Senior Tory MP accuses Johnson of breaking personal promise
Following the news that the Department for International Development is to be subsumed by the Foreign Office, Andrew Mitchell has accused Boris Johnson of going back on a promise he made to him during last year’s Tory leadership contest.
The former international development secretary told The Times that the prime minister ‘sat in my office and looked me in the eye and told me Dfid would be safe.’
Writing in Politics Home, Mr Mitchell went further, expressing his staunch disagreement with Mr Johnson’s alleged U-turn:
‘Over the last 30 years the Department for International Trade has become one of the most respected examples of Global Britain around the world.
‘Dfid’s reputation harnessing effective ways of tackling poverty and deprivation is unsurpassed.’
He went on to praise the people who drove the government’s development agenda from within Dfid and suggested that these individuals would likely be poached by other countries looking to mirror or to build on Britain’s success. He said it was unclear what would be gained by the move and that it is ‘a retrograde step which we will come to regret.’
Mr Mitchell was far from the only senior Tory to criticise the move. Most notably, former prime minister David Cameron, in the first instance of him publicly criticising Mr Johnson’s government, said that the decision to scrap Dfid would mean ‘less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.
Former Tory cabinet ministers Justine Greening and Rory Stewart also criticised the move.
Mr Johnson, who argued that it would allow the government to rethink its spending priorities, said it was ‘extraordinary’ that the decision had not been taken sooner.
This has led many to suspect that the ring fenced 0.7 per cent of gross national income for overseas aid will be reduced in coming months, as part of a series of cost-saving measures in light of Covid-19.
Speaking to MPs, Mr Johnson gave an indication of how overseas spending may change:
‘We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security,” he told MPs. “We give ten times as much aid to Tanzania as we do to the six countries of the western Balkans, who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling.’
Labour has criticised the move, with Keir Starmer being joined by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in expressing disapproval.