Sir: The way that our aid is being spent is a national scandal (Leading article, 30 May). This is because Dfid has outsourced its professional advice and thus no longer has the expertise to manage an aid programme, and because the establishment of the 0.7 per cent means that funds must be spent regardless of outcome.
Your solution, using aid funds to socially beneficial military purposes is well-intentioned but not feasible, because international rules would not permit Britain classifying this as aid. Fortunately there is a feasible solution that could be implemented without abandoning the aid target. This is to take up the Prime Minister’s promise in the Conservative Aid Policy manifesto ‘that hard-earned taxpayers’ money will be properly audited’. He never intended that the target should be met regardless of use, and could not object if proper auditing meant a smaller aid programme.
At present most aid goes in the form of unauditable grants to corrupt governments, or in huge amounts to international organisations, some 64 per cent of our aid. Instructions to Dfid staff that outcomes should take precedence over targets, grants to corrupt governments should be phased out, and that multilateral organisations should only get what is needed could save at least £5 billion per year. This would deliver a smaller, better-quality aid programme, about the size of those of Germany and France.
Bring in Iran
Sir: Last week’s Spectator carried three articles suggesting three different ways of dealing with Isis (30 May). They are: sending in ‘private military companies’, sending in special forces, and tacitly helping Iran to eradicate Isis from Iraq. The last should be implemented. Early on in the catastrophic rise of Isis, Iran offered to help. The assistance was supported by the UN; Iran had recently helped America in Afghanistan. The US/UK decision to block Iranian involvement was a crime.
There is a fourth solution. We should stop backing all rebels in Syria, work with Russia and Iran to enforce a ceasefire between Assad and the moderate rebels, and allow the Syrian army to eradicate Isis from their country. When that has been achieved it will be much easier to deal with them in Iraq.
Dr Brendan O’Brien
Winchmore Hill, London
Hitler and the hunters
Sir: Hitler may have banned fox hunting (Letters, 30 May) in that he outlawed as unsporting the pursuit on horseback with hounds of any live quarry, but on hunting wild mammals by other means he was ambivalent.
In 1938, a museum solely dedicated to hunting was opened in Munich, the guest of honour was Goering. Having drafted the Reich’s animal protection laws, an ethical mix of sportsmanship and justice, the Field Marshal hunted at his estate throughout the war as the ‘Reich Forest and Hunt Master’.
Hitler found the customs and rituals of hunting inexplicable and in 1942 compared them to ‘a modern freemasonry’. For him, riding to hounds was not the real issue. The socialists in the National Socialist party resented that Germany’s fox hunters were drawn almost exclusively from its aristocracy — instinctively to be mistrusted. This was not about cruelty or animal welfare but about class. It sounds grimly familiar.
Robin Muir MFH
Compton, West Sussex
Learning from obituaries
Sir: In the Spectator’s Notes (23 May), Charles Moore comments on my habit when reading my paper in the morning of turning to the obituaries in the hope of being cheered up by a report of the death of someone for whom I had no liking.
The habit has also led me to note that while the obituaries of many ‘celebrities’ list their numerous partnerships, marriages and divorces, those of distinguished former members of the armed services almost always list but one marriage, half a century or more ago. What should we conclude from this? Perhaps that the word of an armed serviceman or woman is worth more than that of a lawyer, banker, actor or — dare I say — politician?
The Sun at the opera
Sir: Norman Lebrecht is off-key (Arts, 23 May) in accusing the Sun of ‘a class-based scorn for art’ and suggesting it would be beyond one’s imagination for the paper ‘ever to shine an inch of space’ on classical music. In my time as a Sun executive, we have filled the Royal Opera House with Sun readers at cheap prices for magnificent performances of Don Giovanni, Carmen and the ballet Mayerling. The Guardian, no less, said of our coverage: ‘Hats off to the tabloid — their spread on opera is virtuoso stuff.’ I commissioned Brian Sewell to write about paintings, and we had a fine arts correspondent, Toulouse le Plot, who specialised in auction houses. The trouble with those who mock the tabloids is that they never read them.
Executive Editor, The Sun
Inspired by Hilton
Sir: In an otherwise admirable interview (23 May), Steve Hilton has sold Dfid short. He has clearly forgotten that, as Development Secretary, I arranged for him to visit a for-profit school in Lagos when we were both there on a trade visit with David Cameron, because I wanted to show him the very contrast he mentions. Far from Dfid supporting only state schools, he should recall that we set up the Girls’ Education Challenge Fund, designed to educate up to one million girls in the poorest countries — outside the state system. He should look at the brilliant work of Camfed in this area, for which he himself was in part the inspiration.
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