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Free trade is as vital as aid


Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 15 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 15 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and wrote about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 15 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

Free trade is as vital as aid (Guardian)

Oh, Michael. Michael, Michael, Michael. What is all this about? It’s a mess of an article. It’s difficult to read because of the. Very short. Sentences. That sound almost. Like legalese. You don’t want to appear to be playing politics with this tragedy, so you don’t criticise the government too harshly. You put forward this ridiculous idea of ‘twinning’ countries, suggesting it’s more logical for an individual country to help another individual country, rather than banding together to help many countries with similar problems. And then you finish it off with a flourish about the importance of the coming year. What’s it all about? What the heck are you trying to say?

I do not have the words to describe the feelings we all shared as we watched the dreadful pictures of the catastrophe that hit so many people in so many countries last week. The scale, the speed and the ferocity of the tsunami have been almost impossible to grasp.

It’s a nice sentiment. If I were you (which I’m thankfully not), I would’ve done a whole column of sympathy, highlighting the plight of the people affected by this tragedy. This might have helped a little in the fight to show you as a caring politician. Rather than Dracula. But you wander off…

The British people have recognised this and have given generously. And the British people have led the way in Britain’s aid effort, prompting the government to step up its contribution from the original sum of £1million first to £15m and now to £50m.

A bit of criticism, nothing too scathing. I’m not suggesting you could possibly do any more, and I would personally have suggested you didn’t bother with this little poke either. But you did. And we’re still afloat at the moment. But then you go temporarily insane.

Individual countries could be matched with some of those affected… Gap-year students could spend part of their free time helping in the work of reconstruction…

Without wanting to turn in to John McEnroe, ‘you cannot be serious’. No credible politician would suggest that when you have a number of countries needing nearly identical forms of aid, it is sensible to split the region up into small pieces, and for different countries to struggle alone in finding the aid needed. And what’s with the gap year student idea? Instead of responding with military assistance, you want to respond with an army of students? Get real.

This year, Britain has the presidency of both the G8 and the European Union.

Where did that come from? It’s very true, but it makes this look like a column that was written some time ago that’s been rejigged in response to this terrible tragedy. Which just makes you look cheap and uncaring.

2004 ended with great sadness, but Britain’s presidency of the G8 and the European Union offers a real opportunity in 2005. By reforming the way we deliver overseas aid, by promoting free enterprise and by encouraging freer, fairer trade, we can help lift millions of people out of poverty. Let us all make sure we do everything we can to use these opportunities to the full.

Nice sentiments, but, again, it looks very much like the first six words have been tacked on. Not least because it doesn’t fit in with the sentence structure you’ve used all the way through. That is, avoiding mid-sentence conjunctions like the plague. You like to separate ideas into difference sentences. You start paragraphs, not phrases, with ‘but’.

So, Mr Howard, if you insist on re-using your columns like this, please (at the very least) do it well.

This 148th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics, Tsunami 2004.

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