Foreign aid

The rise of the unwhippable Tories

When the government announced a Commons vote on its decision to cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7 per cent of GNI to 0.5, the expectation was that the vote would be tight. In the end, the government won comfortably: it had a majority of 35. But despite their success, the whips would be wrong to be feeling triumphalist about this, I write in the magazine this week The usual whips’ line — if you keep your nose clean preferment might come your way — is ineffective Twenty-four Tories voted against the government, 14 of which were former ministers. The overwhelming majority of these are either uninterested in returning to

The callousness of the Conservative foreign aid cut

A billionaire who reduces his or her charity is a billionaire asking to be judged and found wanting. When they do so, not on the basis that their charity is squandered but because they fancy keeping more of their wealth for their own purposes, they demand to be judged and found wanting all over again. This morning, the United Kingdom and its government is that billionaire. The government has won its campaign to reduce Britain’s foreign aid contributions. As so often, a much-vaunted Tory rebellion delivered rather less than it promised. As a consequence, money will be withheld from some of the world’s poorest peoples and kept instead by some of

The vote to cut foreign aid is looking tight

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 rebels feel the government is already being misleading about who it has pulled over to its side As I’ve written before, a commitment to the cut being temporary was something that

The foreign aid vote may shatter Boris’s fragile majority

The vote on the cut to the foreign aid budget, which Jacob Rees-Mogg has just announced in the Commons, will be tight. The government has said that it plans to return to its manifesto commitment of 0.7 per cent but only when the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts show the UK is no longer borrowing for day-to-day spending and the debt is in decline. But that may not be enough to edge it given that the rebels want it restored when the economy returns to pre-pandemic levels, which will come much sooner. Reducing the aid budget from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5 per cent is a rare example

Boris Johnson takes aim at ‘lefty’ aid rebels

Normally when a Prime Minister goes on the attack in the Commons, it’s the opposition in his sights. Not so today, when Boris Johnson accidentally attacked his own MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, for being ‘lefty’ propagandists. He was responding to questions from SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford about the cuts in foreign aid spending from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent, and said: ‘We are in very very difficult financial times but you shouldn’t believe the lefty propaganda that you’re hearing from the people opposite.’ Blackford was amused by this and quipped that he’d never expected to hear May referred to as a leftist. On the

In defence of the foreign aid cut

It says something for the persuasive powers of former international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, that he mustered enough potential votes to inflict defeat on Boris Johnson’s government, if only his amendment had been permitted and a vote had been held. Mitchell’s consolation prize, awarded by the Speaker in recognition of the strength of feeling in the Commons, is an emergency debate on what would have been the substance of his amendment: to reinstate foreign aid at 0.7 per cent of GDP from next year, rather than the reduction to 0.5 per cent that was set in the Budget.  The rift this row has exposed among Conservative MPs could embarrass the Prime

Boris Johnson avoids a Commons vote on foreign aid

Update: Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle has announced that a vote on the aid spending amendment has not been selected. Hoyle says the amendment is out of the scope of the current bill, meaning Boris Johnson will avoid a potentially difficult vote on the issue – for now. Hoyle suggested the government should give MPs an opportunity for a vote at a later date on restoring the foreign aid pledge to 0.7 per cent of gross national income. As preparations get underway in Downing Street for this week’s G7 summit, trouble is brewing in the House of Commons. The government is facing a potential defeat on a vote it didn’t want to have: the cut

No. 10 should expect an aid rebellion

If a vote is called on the government’s aid cut on Monday, it will be very tight for the government. Andrew Mitchell is a former chief whip as well as a former development secretary and it is hard to believe that he would have put this amendment down if he didn’t have the numbers to defeat the government. This is, in some ways, an odd rebellion. The rebels claim they are not really rebels at all and just trying to uphold the Tory manifesto from the last election. But the size of this rebellion should concern Boris Johnson and the Tory whips. It highlights how many former ministers there now

Trade not aid: spending more doesn’t mean we care more

Outside the Catholic mission I walked through rows of women in traditional hide skirts, squatting or sitting with legs astride, palms upturned in supplication. Many suffered from scabies and cradled emaciated babies, and all looked 20 years older than their true age. These are my memories of the Uganda famine in 1980 and these were the survivors. Africa is a different place today and so are the methods used to combat famine. But this was where I learnt about the contradictions of overseas aid. Aid is pernicious, and injudicious aid can destroy all before it. Take food aid. It is wonderful for saving those in extreme peril, but once the

The foreign aid cut marks a change of priorities

The proposed reduction in international aid from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of GDP has elicited a furious reaction from some quarters. It has been condemned by five former prime ministers, three of whom never met the target when they were in office. What is missing from this debate is the historical context. The rise in development spending was part of the peace dividend that followed the end of the cold war. But the just-concluded defence spending settlement marks a UK recognition that this peace dividend is over — great power competition is back and this country’s military spending now needs to increase. Over the next decade or so, military

Letters: Police must focus on deterring crime, not responding to it

Deterring crime Sir: Rod Liddle is right to highlight the politicisation of the police as a source of their inadequacies, but I think he misses the crucial point (‘Defund the police’, 27 June). We simply do not have bobbies on the beat to even feel sympathy for, and this means that constructive relationships between a recognisable police officer and their community are a rarity. As Kevin Hurley describes, many black youths in our cities have nothing but hatred towards police officers, and this cannot be a surprise when the only interactions they have with them are being forced to empty their pockets after being suspected of criminal activity. Mr Liddle

Why can’t Britain’s foreign aid be used to help Christians too?

For years now, the British government has prided itself on how much money it gives away in foreign aid. But of course it’s not just the amount that matters — it’s how effective it is. Now that the Prime Minister is to wrap the Department for International Development back into the Foreign Office, it’s a chance for us to ask again: who are we as a country? What are our values? And how can we ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent? It can be difficult to ensure that a recipient of aid is legitimate and worthy. That’s why there’s been a tendency for the UK and aid agencies to