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Sunday 11 February 2018

Tory Oxfam Baby And Bathwater Shame

Reports of dreadful behaviour by aid workers allied to a number of charitable organisations are all over the Sunday papers: this is mainly about Oxfam in Haiti and Chad, but others are also named. Taking advantage of vulnerable people to score cheap - and in some cases under-age - sex is bang out of order. Paying survivors of wars or other disasters to enter into prostitution is something that will tarnish reputations for some time to come.
Penny Mordaunt - unsmiling ideologue

No-one should seek to defend such behaviour; it is beyond defensible. But at the same time we should not forget that a whole slew of what are termed Non Governmental Organisations are part of the lifeline that helps communities, and indeed whole countries, come back from the brink after war, disease, famine, and other extreme weather events. We should not rush to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Nor should the news be leveraged for political advantage, score-settling, points scoring or other instances of grandstanding. But that is exactly what some of our less than totally reputable politicians are looking to do. First to call for defunding was, to no surprise, self-promoting ex-minister Priti Patel, with the East Anglian Daily Times reportingEssex MP Priti Patel has called for Oxfam to be stripped of its government funding in the wake of sex allegations against some of the charity’s staff”. Subtle, isn’t she?

There was no suggestion of any of this namby-pamby due process rubbish - Oxfam were, as far as she was concerned, guilty as charged: “Those responsible for these crimes should be prosecuted and UK aid should be withdrawn from this scandalous organisation”, she claimed. Yes, Oxfam is now “scandalous”. And sadly she was not alone.
Priti Patel - principle-free zone

This was confirmed by an appearance by DFID minister Penny Mordaunt on The Andy Marr Show (tm). As the BBC has reported, “Charities doing overseas aid work will lose funding if they fail to cooperate over safeguarding issues, warned the international development secretary … Penny Mordaunt said it was ‘despicable’ that sexual exploitation and abuse still existed in the aid sector”. And we’ve seen this sort of thing before.

The most extreme case of defunding by shock horror guilt came in the USA, when the community organising group ACORN was more or less bust overnight after a campaign by right-wing activists. That campaign relied on instant shock value, and getting the group hobbled before the evidence was scrutinised too closely - because the evidence consisted of a number of effectively faked videos. Always look before leaping.

So our politicians must not be allowed to rush to judgment. Nor should they be allowed to get away with all this bellicose behaviour until we get a sense of proportion. For starters, how does the Oxfam scandal measure up, as a percentage of total staff employed, with the sexual misconduct that has gone on in and around Parliament for decades now? Getting righteous while standing in a draughty glasshouse is never a good look.

And we should not forget that those who really matter in all this are the people being helped by aid workers, whoever they work for. Disrupting their lives just to score a quick and cheap ideological victory would be shameful in the extreme.

Priti Patel should butt out. And Penny Mordaunt needs to stop and think. That is all.


Matt said...

Is it cynical to suggest that all this oxfam bashing has come 2 weeks after the worlds elites met at Davos following an oxfam report stating that “our capitalist system only benefits people at the top” and that 180 of the 200 global corporations are based in tax havens?
Surely coincidental.

Anonymous said...

@ Matt
Given the current state of "the right", it is probably fairer to say that it is accurate reporting! It probably has something to do with their recent report "An Economy for the 99%: It’s time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few" as well.
As Tim says, absolutely no defence of what has gone on but this "whataboutery" is sickening as well!

David said...

And quick to bash Oxfam on Twitter after that report was published was...the Taxpayers' Alliance. So it appears that the libertarian right *are* to some extent queueing up to put the boot in on Oxfam.

Ferdy Fox said...

Hmmmm. If we withdrew public funding from parliamentary members guilty of misconduct, the Tory party would be a bit thin on the ground.
How about the good, old fashioned principle of punishing the guilty.

And if the government did it's duty there'd be less need for charitable organisations anyway. Why should the air ambulance, hospices and cancer related causes rely on charity for their existence.

Anonymous said...

On the Android Marr "Show" Mordaunt said Oxfam "lacked moral leadership".

She's a tory.

Given her face normally has the appearance of a smacked arse, I'm still trying to work out whether she was trying sarcasm as "new" tory "humour". Maybe she could consult Edwina Curry, John Major, Boris Johnson, Seesil Parkinson, David Mellor and Brooks Newmark (to name just six) on the question of morals. If Thatcher was alive she could ask her about society too.....But I won't be holding my breath.

The Toffee said...

The so-called 'Scandalous organisation' was, IIRC one of the very few who originally told the toerag party and their 'workfare' and 'Mandator Work Ativity (MWA) programmes, essentially to: 'get fucked'.

No wonder Patel and the rest of them want to stick the knife in...