Secretively-funded think tank takes credit for abolition of aid ministry

They said they'd "chalked up yet another" policy change.

A secretively-funded think tank called the ‘Taxpayers’ Alliance’ told supporters it had “chalked up yet another” policy win after the government announced the Department for International Development would be abolished.

The think tank’s director John O’Connell emailed supporters claiming that their ten-year campaign to “cut and reform Britain’s aid spending” had been succesful.

In an email seen by Left Foot Forward, O’Connell said Johnson “was finally acknowledging what we have said all along – that serious changes were needed, despite the Westminster consensus that foreign aid was untouchable”.

O’Connell claimed his organisation had brought about other policy changes such as a public sector pay freeze, which has cut the salaries for those doing jobs like teachers, nurses and police officers.

He also claimed credit for “welfare reform”. In November 2019, the Resolution Foundation think-tank said that Tory welfare reforms like the two-child limit must be reversed or over a million more children would be pushed into poverty.

In June 2019, a United Nations rapporteur said welfare changes seemed to have “intentionally targeted” women and that benefit sanctions were “harsh and arbitrary”.

The ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ has recently campaigned against clean air measures, called Public Health England “bloated” and called for “spending restraint” to pay back the government’s coronavirus debts.

The group has repeatedly refused to diclose its funding sources. In November 2018 the Guardian revealed it had received US$100,000 from a billionaire-funded religious trust incorporated in the Bahamas.

It is one of nine think tanks linked to an address in London’s Tufton Street. These include the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the climate-change denying Global Warming Policy Federation.

Several former employees of the TPA and IEA are now in government. The TPA’s former campaign manager Chloe Westley is now a special adviser to Boris Johnson.

The government’s decision to abolish DFID and move aid to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been described as an “act of political vandalism” by Christian Aid.

Former Tory DFID Secretary Andrew Mitchell and former Prime Minister David Cameron also said the decision was a mistake.

DFID was set up by the last Labour government following the Pergau Dam scandal – where the UK gave aid to Malaysia in return for Malaysia buying UK arms.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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