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Live webchat with Douglas Alexander, secretary of state for international development, Tues 2 March, 1.15-2pm

86 replies

GeraldineMumsnet · 25/02/2010 13:23

We're very pleased that Douglas Alexander is joining us for a webchat on 2 March at 1.15pm.As it's Fairtrade Fortnight, he would like to discuss the importance of Fairtrade and how UK shoppers can help farmers in developing countries with their purchases. On Mon 22 Feb, the Dept for International Development launched the first-ever Fairtrade raisins from Afghanistan and coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the value of Fairtrade goods sold globally is set to triple to £9 billion a year by 2013.If you've got any questions you'd like to put to Douglas about Fairtrade or any other topics, please join us. Please note the chat will last for 45 mins, not an hour. Thanks, MNHQ.

OP posts:
yellowbrickroad · 02/03/2010 13:42

Don't you think the public perception of Gordon is vital at this stage?

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:44

Maiakins, I have a soft spot for Kenya; I worked there as student and then went back with my wife for our honeymoon.

As for presents, my last trip in my previous job, as Transport Secretary, was to China, and I came back with a bag full of stickers and a spiderman torch, which made me quite popular. My first trip as Development Secretary, however, was to Darfur. I found myself at the airport in Nairobi on the way back at 2am wondering what on earth to get them; they were less than impressed with the wooden animals I came back with.

longfingernails · 02/03/2010 13:44

Labour are cutting hospitals. Why?

See here where Liam Byrne tries to fob this off as expensive buildings.

Why are you not pledging to protect NHS funding, while the Tories are? Talking about protecting "frontline" services might be enough obfuscation for many, but it won't wash here.

What exactly is the point of Labour, if it is not the party of the NHS?

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:44

Ottavia:I've worked with Gordon for 20 years I've never seen him hit or punch anyone - can't put it more plainly than that.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:46

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DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:49

Policywonk it's an important question about what would happen to development if the Tories were to win the election. Since 1997 we've trebled the aid budget and in the preceding 18 years they halved it. Just last summer John Major and Douglas Hurd wrote an article saying DFID should be folded back into the foreign office. A survey this weekend showed being DFID secretary of state was the least attractive job in govn for selected Tory candidates. So I would worry for both the funding of development and how that money would be used in developing countries. The stakes are high.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:50

Maybe DadDouglas?

On the Robin Hood Tax campaign, there are a lot of conversations happening internationally at the moment about how to build a consensus for action and what type of action would be most effective. Alastair and the Treasury are leading on this policy area...

ahundredtimes · 02/03/2010 13:50

Do you think this election is going to become about personality rather than policy?
And does that worry you and is this a new development in politics or as old as the hills?

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:51

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DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:53

Terrible admission, and not very patriotic but my favourite are chocolate Leibnitz. (A slab of chocolate pretending to be a biscuit) Prefer the dark chocolate ones to the milk ones - and of course I hope that they will soon embrace Fairtade...

nearlyfifty · 02/03/2010 13:54

i have been trying to: 1) get my 18yr old daughter interested in world politics; 2)trying to get her to think about food re the planet.

Leona Lewis achieved my aim in one sentence when she said she would give up meat one day a week. What are you doing to capture the imaginations of the 18yr olds about to vote for the first time?

policywonk · 02/03/2010 13:55

'Just last summer John Major and Douglas Hurd wrote an article saying DFID should be folded back into the foreign office. A survey this weekend showed being DFID secretary of state was the least attractive job in govn for selected Tory candidates.'

I Did Not Know either of these things. Worrying.

jenniferturkington · 02/03/2010 13:56

Many thanks for answering my question. Wouldn't it be great though it the UK could show leadership and say that of our $1.5billion, at least 50% will be new and additional money and that after 2013 we will pledge $10 billion of new and additional money (above ODA) to the global climate fund. This will at least stop us worrying that ODA money is being diverted from development budgets to fight climate change. I know the two things are linked, but in accounting terms you need to make the distinction.

Nessarose · 02/03/2010 13:58

Sorry I am going to be cheeky, (MNHQ please delate if you want.) I run a Cub pack and was wondering if you would be available to come and talk to them about fair trade? thanks

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 13:58

ahundredtimes - I sense that the TV debates by the leaders means that they will be front and centre in the campaign in a way that hasn't been the case in the past. That being said, to quote Tony Benn (not something I do every day, incidentally) politics should be about policies - they are what will affect the life chances of the kids in my community most.

Longfingernails.. Labour is committed to protecting frontline services, and given the number of unfunded spending committments that have been made by the Conservatives, I am not sure many people will beleive their claims anyway. It is not by chance, but by conscious decision, that we have seen record investment in the NHS in recent years.

Maiakins · 02/03/2010 14:00

Hahaha ... yes, I imagine that spiderman torches would beat wooden animals!

Agree with policywonk - that is very worrying about the conservative suggestions of collapsing DFID into the Foreign Office.

I wonder what you think will happen over the next 20-30 years in terms of international development? Will the traditional donors like US, Europe, Japan etc be overtaken by other new world players?

Hasn't China been very active behind the scenes in donating aid and creating goodwill in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean? I've heard that there are plans for a 'Bank of the South' to compete against the IMF/World Bank. I know aid has always been politicised, but I wonder how you think it might change globally in the long-term?

ahundredtimes · 02/03/2010 14:01

Thank you for answering. Think you're right - and that's a v good way of looking at it. I agree. And I also like those squares of chocolate that pass as biscuits.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 14:05

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nearlyfifty · 02/03/2010 14:13

thanks for the answer - and shes off to Uganda and Kenya in June (having raised the funds herslf to do World Challenge).I hope she will come back determined to create a World Fair for all. I will take a look at Platform 2 and get her to sign up.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 14:14

Yellowbrickroad - sure the election will be in part about leadership. The debates will be a focus of this scrutiny. My sense is that the campaign will also be about what kind of country we want to live in in the years ahead. More of a choice, and less of a referendum.
I'd be interested in what you think we should be talking about? You can let me know now or I'm on twitter at @DouglasGE2010

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 14:17

BridesheadRegardless, labelling helps people make informed choices.

Just this Saturday I met an olive grower from the West Bank who was in Scotland as part of Fairtrade Fortnight to promote the olive oil that's now available here in the UK.

He told me the fairtrade label was making a real difference to the co-operative of which he was part.

DouglasAlexander · 02/03/2010 14:19

Time for me to go. Thanks for the questions. In truth, I approached the session with some trepidation (lots of briefing on biscuits!), but its been good fun. Lets do it again. And Happy Tenth Birthday by the way...!

JustineMumsnet · 02/03/2010 14:19

Thanks so much to Douglas for your time and to everyone for all the questions.
Douglas has promised to come back on a few questions he didn't have time for here such as fairtrade services, the role of China, conditionality of aid and finance for climate change.

(Nessarose we did ask Douglas about your cub pack but think it's a long shot! But if you contact Douglas's office [email protected] they promise to put you in touch with you local fair trade association).

policywonk · 02/03/2010 14:21

Thanks Douglas. Good luck with the election campaign.

Nessarose · 02/03/2010 14:22

Thanks JustineMumsnet.

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