On this week's episode, we look at the Oxfam aid scandal and whether charities do more harm than good. We also tackle the controversial practice of stop-and-search before sampling some of the alcohol-free delights than might keep you off the booze this Lent.
The news cycle for the past week has been dominated by revelations about the charity Oxfam, with senior figures implicated in 'sex for aid' bartering in crisis zones. Figures from Minnie Driver to Desmond Tutu have quit roles at the beleaguered charity, but bigger questions are being raised about how foreign aid is spent. In the magazine this week, Harriet Sergeant looks at the behaviour of international charities, whilst Mary Wakefield sees systemic abuse by NGO workers repeating itself again and again. To discuss, we were joined on the podcast by Jonathan Foreman, senior research fellow at Civitas and author of Aiding and Abetting, and Deborah Doane, who has worked in the development sector for over 20 years. As Harriet writes:
"Most of us would back humanitarian aid and international help when disaster strikes. Few would argue with aid that is there for a specific purpose and ends when that purpose is accomplished. But that is not the same as the open-ended commitment demanded by aid agencies. An Oxfam advert sums up the myth we have been sold: ‘Together we can end extreme poverty for good. Will you join in?’ Who can resist that exhortation? Who wants to sound like a spoilsport by questioning how much must be spent, for how long and how do we judge the job done?"
Next, we turn our attention to rising levels of knife crime, particularly in the capital. The controversial practice of stop-and-search has been reduced in England, and, in the magazine, Munira Mirza looks at the correlation between that fact and rising levels of violence. She joined the podcast along with Shaun Bailey, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, to discuss. As Munira writes:
"The correlation is not exact: above a certain level, stop and search can have a diminishing rate of return and start to breach a community’s tolerance level. But below a certain level, it can start to seriously compromise the safety of that community. Interestingly, the reduction of stops in favour of a more ‘intelligence-led’ approach meant that black people were stopped at an even more disproportionate rate than before."
And finally, with Lent starting on the day of recording, we lined up bottles of booze for the podcast team to enjoy. Beer, wine, gin and tonics – all the pub classics but with one crucial twist: they're alcohol free. In next week's edition of Spectator Life, Freddy Gray samples these offerings, but for the full audio experience of a grown man drinking zero per cent lager, tune in to this week's podcast. He was joined by alcohol expert Henry Jeffreys, author of Empire of Booze, to look at how you can steer clear of the demon drink for Lent and beyond.