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Cameron's good decision on Syria and aid

By Paul Goodman
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This site is quick to boo David Cameron when it disagrees with him - as earlier today, for example, when considering HS2.  By the same token, ConservativeHome should be swift to cheer him when we agree with a decision he's made.  I wrote earlier this week that the Government is in a good position to offer a lead to other countries on Syria and aid (that was before Putin's spokesman apparently dismissed Britain as a "small island", and the Prime Minister crafted a Hugh Grant moment in response).  A combination of humanitarian feeling and self-interest should move Ministers both to help Syria's refugees and support its neighbours: were the civil war to spread across its borders, the consequent turmoil would be likely to shake the world's economy and thus ours.  I repeat: a way of beginning to grasp the scale of the Syrian conflict is to imagine that it was Britain.  Were this the case, over 20 million people here would be in need of food, water, medical care, shelter - or would simply have fled abroad: that's more than three times the population of London.

Before the G20, we were already the second largest supplier of aid to Syrians, committing a package of assistance worth almost £350 million.  Cameron announced at the summit that total UK funding for assistance in Syria and neighbouring states will rise to £400 million,,and rightly challenged other countries to help fund a £2 billion shortfall in the United Nations appeal for Syrians, a point also made on this site by Justine Greening yesterday.  I would like to know a bit more about exactly where the money will come from and what the timescale for delivery is, but the direction of travel is unmistakable.  The Institute of Development Studies polling quoted by Mark Wallace in his penetrating piece on voters views about international aid last Thursday suggests that the public is more supportive of emergency relief than many other forms of aid - a view taken by respondents to our own surveys of Conservative members.  Cameron was wrong to press for military action in Syria, but his decision about aid is absolutely right.


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