Steerpike

The foreign aid rebels: meet the new awkward squad

The foreign aid rebels: meet the new awkward squad
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And so the foreign aid rebellion died before it even began. This afternoon Speaker Lindsay Hoyle decided that an audacious move to amend the ARIA bill to keep spending 0.7 per cent of GDP year on international development was not within the scope of the legislation.

Despite this Mr S thought it worthwhile to go through the names of those Tories listed on the order paper to give you a cut out and keep guide to the new gang of government rebels. Most of those named will be familiar to long-suffering members of the Tory whips office: Sir Roger Gale was of course one of the first MPs to call for Dominic Cummings's resignation after Barnard Castle and it can hardly be a surprise to see him backing a measure that would gut the latter's cherished project. Other familiar faces are select committee chairs Caroline Nokes and Simon Hoare – both of whose positions on the equalities and Northern Ireland panels are to some extent a tacit rebuke of Boris Johnson's own previous statements on these issues.

Old hands are in abundance in the published list of sponsors. They include Father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley, whose last ministerial post was during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, Sir Edward Leigh and the as yet unknighted Tim Loughton. Hardcore rebel David Davis is of course backing the amendment as is his former leadership campaign manager Andrew Mitchell, a former chief whip turned bête noire of party managers. Theresa May has made one of her carefully calculated ex-PM interventions to back the rebels alongside Johnson's onetime rival Jeremy Hunt and full time critic Tobias Ellwood. Damian Green and Stephen Crabb of course both infamously fell from grace in different scandals and are unlikely to ever make a comeback.

Even those elected since 2015 have personal history with the PM. Foreign affairs chair Tom Tugendhat has scarcely been circumspect about his own leadership ambitions while making tacit rebukes about Johnson for years, such as his jibe in 2017 about the need for a 'cool-headed, stern and strategic' foreign policy. Johnny Mercer spectacularly fell out with No. 10 in April over Northern Ireland veterans, damning Johnson by implication when he claimed that if you refrain from taking action on such difficult issues 'inherently you are, of course, a coward.' There are a few exceptions to this rule such as rising star Ben Everitt. Former special adviser Anthony Mangnall has made clear his opposition ever since his election to Parliament while Nusrat Ghani's previous stance on the trade bill suggests she sees aid as an intrinsic part of a Sinosceptic foreign policy.

Once again though, disgruntled ex-ministers make up the bulk of a backbench government rebellion. The problem for Boris Johnson is that these groups will only grow with every reshuffle.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk

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