A Tory former cabinet minister has said it is insulting to suggest voters in the so-called ‘red wall’ do not care about Boris Johnson’s “nasty” decision to cut aid spending.
Andrew Mitchell told HuffPost UK the idea that working class ex-Labour voters who backed the Tories in December’s election do not care about the poorest in the world was “complete rubbish”.
The former development secretary, who is helping to coordinate a Tory rebellion on the cut, also warned the prime minister that there are “a lot” of MPs talking about voting against the “measly, nasty” plan to scrap the legally binding target to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid.
The cut, outlined by chancellor Rishi Sunak in his spending review, has sparked criticism from the likes of Tory ex-PM David Cameron and the resignation of development minister Baroness Sugg.
And Mitchell rubbished the “shallow effort” to use opinion polls to show that the British public back the decision, suggesting opinion was skewed by Johnson’s past comments likening development spending to a “cash machine in the sky”.
He told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast: “Actually I think it’s rather insulting to the many people in the ‘red wall’ seats who when there’s an emergency around the world, when there’s flooding or when there’s a typhoon or when there’s a famine, these people raise money, they reach into their pockets to try and help.
“So the idea that if you’re a red wall Tory you don’t care about the poorest in the world is, I think, complete rubbish.”
He added: “If you have a prime minister who says the development spend is ‘a great big cash machine in the sky spewing out money’ – if that’s what you tell the public then of course they’re not going to support it.”
The cut will mean taking one million girls out of school, 6.7m girls and women not getting contraception, and two million malnourished mainly children not getting food they need, Mitchell said.
And it will mean the UK will “preside over 105,000 preventable deaths,” he said.
“It’s a nasty, measly, morally wrong, bad for British interests cut and it should be reversed,” Mitchell added.
The ex-cabinet minister also stressed that the £4bn aid cut would only fill a tiny proportion of the black hole in the public finances, while harming Britain’s interests at a time when US president-elect Joe BIden is looking to reset international relations and jump start global cooperation.
“And at the point where Britain is taking over the chairmanship of the G7 group of nations, we’ve got the COP (climate change summit) in Glasgow next November, we’re going to be the chair at the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
“At the very moment we’ve got the opportunity to showcase global Britain, show Britain’s leadership in an area where we have been very much the development superpower around the world, what are we doing?
“We’re making this measly, nasty cut, taking away from the poorest people in the world.”