PM suggests opponents of foreign aid cuts are ‘lefty’ despite Tory backlash
Boris Johnson has claimed “lefty propaganda” is behind attacks on his foreign aid plans – despite senior Conservative MPs leading the opposition to his £4 billion spending cut.
The Prime Minister was accused by the SNP of being “on the run” from not only his “moral and legal responsibilities” but also his own backbench MPs.
Former prime minister Theresa May is among at least 30 Tory MPs to urge Mr Johnson to reinstate the budget from 0.5% of national income to 0.7%, in line with the party’s 2019 general election manifesto pledge.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has also signalled his desire for MPs to have a vote on the matter, but Downing Street has insisted it has “no plans” to bring one forward.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Later this week the Prime Minister will walk into the G7 summit as the only leader cutting development aid to the world’s poorest.
“At the very moment when global leadership is needed more than ever, this Tory Government is walking away from millions still struggling from the Covid pandemic and a poverty pandemic.
“The Prime Minister has been hiding on this issue for months. This is a Government on the run from their own moral and legal responsibilities, and on the run from their own backbenchers.
“But the Prime Minister can’t hide from this issue any longer and he can’t run from democracy in this House.
“Will he stand up today and commit to a straight vote in this House on his inhumane cuts, as demanded by the Speaker? Prime Minister, it is a very simple question: yes or no?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I think the answer is clear: the people of this country… were given a vote on this and many other matters very recently and I think they adjudicated very firmly in favour of the balance the Government is striking.
Under this Government we’ve spent more and we continue to spend more than Labour ever did
“We’re in very, very difficult financial times, but he shouldn’t believe the lefty propaganda you hear from people opposite.
“We’re spending £10 billion overseas. All they want to do is run this country down when we’ve increased spending on girls’ education alone to almost half a billion pounds.”
Mr Blackford said: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the previous prime minister (Mrs May) called a leftist propagandist.”
Mrs May looked on from the third row of the Tory benches.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had earlier urged the UK to “lead, not just to host” as the G7 summit in Cornwall approaches.
Sir Keir said: “The Prime Minister has made big promises on this, but he needs a truly global effort to make it happen, so will the Prime Minister take the lead at the G7 and do whatever is necessary to make global vaccinations a reality?”
Mr Johnson replied: “We were able to ensure that one in three of the 1.5 billion doses that have been distributed around the world are the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – that is global Britain in action, to say nothing of the billion vaccines that we hope to raise from the G7 this week.”
Sir Keir added: “That would sound a lot better if the Prime Minister wasn’t the only G7 leader cutting his aid budget. We also need clear global agreement and global funding.”
Mr Johnson hit back: “He attacks the Government, I think, for failing to be sufficiently ambitious in our overseas aid spending.
“Under this Government we’ve spent more and we continue to spend more than Labour ever did.
“Under Blair, under Brown even, when they were spending money on Brazilian dancers in Hackney to raise consciousness… of global poverty. We are spending £10 billion a year at a time of acute financial difficulty for this country and I think the British people know that that is the right priority for this country.”
Speaker Sir Lindsay cut Mr Johnson off, mistakenly calling “Felicity Kendal, come on” instead of Felicity Buchan (Kensington).
To laughter from MPs, he added: “Buchan, even.”