Last week the economy passed another major milestone – it is now larger than before the recession struck; and the IMF say that it is growing faster than any major advanced economy in the world. There are now two million more private sector jobs since we came to power; we have created 1.8 million apprenticeships; Unemployment has fallen massively, especially for young people, 163,000 of whom have come off the dole since the last election; we are working hard to cut the deficit (already cut from 11% of GDP to 7%); we have a plan in place to ‘balance the books’ - with an equality of income and spending - by 2018; we have cut income tax and frozen the fuel duty; inflation is low, and mortgage rates at an historic low level. So there really can be no doubt about it - George Osborne’s long-term economic planning really is working to the benefit of all.
Yet relative prosperity at home (especially in an area such as this) should not blind us to the agony of so many people round the world. As the death toll in Gaza rises above 1000 with no end to it in sight; with 2.5 million Syrian refugees starving and homeless; as innocent civilians in Iraq lose their lives every day, not to mention poverty and starvation elsewhere across the world, we can ill afford to sit back in our overfed complacency and ignore what is happening around us.
That is why I have always very much favoured maximising what we spend on overseas aid - so long as it is spent wisely, and in particular kept out of the Swiss bank accounts of overseas dictators. But the decision to provide much needed aid to the poorest people in the world must be at the discretion of the government in power at the time. It is they who have to balance the demands of health and education, benefits and defence against aid. And it is they who will thereafter be answerable to the electorate for the decisions they have made. That is why I will be voting against the populist Lib-Dem Bill which tries to tie 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid into law. That would take no account of the size of GDP, nor of the fluctuating needs around the world, and is a fairly blatant attempt to curry favour with a particular group of voters.
We are getting out of the economic mire, although not quite free of it yet. It is only right that we share some of our wealth with the neediest in the world. But how much and to whom we give money must be a decision for successive governments.