The million-dollar question: is David Miliband a gilt-edged hypocrite?

Published by The Daily Mail (October 1st, 2019)

When David Miliband was running to succeed Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party in 2010, he savaged the immorality of bosses who pocketed fortunes and insisted the scandal of high pay had been ignored for too long. The former foreign secretary fulminated against grasping bankers and greedy business chiefs. 

Yet fast-forward nine years and this son of a Marxist academic, who still sometimes rails against inequality, has joined the fat cats. Today, he swans around the world demanding more support for humanitarian causes and hobnobbing with actors, billionaires and royals as the grandly titled President of the International Rescue Committee.

The organisation may sound like something from Thunderbirds, but it is a respected New York-based charity, founded at the suggestion of physicist Albert Einstein in 1933 and funded to the tune of £107 million over the past two years by British taxpayers.

Yet this august body’s latest tax data reveals that, with breathtaking hypocrisy, Miliband has seen his pay package swell to an astonishing $911,796 (around £741,883) — nearly five times the salary of the job he once sought as British Prime Minister.

It has gone up over the past two years by £195,314, almost seven times the average annual salary of those hard-pressed British workers helping to fund his globe-trotting.

Could ‘Brains’, as he was dubbed by Alastair Campbell when working in Downing Street before becoming an MP, not do the job for a mere half-a-million pounds or so? After all, his predecessor in the post struggled by on $380,000 (£309,400) a year. Yet he is not alone. The top 12 officials at the charity saw their pay surge by £1.1 million over this period to more than £4 million between them.

This is hypocrisy of the highest order, sadly all too typical of many big charities. It shows contempt for the hard-pressed taxpayer — and, even worse, for some of the world’s most desperate people.

Three months ago, Miliband gave a passionate speech in London attacking ‘the arrogance of power’ and complaining about the lack of accountability in what he called the ‘age of impunity’. It was seen as part of a campaign, fanned by his mentor Tony Blair, to entice him back to Britain to head a new centre party funded by donors dismayed by Labour’s hard-Left takeover.

Now we can see why Miliband was so resistant as he enjoys the glitzy high life in New York. 

But what makes this even more disturbing is that he and his money-grabbing charity chiefs in Manhattan are far from unique.

They are symbols of a rotting aid system being corroded by an invidious form of corruption as torrents of cash flow from the British public to make politicians feel good by hitting an absurd target ignored by many rich nations.

Over the years, I have exposed repeatedly how aid charity bosses and private sector consultants are milking the public’s noble desire to help less fortunate folk around the planet. Politicians pledge action, dole out billions, then do nothing to stop the waste.

Simon Cooke, chief executive of family planning group Marie Stopes International, is being probed by the Charity Commission after being handed £434,000 last year, including a bonus doubling his pay.

Yet this is not new. Three years ago, I revealed he had collected almost £1 million in two years from the body, which was given £48.2 million by the Department for International Development last year. It has 37 other staff on six-figure salaries.

The head of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, handed hundreds of millions of pounds by Britain, pocketed more than £2 million in just four years. Save The Children International, also based in London, has at least 80 staff on pay packages above £100,000.

Then there are the private firms and armies of consultants enriching themselves as ministers dole out £14.5 billion a year in foreign aid, like sharks smelling blood in the ocean, scenting huge profits and inadequate controls.

The sector is stuffed with fat cats slurping at the teat of swollen state aid — and their arrogant attitudes, the idea that they can do no wrong since they are ‘doing good’, percolate across the poverty industry.

This is why charities, reliant on public generosity, tried to cover up horrific sexual abuse in a bid to protect their lucrative brands.

It would matter less if they were really helping the poor. But, too much of the time, the rivers of cash are frittered on vainglorious projects while aiding despots, undermining democracy, fostering corruption and fuelling conflict.

Even the last aid minister, Rory Stewart, who previously served as a diplomat and charity chief in conflict zones, hit out at the abysmal failings — before he landed the plum cabinet post spraying money around the planet.

This waste, pouring obscene sums into the pockets of charlatans and dictators around the globe, is the inevitable consequence of British politicians uniting to adopt the discredited UN target of donating 0.7 per cent of national income as overseas aid. 

It is insane economics to prioritise spending over results, which encourages officials to shovel cash out of Whitehall without proper checks.

And who is going to criticise the great British giveaway when aid charities, think-tanks and consultants all profit, even those based in the United States? The world’s richest nation, incidentally, hands over 0.17 per cent of its income as overseas aid.

One whistleblower has told me of a project in West Africa where British money goes to an American-led group that is compelled to source American goods and vehicles where possible. So our aid boosts the U.S. economy.

And we spend tens of millions of pounds a year in India, for instance — yet it is overtaking us as the fifth-biggest economy, has a fast-growing space programme and even its own aid agency doling out funds to poorer places.

We also pour money into some of the world’s most repellent regimes. These include Rwanda, whose president is a fan of Arsenal — so it spends tens of millions of pounds sponsoring a premiership football club.

One politician earlier this year demanded action on such profligacy. ‘We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO,’ he told the Financial Times.

‘The present system is leading to inevitable waste as money is shoved out of the door in order to meet the 0.7 per cent target.’

He was right. The proof of these spendthrift absurdities is seen in David Miliband’s pay packet. Perhaps Boris Johnson — who was, indeed, that politician — might like to turn his words into action now he has become Prime Minister.

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