As part of Prospect's new aid supplement in partnership with Adam Smith International, the shadow international development secretary discusses how Labour plans to radically transform how Britain delivers aidby Steve Bloomfield / November 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
Dan Carden’s father was a Liverpool docker—indeed his family’s link to the docks goes back six generations. But when Carden was a child in the late 1990s, his father lost his job during the Liverpool dockers dispute. It was a battle that taught him about the idea of international solidarity—the Liverpool dockers were supported by dockers around the world who carried out solidarity strikes and raised money. That experience, Carden says, has helped shape his view of the UK’s international development policy.
The cross-party consensus on aid has broken down since David Cameron stepped down as prime minister. Theresa May’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent on international development was lukewarm, while her successor, Boris Johnson, has floated the idea of merging DFID back into the foreign office. But while the splits in the Conservative party on international development have been well covered, there has been less analysis of the Labour party’s change of direction. And make no mistake, a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn—and with Carden running DFID—would take a very different attitude to aid and development than those led by Blair and Brown.
In his House of Commons office last month, Carden outlined what he described as his “radical” agenda that would dramatically transform the UK’s international development policy.
Prospect: Has Labour’s international development policy changed since the Blair and Brown years?
Carden: I’m incredibly proud that 22 years ago we created this department—but now is a very different time. When I look at the kind of inequality that exists in the world—and we think of those statistics of 26 people having the same wealth as half of humanity—we’re not talking about countries just needing to develop or needing a helping hand or some charity. We’ve got political and economic relationships that need absolutely fundamental reform. Charity will not solve poverty.
I want DFID to be a campaigning organisation—to look at how we promote public services, how we promote things that deliver equality and tackle poverty.
Prospect: Do you think DFID has lost its way?
Carden: I was in Nairobi in August and the people I met were anti-poverty campaigners, trade unionists, and others in the sector. Their message was pretty clear about DFID’s role. In education, [they said] too much of DFID’s work…