By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
A large number of Conservative MPs attended a meeting of Conservative Friends of International Development last night. This new group has a Facebook page and aims to build support for the work that Andrew Mitchell is doing at the Department for International Development. The core membership of the group has been provided by the many Tory members who have volunteered for Project Umubano over the years.
Baroness (Anne) Jenkin, Bill Gates and Andrew Mitchell at yesterday evening's Conservative Friends of International Development meeting. Photo kindly supplied by Andrew Parsons.
Last night's event was addressed by Bill Gates. At the meeting the Microsoft founder, who has now become one of the world's leading philanthropists and also addressed the 1922 Committee, praised David Cameron and Mr Mitchell as "world leaders" in fighting global poverty. Only last week, in Australia, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to the issue by vowing to eradicate polio "once and for all":
"Britain is also the first ever G20 country to set out a clear plan to hit the UN 0.7 per cent aid target from 2013. I know in the long term we have to help countries not just by giving them money; no country has ever pulled itself out of poverty through aid alone. But few ideas are more powerful than the eradication of human disease. Just as people now live free from the fear of smallpox, so a polio-free world is within our grasp. What is missing is the political will to see it through. So in this week that marked World Polio Day, let us resolve to finish the job and let us eradicate polio once and for all.”
Anne Jenkin explained the purpose of CFID in an article for ConservativeHome's Party Conference newspaper:
"The aim of CFID is not just to encourage Conservatives to explain why international development makes for a less discontented developing world. It is also to remind our government how important it is that our aid money – your taxes and mine – should be effective, targeted and transparent. And we’ll be reminding voters too that those values have long been held by our Party. It’s why Margaret Thatcher talked about the importance of increasing trade with Africa; it’s why John Major wrote recently about the importance of international development in the Telegraph. And it’s just one of the reasons why, I’m pleased to be able to tell you, Michael Howard has agreed to be CFID’s President."
Read her full piece here (page 9).