Tory rebels hoping to force Boris Johnson to ditch his plan to cut the UK’s aid spending are “cautiously optimistic”.
The prime minister has has been criticised across the political spectrum for temporarily reducing foreign aid from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%, breaking a manifesto commitment.
A total of 30 Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, have supported an amendment, set for a vote on Monday, which would require new legislation to make up the shortfall left by the cut to the UK’s official development assistance.
Bob Geldof, the singer and long-time activist, has also condemned the move as “cruel”.
Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said on Sunday the rebels, which include him, were “trying to make sure that Britain’s foreign footprint, that global Britain, really means something”.
Asked if there were enough rebels to win the vote, Tugendhat said: “we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, he said: I think that’s absolutely vital to making sure we achieve our ambitions and our potential.
“The reality is Britain has a huge opportunity to shape the world at the moment of extraordinary flux and this, along with our defence and diplomatic and trade capabilities, is part of that, so I’m absolutely committed to making sure Britain really is great on the international stage.
“The prime minister has been as clear as you can possibly be about global Britain being an ambition for all of us, so I’m delighted that he has expressed support and I hope very much that he’ll see that this is an opportunity to demonstrate it.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Geldof said the temporary reduction of foreign aid from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% “doesn’t make any sense”.
Ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, he added: “At a weekend when we invite the world’s most powerful leaders of the world’s biggest economies to come here and talk about such matters with us. It seems remarkably maladroit and inept.”
In a letter to Johnson, 1,700 charities, academics and business leaders said: “We look forward to working with the G7 and UK government to deliver ambitious outcomes for people and planet at a time of unprecedented human need.
“Making progress on these critical issues at the G7 will require all of the UK’s diplomatic experience,” the letter said.
“Inevitably the UK’s decision to cut its aid commitment during a pandemic casts a shadow over its ability to deliver at this year’s critical G7 summit. While other G7 countries have stepped up their aid budget, the UK is the only one to have rowed back on its commitments.”