Make Poverty History

2005 is going to be an interesting year for politics in the UK. As well as a general election, we’ll have the presidency of the EU and will play host to the G8 leaders in the golfing grandeur of Gleneagles.

Hence the week between Christmas and New Year has seen some early moves in the game to dominate the 2005 agenda. Leading the pack is the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign.

Bono took it as one of his issues during the Today programme, Rowan Williams made it the theme of his Christmas Day address, Bob Geldof is almost ubiquitous talking about it and Richard Curtis will sneak it into the next episode of the Vicar of Dibley.

It’s all good stuff and I’m fully behind the campaign. What I find remarkable is how easy it now seems. Peter Mandleson wrote a piece in the Independent yesterday which struck me because here was (arguably) the most important person in Europe on issues of trade already using the exact language and arguments of the NGOs.

If I think back to my first involvement in debt campaigning back in 1998, it was incredibly hard and lonely. There were no celebs, the politians thought we were weirdos and the thought of any, let alone blanket, media coverage was pretty far fetched.

I find it fascinating how the UK NGOs have now come to have such a strong influence on political life. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, just an unremarked thing. Once you had to make it in a think tank or business to be lifted into the Number 10 Policy Unit. But now there’s a new route in, a mini-industry that has politics and a culture of its own.

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