Cutting Britain’s aid budget would be a damning legacy for our government – here’s why

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Monday 11 February 2019 16:51
Boris Johnson says multibillion foreign aid budget should be spent to advance Britain's 'political and commercial interests'

Slashing the aid budget, as this report suggests, would have a shattering effect on the world’s most vulnerable children and their families. Every single year, at least 60,000 fewer lives would be saved by immunisation, and at least 1 million more children would be out of school.

This would be a damning legacy for a government that speaks of a “global Britain”.

We stray into dangerous territory with the idea that aid should primarily benefit the UK, over the long-held aim of poverty reduction. The role of aid should not be to further Britain’s economic interests, but to help the most vulnerable. Right now, nearly a quarter of the world’s children – 535 million – are living in countries riven by conflict or disaster. UK aid is a beacon of hope for these children, and we must make sure that it is used wisely and effectively to reach them.

All parties committed to the 0.7 per cent aid budget in their election manifestos. At a time when Britain is being accused of closing its doors to the wider world, shying away from this international commitment and diverting aid money away from those who need it most would be shameful.

Politics and politicians can achieve great things – UK aid is a great example of this. But playing politics with vulnerable children’s lives simply cannot go on.

Gavin Crowden, head of policy, advocacy and campaigns at World Vision UK
London SW1

The Corbyn expose has done nothing to affect my voting intentions

Gritting my teeth, I bought the Mail on Sunday to see what mud they were slinging in Jeremy Corbyn’s direction this time (Matthew Norman, 11 February).

After a few pages, I was laughing. Petulant whinging from his ex-wives detailed his shortcomings, the worst of which seemed to be failing to empty the fridge when told to do so. He also likes baked beans, apparently, and wasn’t strong on romantic nights out. And there was me planning to vote for him because I thought he would be sure to keep the fridge at No 10 immaculate at all times. What a shock.

“Unfit for Office” said the headline, which promised much to Corbyn haters, but delivered very, very little. The relentless campaign by certain parties – and you know who you are – to discredit this man and keep the gruesome Tories in power has now reached a farcical level.

Speaking for myself, I shall vote for him because he will strengthen the hunting ban and stop the badger cull, and do numerous other things I approve of. His record on fridge-emptying is of no interest to me.

Penny Little

The UK could be the wild west when we leave the EU

For as long as I can remember, if you asked dyed-in-the-wool Conservative voters, especially in prosperous middle-England shires, they would almost always say that law and order was their prime concern.

These very voters, in my opinion, probably voted heavily to leave the EU although it was always fairly clear that it could hit the agencies they profess to support.

Is it not then almost the supreme irony that in addition to the pressure on police forces already incurred due to Conservative cut-backs, we now have definitive warnings about leaving EU protocols (police chief: Brexit will make UK safer place for criminals if police tied by red tape, senior officer warns, 11 February).

It seems very likely cross-border crime will increase significantly, and I suggest British fugitives will see Europe as a potential safe haven to escape justice in the absence of swift extradition agreements.

Very shortly, I predict, we shall hear cries of outrage from the very people that backed this crazy self-harming sequence of events; and I shall write to the paper saying, “I told you so.”

Robert Boston

Unacceptable trial in EU against Catalan independence

What is undoubtedly the most important political process that has taken place in recent decades on EU territory is about to begin in Madrid. Twelve accused, elected as visible leaders of a movement guilty of wanting to submit to referendum a purely political proposal (the creation of a Catalan republic separate from the Spanish monarchy).

For the past 10 years the movement has demonstrated that it has the support of at least half the Catalan population, which has staged imposing and entirely peaceful demonstrations and has not yielded to hundreds of physical, administrative, political, media and judicial provocations, instead maintaining its commitment to a solution through ballot boxes.

In fact, this is the first time that the special courts (the supreme court and the Audiencia Nacional) have openly instituted a case against representatives of a political movement without the excuse of violence, terrorism or armed struggle.

The accused, who run the risk of being sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, are the presidents of two of the main civil society associations and members of a government that has been democratically elected by a majority of Catalans (the rest, along with Carles Puigdemont, are in exile in Belgium, England and Switzerland, along with representatives of other parties and movements of the far left, and rappers convicted for voicing their opinions).

Reacting with indifference to this radical change in the interpretation of the rules of the political game, as European public opinion is doing, can have enormous consequences for the future of our countries.

Rolando d’Alessandro

The government needs to step in to prevent social media-fuelled suicides

A teenage girl killed herself after watching an Instagram post, which is deplorable. There should be measures put in place for suicide prevention of teenagers, and drastic changes to Instagram’s approach on self-harm content. The situation among young people is getting worse and needs to be tackled head-on.

Self-harm can take lots of physical forms, including cutting, burning, bruising, scratching, hair-pulling and overdosing. There are many reasons why children and adolescents try to hurt themselves. And once they start, it can become a compulsion. That’s why it’s so important to spot it as soon as possible and do everything you can to help.

The reasons that youngsters harm themselves include low self-esteem and low confidence, loneliness, sadness, anger, numbness and lack of control over their lives. Furthermore, there are links between depression and self-harm. Quite often a child or young person who is self-harming is being bullied, under too much pressure to do well at school, being emotionally abused, grieving, or having relationship problems with family or friends.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri earlier this week, wrote an article for The Telegraph admitting that Instagram has failed to protect vulnerable users from posts promoting self-harm and suicide, and revealing the platform’s plan to introduce “sensitivity screens” to self-harm posts.

It is crying shame that so many young lives are lost every year because of this cancer of self-harm and suicides. To combat this problem,organisations like NSPCC, Childline, school counsellors and GPs are providing help and advice. But that in itself is not sufficient – the government has to bring in regulations to prevent social media from exploiting young people.

Baldev Sharma

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Waspi women demand justice over pensions

Amber Rudd is threatening criminal proceedings for mismanaging pension pots, according to media reports. Mismanagement is exactly what the government have done to the 1950s women and it is an absolute scandal.

It’s about time the spotlight was turned on this government which has effectively stolen the security net of millions of women by raising the state pension age far quicker than planned with no personal notification.

Recent research found that the government also reneged on their contributions to the national insurance fund over many years and recently, through a freedom of information request, it was revealed that the NI fund has contributed to paying off the national debt.

Surely this is mismanagement? This change in state pension age is “saving” the treasury billions of pounds. Older women have paid a heavy price. We eagerly wait to see what will happen when the government itself is put on trial. In June it faces a Judicial Review in the High Court over this scandal. It cannot expect other institutions in this country, whether public or private, to play fair with pension funds when it is not doing so itself. We will not rest until justice is done.

Alison Clayton on behalf of London City Waspi (Women Against State Pension Injustice)
Address supplied

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