If I were Prime Minister: I’d use Britain’s influence to tackle world poverty and inequality

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the Director of the Overseas Development Institute

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The Independent Online

As PM I’d start the assault on poverty and inequality in my own backyard. And let’s face it - the backyard is not in good shape.

As a nation, we are allowing child poverty and poverty wages to destroy opportunity on an industrial scale. One quarter of children in the UK live below the poverty line. Benefit cuts have made thing worse. But low pay is now the main source of child and adult poverty in the UK. We are increasingly a nation that creates jobs for working paupers.

In my first cabinet meeting I’ll make it clear that I am seriously angry about the state of the nation. I’ll tell my Chancellor that I care – that I really care – about the fiscal deficit. I share her pain on public debt. Then I’ll bin the benefits cuts that are set to worsen child poverty, have the civil service draw up legislation for a £7.85 national minimum wage, and put in place plans to meet the Child Poverty Act target for cutting poverty among children to 10 per cent by 2020.

We’ll meet the bill by scrapping Trident and tackling tax evasion.

At the end of my first day in the job, I’ll hop on a plane for Berlin. It’s going to be tough – but someone has to tell her.

Angela, I’m sorry, but the UK is not going to stand by and watch the Bundesbank do to Greece what the IMF did to Africa for two decades. Economic recovery through strangulation just doesn’t work. It’s time to cut the debt – and for us to build a Europe that offers hope.

Then it’s down to global business.

I have just inherited the world’s best development agency and an aid budget ring-fenced at 0.7 per cent of GNI. At a time of fiscal stress at home, I’ll be out there making the case for aid, challenging UKIP, and raising our level of ambition. There are nearly one billion people going to bed hungry every night and seven million avoidable child deaths every year. We can help stop this.


But aid is the small change of international development. We live in an increasingly interdependent world linked by flows of trade, finance and technology – and by collective problems that demand multilateral solutions in a multi-polar world. As a country, we need to recognise that many national challenges can be met only through international engagement with emerging markets and developing countries.

Take tax evasion. Aided and abetted by the giant accountancy firms, banks like HSBC and multinational companies are hollowing out our budget through institutionalised revue theft. The same cast of characters are siphoning $60bn annually out of Africa – and they are using the same web of off-shore havens.

As PM I’ll clamp down on the tax evaders at home, shut down the havens, and make sure Britain leads on the development of global rules for fair taxation.

Climate change keeps me awake at night. It’s a threat to the UK and, more imminently, to the world’s poor. The climate summit at the end of 2015 in Paris is an opportunity to tackle the crisis – as PM I intend to seize it.

Before heading for Paris I’ll announce a timetable for phasing out coal in electricity generation by 2025. Fossil fuel companies can prepare for a £30/tonne carbon tax in 2016. And my Chancellor will use her first budget to scrap tax concessions for North Sea oil exploration and fracking.

Meanwhile, I’ll make sure we are punching above our weight on the world stage through engagement with India, China and the US – and through leadership in the EU.

As PM I’ll never pander to vested interest.

Mind you, if Tottenham Hotspurs need any help with that planning application for the new stadium……