Isabel Hardman

The vote to cut foreign aid is looking tight

The vote to cut foreign aid is looking tight
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Things are looking tight this morning for the government’s vote on aid spending. Ministers were hoping that springing the vote on rebels at the last minute might help to peel away some softer MPs, and there's a list doing the rounds this morning of 14 backbenchers who’ve said they are supporting a compromise which would mean the government committing to restoring the 0.7 per cent target when economic conditions improve, using OBR forecasts to gauge when that is.

The MPs backing the government's foreign aid compromise

As I've written before, a commitment to the cut being temporary was something that the rebels knew would satisfy many among their number, though the rebel’s ringleader Andrew Mitchell was scathing about this deal on the Today programme this morning, saying: ‘The Treasury are saying they will provide certain conditions for the return. Any of my colleagues satisfied by that are being hoodwinked.’ He argued that ‘if the government get their way today we can kiss goodbye to the 0.7.’

The rebels are also this morning disputing that two of the signatories to the letter – Andrea Leadsom and Huw Merriman – were really voting against the government in the first place. I understand, though, that Leadsom had previously told her whip she planned to vote against the cut. Anyway, the rebels feel the government is already being misleading about who it has pulled over to its side in order to try to attract other soft rebels to its cause. The rebels also claim that they gained some MPs last night, but that the vote will still be tight.

The compromise on the cut being temporary may be one thing, but the rebels also think they may gain some support from MPs who are upset about the way parliament is being treated in this row. Today's debate and vote are being used to override the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015. One rebel source says: ‘It's not the way to treat parliament and I feel very downhearted about that.’ A lot of the anger so far has been about the refusal to offer the vote at all. But if MPs feel that parliament is still being mistreated, then that could ignite the rebellion all over again.

Written byIsabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman is assistant editor of The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. She also presents Radio 4’s Week in Westminster.

Topics in this articlePoliticsforeign aidparliament0.7