Some Tory MPs who voted to cut the UK’s aid budget, which will take “food off the plates of starving children”, did so because they were given the “smell of a job” in government, Andrew Mitchell has said.
On Tuesday Boris Johnson saw off a Tory rebellion over its decision to slash overseas aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income.
In an interview with HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast, Mitchell, a former Conservative international development secretary, said the cut would do “great damage” to the party’s electoral chances.
Mitchell praised the 25 Tory MPs who voted against the government as “heroes” after they “stood firm and stood up for Britain’s international reputation” and “for the poorest people in the world”.
But he accused many of the backbenchers who had switched sides and voted with the government as having been won over by the “seduction” of career advancement.
“Some of them agonised,” he said. “Some of them just slipped away and hoped no one would notice.”
Mitchell, who was also previously Tory chief whip, said: “I‘ve been poacher and gamekeeper.
“You prey on the frailty of human nature, you offer people who you know whose principles will be overridden if they have the smell of a job.
“I think countless new ministers for paperclips will no doubt shortly be announced.”
He added: “You prey on people’s insecurities and you know what people’s weaknesses are and that’s how you get the others on board.”
Mitchell said the cut in aid spending meant the UK had “broken our word” to the world.
“We’ve trashed Britain’s reputation,” he said. ”Literally taking food off the plates of starving children.
“After the war, Britain kept rationing so the famine would not develop and take off in Germany. That’s what Britain is like, after a war.”
Mitchell also warned that as well as having a severe impact on the world’s poor, the move would also hurt the Tories in the polls.
“It will do great damage to the Conservative Party,” he said.
“David Cameron taught us that you don’t get an overall majority, and the Tories didn’t get an overall majority between 1992 an 2015, without being a broad church,” he said.
“Why did we get a majority in 2015? Because we won all those Lib Dem seats.
“Why did we win them? Because socially liberal conservatives, like me, care a lot about this and they felt it was safe to vote for David Cameron’s Conservative Party.
“They felt comfortable and happy in the Conservative Party. Many of those people won’t feel like that after what has now happened.”
He said: “Boris has been brilliant at adding on the red wall seats and it’s produced some extremely able new colleagues. He has done very well on expanding the Tory DNA in that respect.”
But Mitchell added the party had to be careful not to “lose off the other end” of vot that “won’t be voting for a party” that cut aid when it “didn’t have to”.