James at The Springfields Academy
James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
Politicians can be forgiven most things except duplicity. The people by and large understand the unacceptably difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made. The only thing they will not forgive is being promised one thing, the opposite being delivered. So I hope that you will agree that I have always tried to be as straightforward as possible with my electorate. I have always believed that even if you do not like one or other of my views or actions, you will nonetheless conclude that overall I have done my best for the people of North Wiltshire. At very least ‘what you see is what you get’.
So here’s one which I know to be unpopular, but it’s a firmly held belief of mine, so you need to know it! People locally very often rail against what they believe to be our unacceptably high level of overseas aid. We are committed to spending 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product on helping the poorest in the world – or currently what on the face of it sounds like a very high £3 billion per annum. “At a time like this charity should begin at home,” they say. “If we have to make all kinds of cuts and savings in the UK, how can we afford to be giving all this money away, especially to places like China and India?” And I understand exactly where they are coming from when they say it.
Yet I strongly support what the Government are doing for two very straightforward reasons. First, I really do feel a strong moral imperative to do what we can to help those who are so much less fortunate than we are. One billion people in the world go to bed every night starving. Another billion (most of us included) go to bed overfed. We just can’t keep going that way. It’s wrong, and our imperial past leaves us with a degree of responsibility at very least for some of our former colonies. We are the fourth or fifth richest country in the world, and our Olympics demonstrate that we are in so many ways world leaders. Not to help the poor would be like the obese child in the playground jealously guarding his sandwich as the other kids starve.
But there’s another reason- and self-interest comes in here. In 2010, as an example, the appalling floods in Pakistan were the occasion of £30 million aid from the UK. It was money paid not into the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt governments as many people worry, but directly through NGOs to desperately worthwhile projects on the ground. Now if we had not helped in that way, there is a very good chance that the always fragile government of Pakistan would sooner or later have been overwhelmed. Who knows what would have replaced it - very probably a military junta of one sort or another; or quite possibly an Islamic fundamentalist government with close links amongst other things to Al Qaeda. The notion of an Islamic fundamentalist government with its hands on nuclear weapons must make us all shudder.
So I know that quite a lot of you won’t like it, and I expect a few outraged emails on the subject. But I do strongly support our overseas aid spending. And all I can hope if you disagree is that I may make up for it in your estimation in other areas!
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