its current problems, thats all I can see from reading the posts.
If we can't afford hospital treatment for all our own English cancer sufferers then we can't afford to feed Africans who can't get their own act together.

Anonymous said...

I'm fed up with the continual cycle of aid and famine aid and famine and the preaching of people who think their view is the only right one and justify it by calling those who disagree 'Extreme'. You people have led sheltered lives if you have not seen real suffering in the UK. If these councillors and others are so keen to give away money I wonder whether they'll set an example and not buy their families present next Christmas and give all that money to Africans. (p/s can councillors sign on under a different name if not talking about Thanet? You've only got the title because some poor souls voted you there).

Old Codger said...

Those who are civic minded enough to either offer their services as Councillors or voters in democratic local elections as this poor soul does should not be villified, anon of 12:56am.
I welcome the fact that not only do quite a few of our elected representatives visit this blog but also that many of them do everyone the courtesy of revealing their identity; which is more than you or I do.
They have earned the right to the title and should use it. Expressing your views here is a way of letting our Councillors know what your views are on issues and hearing their replies is democracy working at its best. You might not like what they may be saying but please do them the basic courtesy of avoiding rudeness.
I certainly dont want them avoiding this site because other bloggers are having pops at them on the personal level.

Anonymous said...

Being a Councillor does not exempt you from personal views on wider issues. I only use the term Councillor on this site as and when it is directly relevant to the issue being discussed, and not always then. In the day job I work directly with many charitable intstitutions in this country, some providing services to the poor within our own borders, some to the poor abroad; some to birds and animals; some to performing arts; some to cancer sufferers; some to cancer research. I know about poverty here and abroad. I know how and where Thanet is in relative poverty terms. I know how other local authorities and charities tackle similar problems and regeneration.

I just think it is hugely ironic that we should be having this debate on an open forum over Easter weekend; the celebration of Christ's sacrifice for his fellow men. The tone of Rod Liddle's original article, and many of the comments here tell us more about if we remain a Christian country than about anything else.

For the record, Anon of 11.51, I have responded throughout to the debate as a whole, and not directly to either personal pops at my family.

Chris Wells

Anonymous said...

The point the politicians on here fail to realize is people are fed up with being more and more taxed and getting nothing in return, paying higher and higher bills, working longer hours and not being paid overtime but given flexi which one never gets to take anyway, and then Gordon Brown giving away £18 bn over 10 years. I hate facists but I dislike people telling me I'm 'extreme' for not agreeing to send money to countries where there is no accountability and we know where too alot of it will go to Switzerland no doubt. People are sick to death of being told what to do, what to eat, what to spend money on, what not to spend money on, why we should be so grateful for the lives we lead. If you want to give £18 bn away over 10 years because we are supposedly so well off then as I said on a smaller scale, next Christmas because your families aren't starving, don't give them any presents, give the money to some of the less fortunate. Practice your preaching.

Anonymous said...

p/s Old Codger, call it civic when people work for nothing, charity workers, beach cleaner volunteers, special constables etc, not when they're raking in the equivelent of a second salary.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more about the perils of high taxation and failure to provide value for money. I have said many times on this website and other places that taxation is too high, and is throttling the economy at all levels: if that puts me in conflict with current conservative theory as well as labour politics so be it.

I have not called you or any other here extreme, merely asked you look at it in a different way. All poverty is relative, relative to the wealth of those around you; what we call poor is rich indeed by the standards of our own society of, say 30 years ago, and light years away from the grinding poverty of Africa.

You are also correct in that people are sick to death of the nanny state and its preaching. Again I try desperately to avoid such tones and argue a case, not demand your acceptance of mine. In the same vein, I do not tell you what to do with your christmas gifts either, or judge from no knowledge what you may or may not do yourself towards helping others.

Money is paid to Councillors to ensure that we do not just have councils that consist of the rich retired, so that some working people can give up time to work for the community as well. To be frank, for most it is hardly enough to cover their working losses, so we have fewer younger people than we should. But again, personally I am always reluctant to increase councillors allowances as it looks like a self generating income machine, under control of the beneficiaries, although there are checks and balances. Generally, Thanet Councillors are paid less than recommended by their pay review body, and have had fewer rises than many others.

If you do not like Gordon Browns position of Africa or anything else, we live in a democracy and you can vote for someone else. On balance you must weigh up the various strands of policy and vote for the one nearest your own views. For myself, that means smaller government, less taxation, and a whopping dose of common sense, self reliance, and self discipline. I'm sure others have their own views.

Whatever you believe, the majority of people expect their politicians to have some position on preventing the media exposures of death and desease in Africa, it is even raised as an ethical question about use of resources at a local level. It is a fair question, and deserves an honest answer. Disagree with me, argue the counter case, that's the whole point and beauty of this site.

Chris Wells

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Chris, loved it.

Anonymous said...

What difference does voting for someone else make? All the parties occupy the same ground, none of them have the guts to stick to their traditional doctrines. Tories shafted the working class, Labour deserted the working class, Lib-Dems....who the hell are they? If I voted Tory for instance my vote would not have altered the fact we are giving Billions away on Browns ego trip. A tenner says Brown will not be the next PM, any takers?

James Maskell said...

Brown will be the next Prime Minister, no doubt about it.