Rock Star Bono Hails Chancellor's War On Want

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12.29.04 - The Scotsman

Fraser Nelson

Political Editor

Bono, the rock star and front man of U2, boosted Gordon Brown's leadership chances yesterday by hailing the Chancellor's commitment to cutting third world debt.

And Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, said Tony Blair was the world's best hope for helping Africa as he was one of the few heads of state to push poverty to the top of the agenda.

The double endorsement will provide Labour with a publicity boost as Britain takes over the presidency of the G8 in the new year - and the Prime Minister prepares to make a war on poverty the theme of the general election campaign.

Bono, who has joined Sir Bob Geldolf in using his celebrity to promote third world causes, was asked to guest-produce an edition of Today, BBC Radio Four's flagship breakfast programme.

It included an interview with the Chancellor who renewed his call for a step-change in the way rich countries tackle poverty.

"We shouldn't have to choose, as we are at the moment, between the temporary emergency relief that we are giving and the long-term tackling of the underlying causes of poverty," he said.

"We need to be able to do both, and that's why we need something akin to the Marshall Plan of the 1940s, which is a bold effort at reconstruction, a very substantial increase in resources."

For the last three years Mr Brown has been calling for rich countries to show the same generosity to Africa as the United States showed to post-war Europe by George Marshall, then US Secretary of State.

The US offered up to $20 billion of aid - but only if the European nations could get together and draw up a rational plan on how they would use the aid. Their subsequent co-operation formed the basis for the European Union.

Several pressure groups are now converging on Downing Street ahead of the finance ministers meeting - to be held in London in February. They met a warm reception from the Chancellor. Mr Brown yesterday hailed the "huge groundswell" of support from faith groups and members of the public who bought the Band Aid 20 single Do They Know It's Christmas.

"We have an Aids budget of £500 million a year for the developing countries. We spend more than £1 billion a year on education. But I accept that is not enough and we have got to do more," he said.

Mr Clinton spoke twice to the Today programme, and said it is easier for world leaders to talk about helping Africa after leaving office, because donating billions to charity does not always lead to political popularity.

"Poor people in other countries don't vote," said the former president. "So what we have to do is build a political movement which not only gets publicity but turns this into a vote-winning issue for a substantial number of people."

He agreed to Bono's request for an interview, he said, "because Tony Blair is genuinely committed to this" and has succeeded in building a majority within the UK parliament to send money.

Africa is already central to Labour's election strategy, as ministers hope to make the most of Britain's G8 presidency. A commission on Africa, which includes Geldof has been set up by Mr Blair.

After the expected election on 5 May, it will also be the focus of the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July.

It emerged yesterday that children as young as eight living near Gleneagles will be issued with identity cards as part of the massive security operation around the summit.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on December 29, 2004 4:08 AM.

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