UK aid budget could become ‘political football’

23 Apr 19

The United Kingdom’s aid budget faces cuts if rival candidates to lead the ruling Conservative Party turn it into a “political football”, an MP has claimed.

Dan CardenThe opposition Labour Party’s shadow international development secretary Dan Carden [picture right] has warned that contenders may push anti-aid platforms to woo grassroots Conservatives.

His warning comes as pressure grows within the Conservative Party to unseat leader Theresa May, whose unpopular management of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Brexit, has divided her party.

There have been recurrent calls for May to step down as leader and a number of high-profile colleagues have made little secret of their ambition to take over from her as prime minister.

The UK government has committed to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development assistance overseas, amounting to £13.9bn in 2017, although there is pressure among Conservatives to reduce this.

The current international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, who is herself a potential contender for the party leadership, has described the UK aid budget as “unsustainable”. 

In January she reportedly told colleagues that ministers should reduce a reliance on taxpayers’ money and shift their focus towards attracting private donations.

The UK’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson – the favourite to take over from May – has previously called for the Department for International Development, which oversees the aid budget, to be incorporated within the Foreign Office. 

Another prominent Conservative, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has also called for cuts in the aid budget which he has described as “wasteful”.

Speaking to The Independent newspaper, Carden said a Conservative leadership contest posed a real danger to the future of the UK’s international commitments.

“I’ve been saying for a while now that when the next Tory leadership race comes about, the foreign aid budget is under a real threat because we know that the candidates standing are trying to appeal to the right-wing core of that Tory membership,” he said. 

“They are going to be trying to use it as a political football.”

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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