The question, “What do Sadiq Khan and Leo Varadkar have in common?” is not one that would have occurred to me. However, it may crop up in a pub quiz (do you remember those?) so it’s worth noting that both served as volunteers in VSO projects in the past. I gleaned this piece of knowledge from a newspaper article this week.
Needless to say, this was an incidental piece of information . The point of the article was that VSO projects in fourteen countries are to be closed because of the slashing of the Government’s foreign aid budget. Voluntary Service Overseas, to give it its full title, is half funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. VSO is also a major partner in the International Citizen Service, or was, as this project for 18 to 35 year-olds, organising placements for individuals for voluntary work overseas, has also been wound down due to funding cuts.
These facts were in a small article at the bottom of an inside page of The Guardian last Monday. Why they were not headlines in a prominent position across the media serves to question just how this country has moved in its response to the vulnerable of the world. This past week also, the Isle of Man has once more been suggested as being a possible off-shore base for a processing centre for asylum seekers by the UK Home Secretary, though I note that the Manx Government is not saying anything other than it would need to give consent. This appeared briefly on the Manx Radio news and then sank out of sight.
Although not connected, one does wonder about “Global Britain” from both of these more than merely symbolic pieces of news. Let us hope that VSO has a reprieve - which it may get - as the effects of cuts on individual overseas projects is still being worked through, a Government spokesperson has said.