My view on the new shadow team for DFID

So Ed Miliband is in charge of Labour now and to my biggest surprise, he gave the shadow International Development (ID) portfolio to….Harriet Harman!!!!

Why a surprise may I ask? First,Harman’s previous record shows that besides a stint as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, she has no experience in international affairs (although her BA was in Politics–possibly more on UK politics). Second, there’s the hubris by LCID (an aid-centric site that knows NOTHING about development) that as Deputy Leader of Labour, giving her the ID post “shows the importance Ed Miliband has given to keeping the issue of international development high on our [Labour’s] Party‚Äôs agenda”. This is quite the opposite. With her responsibilities as Deputy Leader she’s has to juggle three positions–as a Deputy to her party, as a Shadow Prime Minister to Nick Clegg and now as Shadow ID Secretary of State. Quite simply, the pressure will hardly be placed on ID, especially given her lack of a record in anything close to it. Third, the least she has (as some may still argue), is her view on women (women rights). It’s all well and good that promoting gender equality helps (it’s part of some of the MDGs), but that’s not what’s going to give development (I think even Dr. Ha-Joon Chang would agree).

The optimists will still argue that that one’s record doesn’t mean one can’t handle the post. A long standing deputy can be a strong shadow minister. Well, within a few days of her appointment, the rest of the shadow team was announced. First to help Harman is Mark Lazarowicz who web page has a section on his past activities/interests in ID. He also dealt with climate change (as a special representative) under the last government, but it wasn’t a Ministerial post. Well, he doesn’t look as bad as Harman, but he shouldn’t be looking at just climate change in his new role.

The most junior member of this team is really junior, a new Muslim MP by the name of Rushanara Ali. Track record in parliament naturally zero but she’s a champion of human rights. Hmmm, a development topic, but a la Chang, HR doesn’t mean development.

This post came after the first showdown between the Labour trio and the Tory boys in charge of DFID. You can read the full Hansard Record here. It’s nothing spectacular on the Labour side–Harman bringing up international commitments to the MDGs, Ali on health and sanitation and Lazarowicz on the famous 0.7 GNI goal that all parties love. Give the constraints of parliament, that’s probably what they could say but vocally and definitely factually, they have to form a new ID strategy fast, one that doesn’t simply tackle the Mitchell-Duncan-O’Brien view(s) but one that really means development.

Overall, I’m still not to impressed with the appointments. Who would I have favoured? Labour needs “super” Clare Short again.


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2 Responses to My view on the new shadow team for DFID

  1. I am not sure I agree with your summary dismissal of women’s rights as not going to give assistance in development. It can be argued that empowering women and facilitating them to become fully involved within an economy is a crucial aspect of promoting development. How many under-developed economies simply prevent women from playing any economic role? Too many. That is approx 50% of the population contributing little or nothing (outside the home). Crazy. It is probably possible to suggest that women’s rights and equality are the most important things. They certainly shouldn’t be dismissed.

  2. Thank you for your reply Francis. Yes Women’s rights is a crucial area of development and does touch on the subject of Human Development away from the Structural Adjustment actions of the 1980s and 1990s. However, I was more concern that Harman’s focus while shadowing DFID would be too much on women’s rights and not on what development really is.

    On another argument, promoted by H-J Chang, today’s industrialised countries developed in the 19th and 20th Century but years before women’s rights were established (see his book Kicking Away the Ladder). Even today, women groups are still active and there’s still no actually defnition of human rights. Going with Chang. does women’s empowerment (and even human rights) mean development?

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