Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Last week I spent 3 days in Nigerian capital, Abuja. As you do. I was there with a Labour colleague to discuss with Nigerian Parliamentarians a whole range of issues including integrity in public life. Some of you get upset, I know, at the mere thought of me jetting around to such places, so I thought I would try and explain why British MPs (and MPs from all western nations) do this stuff.
It is about good governance. The main challenge in any African country is not poverty, but corruption. If Zimbabwe had a half decent government its people would not be hungry. If the Congo had honest politicians, there would not be civil war. You cannot have a good government without a vibrant democracy, and democracy takes generations, centuries perhaps, to become embedded. We have been at this since 1215, and heaven knows we still are far from perfect. So at the invitation of developing nations, we travel to discuss and grapple with how we can learn from one another.
Britain, as the oldest democracy, has a special part to play in this. In addition to our hard power (armed forces) we have much to offer in terms of soft power – diplomacy, civil service, judiciary, Parliamentary Democracy and so on. Passing on this Know-How, when invited, in a non- "colonial" way is part of our contribution to a fairer more stable world.  We should engage in these activities, even though we have problems at home and our own political system is due an overhaul.
Nigeria is a strategic African nation. It has a population of over 150 million people. One in four black Africans is a Nigerian. Tensions between Christian and Muslim threaten their stability. They are new to their own home grown democracy and they know they have not made a flying start. Corruption is rife and until 10 years or so ago, elections ended up with the army taking over. There are signs of progress
It is right to help people less fortunate than ourselves. It is also in our own national interest. The only real long term answer to the mass migration of people is to see living standards rise in the developing world.
I am always glad to come home to a country where things tend to work and where (despite the dramas of 2009) we do not have political corruption.
It is Guy Fawkes Night. Light blue touch paper and retire.

posted by Gary @ 09:11