THERESA MAY’S reluctance to hold Priti Patel to account for unauthorised meetings with the Israeli prime minister illustrate her utter powerlessness as PM.
Ministers can evidently now make up policy on the hoof and conduct the country’s foreign relations without reference to the Foreign Office or No 10, secure in the knowledge that May is too weak to sack them and too fixated on her own immediate survival to care.
This is the product of her failure to win a majority in June’s election and will only get worse as burgeoning scandals around sexual harassment in the corridors of power and tax avoidance by the highest in the land further reduce the PM’s room for manoeuvre.
Britain will not enjoy a coherent government capable of being taken seriously on the world stage until another election returns Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to office, and that election cannot come soon enough.
The content of Patel’s holiday love-in with Benjamin Netanyahu makes even grimmer reading. There can hardly be a less deserving cause than the Israeli military when it comes to dishing out money earmarked for international humanitarian aid.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is a brutal occupying army, guilty of routine human rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank and war crimes including the widespread killing of civilians.
Patel’s offer of aid (which the IDF can hardly be desperate for, since it receives an annual subsidy of billions of dollars from the United States to maintain its status as the most powerful military in the Middle East) adds insult to injury since it was directed towards operations in the Golan Heights, another illegally occupied territory.
This sick suggestion would justify demands for the minister’s head even if she hadn’t been concealing her manoeuvres from her boss.
Sadly, however, it would hardly be novel for Britain’s international aid to be twisted to the service of nefarious ends.
Too much public discussion of our aid budget is confined to its size. Bigoted nationalists object to our money being spent on foreigners (though most of those who demand a reduction in the 0.7 per cent of national income we spend on aid also want to spend less on hospitals, schools, social security and everything else except war and occasionally the police).
Liberals counter that our aid budget illustrates our generosity as a nation and plays a positive role in the development of poorer countries.
Unfortunately this isn’t true. Excellent research by organisations such as Global Justice Now has exposed the way our aid budget is used to promote neoliberal economics and fill the pockets of fat cat corporations around the globe.
Tens of millions of pounds are handed to companies like Adam Smith International to help with important work such as the privatisation of Nigeria’s electricity supply (a project that sparked massive protests because the price increases were so extortionate) and advising Papua New Guinea on how to evict people from their land.
Public funds have been channelled to education profiteers to promote private education in Third World countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, projects which undermined state education systems and “created and deepened inequalities, while not improving quality,” according to Ugandan social justice campaigner Salima Namusobya.
Patel’s department’s own economic development strategy states it will “advance Britain’s foreign policy interests,” a package seeming to comprise of relentless support for privatisation and enabling transnational corporations to buy public assets across the world.
May’s government is a mess — but its failings highlight deeper rooted hypocrisies. On so many levels, our country needs a fresh start.