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Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

The Tory race to be PM: What does it mean for international development?

13 June 2019
Author: Paul Abernethy

Last week, Theresa May resigned, firing the starting gun on the contest to succeed her as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister of the United Kingdom. But what happens next? And who is in the running to replace May?

Now the first round of votes is complete, we look at some of the front runners in the contest, and analyse what they each mean for international development.

Who votes for the new prime minister?

Only Conservative Party members vote for the next leader. Over the next week, Conservative MPs will vote on who they want out of the candidates, with last place dropping out of the race after each round. Once there are two left, the Conservative Party membership votes on who the UK’s new prime minister will be by mid-July.

The first round of voting amongst MPs has already finished, with three candidates being knocked out due to insufficient support. Former minister, Mark Harper, former leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, and former Work and Pensions secretary, Esther McVey will no longer take part in the contest. Whilst we were yet to hear from Harper and Leadsom as to what their position on international development would have been, Esther McVey was the only candidate in the contest to publicly back cutting the aid budget by half.

So, who is left in the contest and what are their positions on international development and humanitarian assistance?

Rory Stewart – 19 votes after the first round

Gaining 19 votes in the first round of voting, the current secretary of state for international development has made no secret of his desire for the top job - in the very early days of his new post as Department for International Development (DFID) boss, he said that he wanted to be prime minister. In terms of policy, he has said that he would maintain 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income being spent on international development, but would double the amount of UK aid spend on tackling the “climate emergency” we face.

Jeremy Hunt – 43 votes after the first round

In second place so far with 43 votes, the foreign secretary is considered one of the front runners for the top job. At his campaign launch, he reiterated his support for maintaining 0.7% of our economy for international development. He is on record as saying he believes that the aid target is a symbol of our soft power, and used a recent trip to five countries across Africa to build a relationship that was based on aid as well as enterprise and prosperity.

Boris Johnson – 114 votes after the first round

Way ahead with 114 votes and considered the bookies favourite to be the next PM, the former London Mayor and foreign secretary recently suggested that DFID should be subsumed into the Foreign Office. “If ‘Global Britain’ is going to achieve its full and massive potential then we must bring back DFID to the FCO,” he told the Financial Times in an interview in January. He also backed the Henry Jackson Society’s report that called for the international definitions of aid spending to be scrapped, something that Bond commented on at the time. He also recently called for UK aid to be spent tackling the “environmental problems of the world.” That said, he is yet to launch any formal policy on aid, and very recently the former development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, went on the BBC Today Programme to say that he is now supporting Johnson after receiving reassurance that he "will stand by 0.7".

Dominic Raab – 27 votes after the first round

In fourth place with 27 votes, Raab is still considered a front runner in the contest. Very recently the former Brexit secretary used a quick-fire round on The Andrew Marr Show to say “yes” to the 0.7% target. However, in an older interview, Raab said that as PM he would look to cut government waste and, to do so, he “could bring the Department for International Trade and the Department for International Development back into the Foreign Office.”

Matt Hancock – 20 votes after the first round

Just last week, the health secretary gave a foreign policy speech at the Policy Exchange, announcing measures he would introduce as Prime Minister, including a commitment to tackling cyber-attacks. Hancock also used the speech to say that he would also “uphold the longstanding principle of spending 0.7% of GDP [sic] on international development.” He currently has 20 votes amongst MPs.

Michael Gove – 37 votes after the first round

In third place after the first round, the secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) used his launch speech recently to say that he has always “believed that Britain should play a big role on the world stage, that’s why I’m a supporter of maintaining 0.7% of our economy being spent on international development.” Michael Gove, along with Hunt and Raab, is considered one of the favourites to be in the final two when the vote goes to the Conservative membership.

Sajid Javid – 23 votes after the first round

One of the last candidates to formally launch their campaign, we’re still yet to hear directly from the home secretary as to what his position is on international development. That said, one of his most prominent supporters and leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Ruth Davidson, used an interview with Good Morning Britain to say that she’s backing him because she agrees with him on some of the big issues such as "ensuring that we’re committed to the 0.7% (target) of foreign aid and that he won’t monkey around with the definition." He got 23 votes in the first round of voting.

We will be keeping a close eye on these contenders and will update this piece with their positions on international development as they are announced. To get our updates, follow @bondngo on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.

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About the author

Paul Abernethy
Bond

Paul leads the political advocacy of Bond, working with parliamentarians and ministers in support of ending global poverty.