The Institute of Fiscal Studies published a report on Monday showing that the foreign aid budget has almost doubled over a decade to £13.6 billion and was likely to continue on its spectacular upward rise over the next Parliament.
The Daily Mail thought this lavish spending by the Department of International Development (DfID) was an important story with a headline talking of ‘ballooning’ figures, while the Daily Express said it was a ‘bombshell’ revelation about an already ‘bloated’ budget.
On the BBC, however, the story was conspicuously absent from the Corporation’s morning agenda. Not a peep.
Compare that with during the EU referendum. Then the IFS was wheeled out with monotonous regularity as ‘proof’ that economic scare stories about the negative consequences of Brexit were likely to come true. Correspondents such as economics editor Kamal Ahmed regularly drilled into audiences how important and reliable the IFS is.
This latest report, which revealed that DfID’s budget – dictated by David Cameron’s controversial pledge to spend at least 0.7 per cent of the UK’s national income in this arena – had risen by 24 per cent under the Tories since 2010, compared with across-the-board cuts in all other departments (excluding health, education and defence) of 28 per cent, totalling £34.6 billion.
As The Daily Mail points out, despite this – and despite widespread public anger at government priorities away from domestic issues – Theresa May has already committed with bone-headed obstinacy to the current DfID rate of spending, and has seemingly set her face against any changes in the DfID policy in the Conservative Party manifesto.
An IFS report so intrinsically critical of this government would normally have been seized upon by BBC like a rat up a drainpipe as a strong line of attack.
But not this morning, and not on this subject. Why? Is it perhaps because the Corporation is so wedded to the importance of overseas aid – in tune with its own right-on agenda pursued by its Media Action arm – that it views such spending as sacrosanct? And not even its beloved IFS can persuade it otherwise.