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Boris Johnson Claims Voters Support Foreign Aid Cuts Despite Manifesto Offering £4bn More

Boris Johnson rejected calls for MPs to get a vote on the cut to foreign aid and blamed "lefty propaganda" for misrepresenting the government's position (Alamy)

3 min read

The prime minister rejected criticism of his decision to slash the UK’s foreign aid budget by £4billion as "lefty propaganda”, despite a rebellion of dozens of Conservative MPs including his predecessor Theresa May.

Boris Johnson made the bizarre claim at PMQs this lunchtime, and then suggested votes for the Tory party at last month’s local elections were an indication of support for scrapping the legally enshrined target of spending 0.7% of GDP on overseas development.

His comments were in response to the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who said the PM will head to Cornwall to host the G7 summit  tomorrow “as the only leader cutting development aid to the world's poorest”.

Blackford told the Commons: "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."

He accused the government of "hiding" from the issue, and avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities. 

"But the Prime Minister can't hide from this issue any longer and he can't run from democracy in this House,” Blackford added. 

Earlier this week Downing Street indicated it would reject a request by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to give MPs a vote on the cuts but today Blackford appealed directly to the PM for a vote. 

"Will he stand up today and commit to a straight vote in this House on his inhumane cuts, as demanded by the Speaker?”, he asked.But Johnson responded by claiming "lefty propaganda" was misrepresenting his government's position on foreign aid, despite the rebellion being led by his own Conservative MPs, including former ministers Andrew Mitchell and David Davis who reportedly have the support of enough MPs to overturn Johnson's Commons majority of 85.

Johnson then claimed that despite the 0.7% figure proposed for foreign aid being in the 2019 manifesto, he was elected to Parliament on voters supporting it being dropped to 0.5% for this year due to the pandemic.

"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," the PM explained.

"We're in very, very difficult financial times, but he shouldn't believe the lefty propaganda you hear from people opposite. We're spending £10billion 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."

Blackford appeared baffled by Johnson's aligning of May with the left.  "I don't think I've ever heard the previous Prime Minister called a leftist propagandist," he replied. 

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