Our most recent survey asked members their opinion on this statement:
A Conservative Prime Minister should always raise human rights issues when he meets the leaders of nations that oppress their citizens
A strong majority of 73% agreed, with 18% disagreeing. That so many Conservatives sign up to the principle that we should always raise human rights concerns with foreign leaders is very encouraging, particularly as so many Conservatives are understandably wary of the phrase "human rights" after some of the non-sensical domestic incarnations of it. When Sam Burke proposed the idea of a Human Rights Minister who would take responsibility for such issues, an idea advocated by the Conservative Human Rights Commission this year, most of your comments were pretty hostile about the concept.
In this context we’re more interested in, for example, the right not to be used as a human minesweeper (or, if you prefer, the freedom to have legs). The fusty diplomatic attitude that such things are internal affairs that we shouldn’t rock the boat over seems to be fading away in this country, if not in China! Happily, the 73% can be confident that the next Conservative PM will do as they wish as William Hague has said at least three times that human rights should be at the heart of our foreign policy.
The survey also questioned members about whether:
Britain should increase aid spending every year as part of our commitment to tackle global poverty
Just 26% agreed with this one, with 60% disagreeing. Many would have been dissuaded by the open-ended commitment to increase spending year on year, but support for the sentiment is still surprisingly low. Conservatives have good reasons to be sceptical of the long-term effectiveness of aid, fearing that it disincentivises home-grown solutions and perpetuates poverty. Conservative councillor and former aid work Jack Perschke recently articulated these concerns on our Platform section.
There’s no doubt though that if managed and targeted well, aid can save and dramatically improve lives at relatively little cost to us as an advanced and prosperous nation. Samuel Coates visited refugee camps on either side of the Thai/Burma border last month. In such camps families either have access to medical care provided by aid agencies, or don’t have any at all. It’s not a case of them getting on their bike.
Britain currently gives 0.5% of national income to international development, the highest share since 1964 but still short of the agreed international target of 0.7%. If you translate all the principles that David Cameron has outlined over the last two years about social responsibility from the domestic to the international arena, this doesn’t seem too unreasonable a proportion for the government to contribute alongside third sector initiatives.
An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but it’s ultimately not in his interest to stay behind the drawbridge. Britain is one of 192 villagers in this world. We have a duty to not only build up and defend our own house but to stand up to the neighbour beating up his wife, and help feed the neighbour at the other end of the road who has fallen on hard times.