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Smith Square Review – 13 April 2017

That’s a lot of Easter Eggs

“Bloated foreign aid bill” bleated The Sun, at news that the UK was the third largest foreign aid donor in 2016 according to figures from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.

Cue Peter Bone whinging about how the Government’s commitment, introduced by David Cameron, to spend 0.7% of GNI on foreign aid should be scrapped. The truth is, however, that while our foreign aid contribution has gone up in real terms, we’ve slipped from our place as the second largest foreign aid donor, a position which we’ve held since 2012. This is in part due to Germany meeting its 0.7% commitment in 2016, most likely because they count expenses spent on refugees in their first year as foreign aid, as do we though far less extensively.

But I’m surprised. Why are Peter Bone and The Sun talking brave Brexit Britain down? Don’t they understand that as it’s pegged to 0.7% of our GNI, the fact that we voted to leave halfway through 2016 clearly positively impacted our finances, driving our contribution up! They should leave their Remoaning at home and think of all the Easter Eggs we’re gifting to the children of the world.


Johnson gets crucified

Boris Johnson’s bunny hops on Russia’s endorsement of the Assad regime have this week earned him public crucifixion. 

Following the Syrian government’s chemical attack on Rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun last Thursday, Bojo had discussions with the Trump administration, where they agreed that breaking Assad’s ‘lifeline’ to Russia was the way forward. The Foreign Secretary then jumped the gun, missing the plane to Moscow and leaving Rex Tillerson to go it alone with Putin in talks after the attack. For dessert, he failed to convince G7 members to impose sanctions on Russia. Theresa May insists Boris still has her full support, but won’t touch the specifics of his Syrian strategy with a bargepole.

Journalists have unsurprisingly rushed to call out the Bojo Bunny as the embodiment of our presence on the world stage – left-footed and muddled. Setting aside the explosion of schadenfreude currently going off in the press, it’s clear this government has failed to convince the world it has much of a stategy in handling Russia. Crimea river.


The grass isn’t always Greening

“Grammars for the 21st Century”, announced Education Secretary Justine Greening today, relaunching the somewhat troubled Government policy with a new focus on helping ordinary working families.

£320m was set aside in last month’s budget to expand the government’s free school programme, which will create 70,000 places in 140 schools which will in turn be able to offer selective education.

The proposal to lift the ban on grammars has attracted controversy since it was first bandied around last year, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposing any enlargement of the grammar school system.

Questioning the premise that grammar schools helped these infamous ‘ordinary working families’, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner stated “they have not been able to find the evidence to back up their ideological policy”. However, BBC’s Nick Robinson was quick to remind Rayner on Radio 4 that quite a few members of Labour’s front bench sent their own children to selective schools. “One rule for them and another for everybody else”, eh Angela?

Still, as long as this government handles grammar schools as well as they have, say, prisons, the rail system, the post office, the school funding system and National Insurance reform, I’m sure we will all be fine.


Bad eggs in Brexit hack?

Mystery and intrigue abounds in Westminster this week as a new report on the Brexit vote site hack was published.

A group of MPs – known as the Public Administration Committee – were tasked with studying the lessons learned from last year’s controversial referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

The Register to Vote website crashed on the evening of 7 June 2016 – deadline day for people wanting to sign up to the electoral roll for the mass poll scheduled for that fateful day on 23 June.

Shortly before the midnight registration cut-off an unknown force unleashed an army of enslaved computers onto the unsuspecting website, which duly crashed under duress, forcing former PM David Cameron to extend the deadline by a further 48 hours.

A wicked ‘foreign’ puppet master may have been orchestrating this botnet attack, it is alleged. Whilst careful not to point any fingers, politicians suggested that “Russia and China use a cognitive approach based on understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” in their report.

Civil Servants blamed the website crash on a surge in demand after a TV Brexit debate.

Whether foreign agents were responsible for the overthrow of Cameron’s government, or the UK electorate, remains a point of contention… the truth is out there.


Souvenir of the week

Though we may share the same language, things can often get lost in translation with our American cousins across the pond. Unfortunately for the New York Times, humour is often one of them. Have a look at how they missed the mark reporting on a political sketch that appeared in the Times this week.