Last night, the Labour Campaign for International Development officially launched at an event at the House of Commons, with an impressive audience of politicians, the international development sector and party activists. There was only room to stand as Secretary of State Douglas Alexander began his keynote speech, with Minister Mike Foster also taking questions and Glenys Kinnock, Minister for Africa, in attendance.
Douglas Alexander shared that the Labour movement has long identified itself strongly with international development. Members of the Labour Party fought powerfully for justice in South Africa during apartheid, refusing to ignore Mandela’s long walk to political freedom. Indeed, this passion for equality and justice is the foundation for the Department for International Development (DfID). The New Labour government created the department in 1997 in recognition of the attention that international development deserves and requires. “It is on the shoulders of giants,” such as Glenys Kinnock that the UK’s modern approach to international development stands, Douglas told us.
What makes LCID unique, as Douglas said, is that we represent a group that unquestionably holds Labour values of fairness and justice at its core, and also unequivocally believes in the need for international development. The Tory threat to DfID and the developing world is real: siphoning off money to the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Energy and Climate Change will leave DfID stripped of its power to help the developing world. This is a real threat with a reach that will span the globe.
But there is more to be done than exposing the Tories: we must make a positive case for Labour’s approach to international development.
Douglas Alexander highlighted three points that will help us achieve this: meeting our international commitments; getting suggestions for the manifesto; and then taking our case to the public. We support a global financial transaction tax, but we must persuade people that it is the right way forward. We believe that an international development ministry is so much more than an aid agency, but we must persuade people we’re right. We believe that, “by the strength of our common endeavours” we can create lasting positive change, but again, we must persuade people that it’s the right thing to do. This is however, far from an insurmountable task. As Douglas said, events such as the recent Haiti earthquake have shown us that what unites us is the “strength and overriding sense of fairness and compassion in the British public.”
Our money must be well spent and we must be wise with it. This is why a financial transactions tax will give international banks the opportunity to give more back to society. And aid must not be contingent on conformity with a British government’s ideological underpinnings.
In international development, as in many areas of government, there are times and issues said that stick in you memory and drive you on. For Douglas, this was a time about 5 years ago when he left a PMQs preparation session with Tony Blair to see Nelson Mandela speak on Parliament Square. Mandela, once vilified by other British politicians, proclaimed, “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.”
It is not pride that motivates us at LCID to rise to this challenge; it is the common belief that a world with less poverty, disease and death benefits us all. We will relentlessly pursue this goal, whether it complements or defies the political ideology of the day. We will construct and respond to the debate. And we welcome everyone that shares our vision, so please do get involved.
LCID wants to build momentum on last night’s launch in the run up to the next election. Here are some of the ways we’d like you to be involved:
1. Help us support Gareth Thomas MP, DFID Minister of State, in Harrow West this Saturday 6th. Meeting at West Harrow Tube station at 11am. Sign up on Facebook.
2. Get more involved with LCID. Please sign up to our email updates, become our Fan on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. We’d love you to get involved in helping to run LCID, just email David at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Sign the Global Poverty Promise – the campaign to make 0.7% spending on aid UK law.
4. Add your Two Things. Everyone’s Two Things from last night will appear on our blog very shortly!