Foreign aid decision shows popularity trumps what is right - Alexander Brown

Boris Johnson was spared a humiliating defeat yesterday after the Speaker failed to select an amendment over his cuts to foreign aid.

Tory rebels were set to defeat the UK Government after rebelling against the plans to cut overseas aid from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent.

The cuts amount to almost £4 billion, breaks the Tory manifesto pledge and has sparked warnings it will kill “hundreds of thousands” of people.

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Despite this, the Prime Minister remains unmoved, with both he and the Chancellor insisting the pandemic has changed things.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing attacks from his own party over the foreign aid cut.Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing attacks from his own party over the foreign aid cut.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing attacks from his own party over the foreign aid cut.

These are lessons on fiscal responsibility from a man who supported £43 million of public money for a garden bridge that was never built, or £2.6m for televised lobby briefings that didn’t happen.

Mr Johnson has still found money for the largest military investment in 30 years. We can’t travel to other countries, but we can at least shoot them.

In doing so, he has united a broad church of his own MPs against him. This is not unnamed backbenchers looking to make a name for themselves, or former big beasts with an axe to grind. At least, it’s not just them.

It includes former Brexit secretary David Davis, and the Prime Minister he resigned under, Theresa May.

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UK Government warned 'hundreds of thousands' will die after speaker blocks amend...

Ultimately, committing 0.7 per cent to overseas aid is an investment the UK Government could afford, but is simply choosing not to do so.

The decision also comes on the eve of the G7, where one of the topics discussed will be how to help poorer countries recover.

Losing the vote would have been a humiliation, but that the debate is even happening remains an embarrassment ahead of the Cornwall summit.

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Mr Johnson is counting on the numerous polls that show the public support the decision. But that isn’t leadership.

Strong leadership isn’t just doing what’s popular, it’s about doing what’s right and bringing the public with you.

Mr Johnson has a wealth of political capital and a majority enabling him to have whatever legacy he wishes.

His “Global Britain” not being one that helps those less fortunate is a choice based on what’s popular, not what is right.

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