The Sketch: Are deaths in Africa a scar on Blair's conscience - or on ours?

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The Independent Online

A Scottish backbencher opened up questions to the Prime Minister by saying 150,000 Africans die from malaria every month. She was quite valiant about it and the House went sharply into one of its moods, thrilling to the sentimental pleasure that pulsed through the benches.

You have to agree, it does seem to be quite a lot. The numbers add up; it must be close to two million people a year? It's amazing we don't care more. I'm astonished at my own indifference. I expect you are too.

The Prime Minister addresses the matter somewhat differently. He feels it to be a scar on his conscience. Or was it a scar on our conscience? Probably on ours, knowing the Prime Minister.

Either way we can assume that, broadly speaking, he is fractionally against this African holocaust rather than fractionally in favour of it. Therefore he is paying the interest on inter-government loans for a month or so. This bold proposal always draws gruff approval from all sides.

He's also suggesting that a number of other countries follow our example. And of course there's the aid budget. That's going to double or even treble. Yes, in cash terms it might be trebling. By 2013. Mind you, if he hadn't invaded Iraq he could have doubled it last year.

It would be wrong, broadly speaking, to make a direct comparison between Tony Blair and Adolf Eichmann. Neither Mr Blair nor Gordon Brown has designed a malevolent solution to the practical problems of genocide.

On the other hand, they're prepared to live with the Common Agricultural Policy, which impoverishes the Third World. They are also happy to spend billions on our own Regional Outreach Obesity Inspectorate Co-ordinators rather than kicking in an extra few billions to eliminate malaria.

But Mr Blair does have a wonderful feel for what it is that people want, so it must be our fault in the end. He does what we want done.

Time will tell. In a century or so, we voters may very well be thought as moral equivalents to provincial members of the Nazi party. We didn't actively want a Holocaust, but we managed to avoid the sound of the trains (or in this case the television pictures), and we found reasons to vote for leaders who said they were going to help but who didn't really do very much.

NB: Some ass behind Mr Blair suggested we "send them some education". It would "make them self-sufficient". Maybe we could send them our examiners, who could devise a marking system showing they were already educated, without the cost of the schooling.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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