Saturday 6 March 2010


The poor old BBC is coming under fire again.

This time it is from Sir Bob Geldof and the Band Aid Trust, backed by some of the world’s most respected charities including Oxfam, the Red Cross, Unicef, Christian Aid and Save the Children.

They are complaining about the "false and dangerously misleading impression" which was given in a report by World Service's Africa editor, Martin Plaut, which alleged that 95% of the aid which went to Tigray in 1985 had been diverted to buy arms by the rebel forces in that area.

The complaint is of poor reporting based on “dubious sources and rumour designed to leave an overall impression that the vast majority of resources raised by aid efforts in the mid 1980s largely went on buying arms". They say that there is not a shred of credible evidence of this whereas there is overwhelming evidence that hundreds of thousands or more lives were saved by their work.

Ironically the whole charity effort was inspired by the reporting of Michael Burke for the BBC in 1985 a irony not missed by the charities which contrast the decline in the quality of reporting in the intervening years.

The report relied largely on the testimony of a then commander in
the rebel army who was expelled from the guerrilla movement in of 1985. Sir Bob pointed out that, not only does he have an axe to grind, but he wasn’t even in Tigray at the time, having already left the rebels. He noted too that the massiveness of the story at the time meant that journalists were crawling all over the Live Aid team trying to find something wrong, but they couldn’t.

Nick Guttmann, director of emergency relief operations at Christian Aid has described the story as “palpable nonsense”, and “beyond belief”. He knows because he bought the food, bought the trucks and was there when they were driven in, offloaded, the food distributed and the empty trucks driven back.

Clearly I have no idea of the truth, but Sir Bob Geldof is a hero to me, and Band Aid is one of the events that helps me to make sense of the unpleasant world of greed and personal gain that we live in.

I trust that investigations will be held into this story and that the truth will be uncovered. I desperately hope and truly believe that the money was used as the Christian Aid director suggests.

At all costs we must know the truth, becasue already we have heard that people are, I suppose not unreasonable, dubious about giving to these charities. At a time when people are suffering in from the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, we need to encourage not discourage donations.

If the BBC has been sloppy over this, it must answer for more than sloppy journalism.

For those who like that sort of thing the BBC’s own “Now Show” has an excellent piece by Marcus Brigstocke on it (towards the end of the show) although there is much more that is excellent in this topical radio satire. (*There, I’ve said something nice about the BBC at long last.)
Pics: Organic farming in Tigray; and Bob in Ethiopia


  1. Fairly light investigation will show that most aid to africa goes to the corrupt government or whoever runs the country. A slightly deeper search will show that the donors know this and see it as a way to reduce the population. Good to show the West helping the poor and even better that it reduces the population.
    Why else would Stig who is one of the main celebrities helping the poor see no problem in doing a concert in Uzbekistan .Paid £1m for the concert while locals are boiled alive.

  2. Anon: With respect, perhaps money given to African countries as bribes by Western nations (you know, to buy our weapons or air traffic control systems or whatever we need to sell at the time, or when we are trying to get them to vote the way that America wants them to in the security council) does end up with rulers building themselves palaces, and statues and buying fleets of cars, etc.

    In a way it's a little like the Queen of England's family all living in what is it.... Buck House, Kensington Palace, St James's Palace, Windsor Castle, and Clarence House in London. All paid for by money that should be going to run the country. Not forgetting that we provide them with a place in Edinburgh too,a dn using helicopters that might be better deployed saving troops’ lives that carting their sorry arses off to pick up their girlfriends or play golf.

    None of it is their money. It is money diverted from the poor to them. Just as it is in Africa. The difference of course is that the royals here are white and....erm blue blooded, and the presidents in Africa are ...erm .... not.

    When we get done with the royals, there is always the House of Lords and the House of Commons and their corrupt claims for every possible penny they can get their hands on. Then the BBC itself.

    So if we are looking for corruption, there’s no need to look much farther than the doorstep.

    I think that the likes of the charities I mention above might disagree with you that the money that THEY distribute in Africa is corruptly used. I hope they collectively sue the arse off the BBC.

    Unless of course they are all liars and thieves and they did in fact collude with the Africans to steal all the money we donated to buy arms.... probably from the US or France or the UK. In which case of course everyone in the area will have died of starvation....

    I suppose it is possible.

  3. tris

    The Royals only have one chopper and it's not suitable for operations overseas. The money spent on the Royal family is returned a thousand over in contracts and jobs. The Al Ya Mammah contract has benefitted the UK by £100Bn. A mindboggling amount of money that was only guaranteed by Royal ascent. So thank god for that !
    All aid to Africa will end up in a corrupt ministers bank account or will buy arms to kill people. That's it.

  4. Tris....I'm hugely sympathetic to your view of the cost of maintaining the royals. Not least because it's commonly believed (the exact figures are in fact a national security secret) that the cost of maintaining and transporting America's elected King and his family is even more costly to the American taxpayer. Hardly seems possible since he lives in a white house that the Queen would not consider suitable as servant's quarters.

  5. See also

  6. Danny: I imagine that a huge amount of the upkeep of the American President must be in security. As arguably the world's most powerful man (who can't even get a simple health care system installed in his own country!) he must have many enemies.

    Of course if the cost of maintaining this family is high for a small broke country.

    In my view the Queen is head of state, and that makes her the first among equals in my view. She's no different from anyone else. She eats she sleeps and she used the bathroom, and she does a job, quite well.

    Her family are just ordinary people. They do ordinary things. They are as dysfunctional as any other family in the UK, perhaps more than most. Three of her children have failed marriages, her sister was a drunk depressive addicted to having a good time. Her husband pretty much hates the rest of the damily, looking down his nose at them and calling them poofs (English English for faggots), except for Anne whom he likes.

    No one can stand one of the son’s second wives; who admittedly does seem to be a mighty disagreeable woman. His first wife was having of off with a Muslim, when she mysteriously died in a road accent abroad (so the French could be blamed for it). Another son’s ex wife is a serial bankrupt and has to be kept by her ex husband. The daughter’s new husband and she are reported to barely speak to each other, and the forth child is reported to be gay and his wife (with whom he still lives) is said to be there to make things look erm.... normal. The grandmother, now dead, was worshipped as a kind old lady when she was alive, but now that she has been dead for a few years it seems that she was a selfish, self important old spendthrift for whom no pleasure was to be denied.

    And we keep them.... in 5 palaces and great luxury, and we are told they are value for money because no one would ever come to the UK were it not for them, and no one would buy anything we have to sell.

    It seems that they are fabulous and the rest of us are absolutely bloody useless.....

    All the money that is diverted to keep them in their palaces and once worn clothes, their gold coaches and rolls royces, their gold plate and footmen, their massive gardens and private planes.... is money that could be spent on ordinary people who don’t have enough to eat or enough heat to keep them warm.

    I’m betting that Prince Philip doesn’t lie in bet shivering at night and wondering if he’ll be able to make that packet of corn flakes last until he gets his pension, like many of other 90 year olds.

    I suppose of course you have to keep all the ex-presidents in presidential style for as long as they shall live... and their wives. LOL. Maybe you do ahve it worse than us, but at least there are more of you to cover the cost.

  7. Dean Poor old anti-beeb indeed.

    You think for all the billions that are poured into her the old fool could check her facts...

    The important thing here isn't that they may very well have got it wrong... it is that the effect of getting it wrong in this case may mean that doubt is cast on the trustworthiness of some of the countries biggest charities. Watchwords of goodness like the Red Cross and Christian Aid, Save the Children are being called into question.

    And millions may die as a result.

  8. Tris....The cost of the presidency is indeed largely a security issue. But it's actually something of a low cost proposition when he appears at large sporting events, etc., with a minimally maintained security perimeter. They just give him a bullet proof vest. He always looks like he's put on weight when he's in front of a lot of people....LOL.

  9. If there is a by word for corruption it is the Al Yamamah deal.

    There is almost no one on either side that has not been implicated in the corrupt dealings, and it is rumoured that, as everything in Saudi passes by the royal family, and they tend to like to talk to other royals, not mere commoners, that the royal family has been involved in the talks that brought about the ending of the HUGE investigation by the serious fraud squad.

    If you were looking for an example of good business practice you couldn’t have picked a worse one and as Tony Blair stopped the investigation as a result of pressure from the Saudi royals, probably through Buckingham Palace, it shows that corruption in the UK is alive and well, and we might do well to heed the words of Matthew 7:5 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” The main reason that the investigation into illegal dealing in the UK was stopped was that pressure was brought to bear by royals, and it was remembered what happened when the “Death of a princess” film, was shown on tv here despite demands from the royals in Saudi that it be banned.

    And yes, it has indeed brought in around £80b, in corrupt deals to sell arms to a country that may use them against UK allies to kill people. Good one Britain.

    As for the royal’s helicopter, I’m sure that it could be adapted, and as I recall they use other ones to pick up girlfriends and brothers to pop off to cousins’ weddings.

    Now, I’m sure I have a cousin getting married.... I wonder if the MoD would lend me a chopper. Oh bugger, I thought not.

  10. I guess Danny, it wouldn't be appropriate to ask opur 85 year old monarch to submit herslef to the indignity of a vest....

    So we'll have to go on having a rather large security cordon around her.

  11. I think you will find that Prince William borrowed a £10 million Chinook to fly his friends to a drunken stag party on the Isle of Wight. He even stopped off at Woolwich to collect his brother on the way. Meaning that a bit of kit which is very expensive to use and desperately needed elsewhere was used as a glorified taxi, not only that it got to fly through the busiest airspace in the world over London. How many “normal” air cadets get to do that? William and Harry were clearly not thinking of their munch vaunted “normal people” image when they did that were they. Oops it must have slipped and to save them several hours in rush hour traffic they just had an 80 minute jolly at our expense. I just cannot see one of President Obama’s kids getting away with that can you?

  12. The truth of the matter is that corruption is alive and well all over the world and it does us well not to start casting the first stone from this country when we have witnessed over the last year corruption that would make Nicolea and Elena Ceauşescu blush. And that coming from our elected representatives! Also it does not do us well to point out nepotism and the lack of democracy in others when both of these are also alive and well in the UK. Witness our unelected head of state and her unelected heirs and successors who will get what they get through being related to each other and not via any merit, effort or by being elected. Also we have an entire half of our parliament that is not elected but appointed in the house of lords. In addition to all this our first past the post system ensures that about 75% of so called elected seats never change hands. So rather than look to other places for corruption, nepotism and lack of democracy we really ought to look in a huge mirror.

    I was very amused lately when the blogosphere was alive with criticism of the President of France lining his son up for a plum job. There were cries of "French Emperor" and "nepotism" but nobody bothered to think about Prince Charles and the job he does and will do, how he got that job.

  13. Good comment Munguin. On the nepotism front from Wikki: Currently, the Duke of York works with UK Trade & Investment, part of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, as the United Kingdom's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment. It was from Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, that Andrew took over in this role.

    I wonder if that government job was advertised in the press?