General election – what happened and what it means for development

18 December 2019
Author: Paul Abernethy

The Conservative Party has swept to victory in the general election, securing 365 seats and a resounding majority of 80 MPs.

Labour are the second largest party with 203 seats but have suffered one of the worst election defeats since the early 1980s. 

In Scotland, the SNP had a very successful night, picking up seats from all three major parties, including Jo Swinson’s seat of East Dunbartonshire. Swinson resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats shortly afterwards. Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will not lead the Labour Party into the next general election but will stay on until his successor is appointed.

No big reshuffle. . . Yet

There has been a small reshuffle to replace ministers that have lost their seat, but apart from that nothing much has changed – Alok Sharma retains his position as secretary of state for international development. It seems that the Prime Minister is keen to keep disruption to a minimum until the UK has left the EU by the 31 January deadline. 

After that, it is expected that there will be a major reshuffle, not only of ministers but departments themselves. As recently reported by the FT, the Cabinet Office have been drawing up plans for a merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

Whilst there has been no official statement on the proposals as of yet from the Conservative Party or the Prime Minister, there has been considerable noise both in public and behind the scenes to suggest that there is a threat to a standalone, independent DFID. 

A potential merger? 

It’s something that we’re monitoring closely. We’re not expecting an announcement this side of the new year, but we’re preparing just in case. In the meantime, Bond will use every opportunity to make the case for an independent DFID with its own secretary of state and encourage members to do the same. 

Bond recently coordinated a statement with the support of over 125 organisations, and we have been working with the sector to oppose a damaging merger that could harm some of the most marginalised and poorest people in the world.

What other things should the development sector expect?

There was a clear commitment in the Conservative manifesto to help end preventable child deaths, as well as a pledge to provide girls around the world with 12 years of quality education. 


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The manifesto also committed the Conservative Party to supporting the “most marginalised communities in the world”, including hosting the UK government’s first ever international LGBT conference. For a more comprehensive overview of what their manifesto says, check out this earlier blog

What about parliament?

The development sector has lost a lot of MP allies in this election from right across the House. Household names like Alistair Burt, Caroline Spellman, and Stephen Twigg have stepped down at this election, whilst great aid champions like Stephen Gethins, Mary Creagh, and Paul Williams lost their seats on polling day.

There are some fantastic new MPs taking their seats in parliament that have worked in the development sector before, including former CEO of the Coalition for Global Prosperity Theo Clarke, and former WaterAid Head of Campaigns Fleur Anderson.

It is of utmost importance that the development sector comes together to rebuild support for our issues across all the major parties. Parliamentary support for development issues, despite the vocal minority, has always been strong throughout the years. And with the cross-party consensus on issues such as the 0.7% ODA target and the leave no one behind agenda - as well as there being 140 brand new MPs to work with - this is a real opportunity for the sector to come together and rebuild strong cross-party support for ending global poverty. 

Bond has started to map out what support looks like across the sector, pulling in intelligence from agencies and members who have been engaging with candidates these last 5 weeks. If your organisation has been engaging with candidates, and are aware of new MPs that could become aid champions, please do let us know so we can map out where our support lies and, as a sector, make sure we find the next Twiggs and Burts.
 

About the author

Paul Abernethy
Bond

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