Speakers at Bond's event at the Conference Party Conference
Speakers at Bond and CFID's event at the Conference Party Conference 2018

Highlights from Conservative Party Conference 2018

This week party activists, charities and business leaders came together in Birmingham for the Conservative Party Conference.

In what was billed as a make-or-break conference for the prime minister, the conference was Brexit-heavy, with most of the events – and speeches – focused on the impending deadline for a deal.

But despite the increased focus on domestic issues, politicians still found time to talk and discuss international development issues. We gathered 120 people at the Bond drinks reception, which included Penny Mordaunt, Jeremy Lefroy and Andrew Mitchell.

PM speaks of global progress

Prime minister Theresa May danced onto the stage (no, really) and used her speech to emphasise the need for unity ahead of the final stages of the Brexit negotiations. The PM used part of her platform to talk about the global progress made tackling extreme poverty.

“In the last 30 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half, global life expectancy has increased by nearly 20 years, child mortality has halved,” the PM told the packed-out hall. These echoed remarks made by the foreign secretary on Sunday, who lauded the fact that “when I was born in 1966, half of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty – that’s less than a dollar a day. Now it’s not half it’s just 9% of the people in the world.”

Mordaunt gives up stage to frontline NGOs

Secretary of state for international development, Penny Mordaunt, took to the stage on Sunday to tell the conference that “rather than falling apart, the world is getting a better place”. She then gave up her platform to those that are on the frontline of promoting and delivering UK aid.

“What our nation has and is contributing to the advancement of humanity is breath-taking,” said Mordaunt. She then brought the following people to the stage:

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  • Theo Clarke, CEO of the Coalition for Global Prosperity, which promotes the valuable contribution of UK aid to global prosperity
  • Major General James Cowan, CEO of the Halo Trust, which specialises in removing landmines from developing countries
  • Dominic McVey, director of Hela Clothing, which provides thousands of jobs across developing countries
  • Eve Conway, president of the Great British and Ireland Rotary Club, the membership organisation that led the campaign to eradicate polio for the last 30 years.

As chair, Theo Clarke praised the secretary of state for her leadership. Dominic McVey spoke about the need to provide jobs so that people in developing countries can be economically empowered and can break the cycle of poverty.

Major General James Cowan spoke of the vital need to protect the poorest from former conflicts and wars. “In over ten years DfID has supported the (mine) clearance of Herat Province (Afghanistan), benefitting 370,000 families,” said the former soldier. “Aid is not only the right thing to do but it is vital to our national interest.”

Eve Conway spoke about how UK aid is helping to eradicate polio – a horrific and deadly disease that is 99.99% eradicated. “Because of UK aid, we’re now closer than ever to eradicating polio. Since Liam Fox spoke, to the time you will applaud Jeremy Hunt, we would have vaccinated 10,000 children… Working together we are saving lives, but also keeping the UK safe.”

Bond hosts a packed fringe event

We hosted the annual Bond drinks reception on the Sunday night, in partnership with the Conservative Friends of International Development, to a packed-out room of 120 people.

Talking about the importance of development in the keynote speech, the secretary of state underpinned the vital need for civil society and DfID to improve on connecting the public to the work of UK aid.

Interim CEO of Bond, Judith Brodie, highlighted the need for poverty alleviation to be the core focus of UK aid, saying “aid and development can and does work in our national interest, but this shouldn’t be the main driver.”

Influential backbench MP, Jeremy Lefroy, praised the work of British institutions like the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who undertake vital research on the diseases that continue to kill countless people across the developing world. Former secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell MP, praised the crucial work of Bond and its members, before Caroline Squire, director of CFID, spoke of their vital work in the party to promote UK aid, and thanked everyone for coming.

You can read our round up of the Labour Party Conference, held the previous week, here.