THE BLOG

Ukip and Ebola - Countering More Propaganda

06/01/2015 11:53 GMT | Updated 03/03/2015 10:59 GMT

There's a strange prevailing attitude amongst the Left of British politics, which is essentially "if you don't like something, blame it on Ukip". This time, it's Bob Morgan - who surpasses his own usual standards of anti-UKIP propaganda as he randomly implies that Ukip holds some pretty horrible views on Ebola. No evidence is presented for this wild assertion; it's just the usual kind of logic. In his mind, 'Ukip are bad', 'certain attitudes about ebola are bad', and therefore 'Ukip hold those views'. Aren't Ukip awful? This is what passes for logic in the world of the Liberal Democrats.

An alternative approach might be to look at what people in Ukip have actually said about ebola; he wouldn't have had to look very far to find what I've said on the subject as a Ukip MEP. I have argued consistently that our money should have been spent on ebola quickly. A fast response would have saved lives, and in the long run been cheaper than what we have done. We must salute those brave doctors, nurses and volunteers who have taken their lives in their hands trying to work against this awful disease, and I believe we have a responsibility to help those including the nurse who is, at the time of writing, being treated in the London Free Hospital.

My comments in the European Parliament can be found here and here on the subject. Compare them with Mr. Morgan's article, his straw man caricature of Ukip. We see, once again, some intellectual dishonesty.

Then we come to this rather awkward point, where he claims this:

"The UK Government has so far only taken around 100 refugees from the Syrian war - far fewer than many other Countries with similar sized economies - no doubt worried about this new selfish politics in the UK."

The context blames Ukip for this failure. Who was it, then, who said this?: "I think actually there is a responsibility on all of us in the free west to try and help some of those people in Syria fleeing literally in fear of their lives."

It turns out that it was none other than Ukip's leader, Nigel Farage MEP.

Another massive own goal for Mr. Morgan, who was clearly hoping that no-one would bother to fact check his article. His sideswipes at Ukip about foreigners are embarrassing too: as I've covered many times on the Huffington Post already, Ukip is the only party with an ethical, colour-blind policy on immigration. We are not anti-immigrant, but pro- a system of controlled immigration.

Now to Mr. Morgan's substantive point, because he only makes one in his rant, and it's on foreign aid. Ukip would cut the foreign aid budget dramatically. How do I square that, with what has already been said above? The UK has one of the highest foreign aid budgets in the world, and it's being spent inefficiently on the wrong things. Natural disasters - hurricanes, tsunamis and diseases like ebola, to name but a few - are exactly the right things to be spending money on. If anything, our responses to those crises should be quicker and better funded. On the other hand, I don't want to see our foreign aid money find its way into the wrong places. Again, I've made this point before - for example, in the Northern Echo:

"Millions of people around the world live in poverty and are at threat from disease and countless other crises. Even here in the UK, millions of our pensioners face the daily choice between heating and eating. Meanwhile, in the past ten years the UK has donated money to a list of countries that includes world powers such as India, Russia and Argentina. The crisis facing Africa today is a great tragedy and I hope we can start to get on top of this awful disease before it spreads any further. We could do a lot more to tackle this crisis, and countless other issues, if we fixed our broken and unfit-for-purpose foreign aid budget."

I don't believe that British taxpayers' money should be going in foreign aid to countries in the G20. I don't believe that it should be going to countries with nuclear programmes or space programmes, or countries like Argentina which are sabre-rattling against us. I believe that, except for one-off humanitarian relief, the vast majority of help should come through trade. Where a country is able to export to the UK on fair terms, it will develop employment, earn money and be better place to improve the lives of its citizens. I believe in tearing down the barriers, the ways in which we are actually harming the countries we should be helping.

I worry about aid dependence - the situation that arises where regular aid puts local farmers out of business, making future famines worse. One-off, proportionate aid to deal with a serious famine is one thing, but we have to be very careful about the law of unintended consequences. We mustn't make situations worse rather than better. The EU Pesticides Directive is one example where we make things worse: by banning certain pesticides, we cause an increase in malaria. Again, the notion of helping the poorest countries in the world isn't new to Ukip or to me. For example, a few months ago I wrote this:

"The European Union imposes a tariff of 1% on the import of cocoa from Africa, but a tariff of 30% on the import of processed chocolate. Result? A disincentive for African countries to turn cocoa into chocolate before export. Remove the trade barrier, and we would genuinely help cocoa-producing countries' economies in the long term. My brother spent 6 months as an aid worker in Malawi, in an area where some people were quite literally starving. The 'Traditional Authorities', as they were known, owned large chunks of farmable land and there were many people unemployed. For the sum of roughly £5,000 he could have purchased a piece of land and farming equipment, and paid the wages of local workers to farm maize until the first couple of crops had come through. The local people, most of whom lacked even a rudimentary education and any money to set up such an organisation, could not do so. The project would have saved lives and the £5,000 could even have been repaid within less than a year if that were the intention. An interest-free loan, and a bit of vision, would have made a massive difference but sadly the project went outside the objectives of the charity he was working for and they had to pursue other projects instead. I use this example merely to illustrate a point: helping people to grow things, or to trade, is far better than spending money on foreign aid which all too often ends up in the hands of the wrong people."

And yes, Mr. Morgan might be surprised to learn, my brother is a Ukip member and expecting to stand as a Ukip candidate. Could it be, perhaps, that us Ukip members don't fit the lazy negative stereotypes that Mr. Morgan and others of his ilk like to perpetuate? Maybe that's why one of the local Ukip branch chairmen in my constituency goes to work taking aid and practical help to orphans in Belarus and victims of Chernobyl in the Ukraine? Would it shock Mr. Morgan to learn that one of my previous branch committee managed an Oxfam shop for many years? I could give many more examples - could it be that perhaps we're not the 'little Englanders' after all, the people that we're smeared as being?