Geldof: 'We have to be realistic about what's achievable'

Paul Vallely sees Geldof preach a doctrine of pragmatism
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On meeting Geldof, revealing faultlines in the attitudes of G8 demonstrators appeared.

At the little harbour of Crammond a multi-faith group held a prayer vigil. "Just as there is a vigil outside a prison the night before someone faces the death penalty," one said, "so there will be a vigil here on the eve of a day when 30,000 people will die needlessly somewhere in Africa, as they will tomorrow, and as they do every day."

They were a mixed bunch, with Ghanaian drummers in white cotton following a Scottish bagpiper as children, cardinals and bishops, rabbis, Sikh women, Muslim men and the odd Hindu and Buddhist each put a stone on a cairn symbolising the cumulative effect of individual effort.

Later, Geldof met a colourfully dressed group who introduced themselves as Corporate Pirates. "You're doing a great job," one said, "but we're worried that you're getting too cosy with G8 leaders. They'll only disappoint you in the end."

"What about aid?" the Live8 organiser said. "If we get, as looks likely, the extra $25bn a year recommended by the Commission for Africa won't that be something to celebrate? And if they find financial mechanisms to pay for the $40bn debt write-off they've already promised, won't that be worthwhile? Won't that be a beginning?"

"A beginning, yes, but..."

"It's a process. You have to proceed by steps."

Many in the Make Poverty History movement want more. They want rich countries to meet the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of their national income on aid by 2010 at the latest.

"That would be great," said Geldof, as he boarded a helicopter with Bono heading for a last-minute pre-summit meeting with George Bush. (They also met Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder.) "We're not lowering the bar, but we have to be realistic about what is achievable. And be prepared to say 'well done' if they do it."