Bond CEO Stephanie Draper with secretary of state for international development Alok Sharma
Bond CEO Stephanie Draper with secretary of state for international development Alok Sharma

What happened at the Conservative Party Conference 2019?

This week, Bond and members descended on rainy Manchester for the Conservative Party Conference to spend four days discussing policy and other current issues.

In the current political climate, public affairs colleagues can be forgiven for the over-application of the word “unprecedented”. But this conference was just that.

Taking place against the backdrop of the recent Supreme Court decision to “resume” parliament after Boris Johnson’s prorogation had been ruled unlawful, the Conservative Party Conference, at times, seemed quiet. Despite some events being cancelled, there was still some in-depth policy discussions on what the Conservatives could and should be doing to support the world’s poorest.

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“Aid is the right thing to do”

Secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma, gave an impassioned speech on the moral and economic cases for aid to a packed-out room at Bond’s annual drinks reception on Sunday. The event was co-hosted with Conservative Friends for International Development (CFID).

Aid champion and departing MP, Jeremy Lefroy, spoke of the important role UK aid plays in stopping the spread of deadly diseases, such as malaria. We also heard from the new CFID directors, Amy Le-Coz and Dina Black, who thanked CFID members for their continued support of aid.

Bond CEO, Stephanie Draper, spoke of the need for the UK to remain a global leader in development, supported by an independent Department for International Development (DFID).

Many Bond members were at the conference, running stalls and events. At WWF’s event on global climate leadership, Alok Sharma gave his full support to an independent DFID.

Great to see @AlokSharma_RDG give his support for a fully independent @DFID_UK at #CPC19. And great to see the majority of the room agreed with him.

— Bond (@bondngo) September 30, 2019

Other highlights included the joint Oxfam and Institute for Economic Affairs debate on inequality, Tearfund’s “this is a rubbish fringe” on plastic waste’s impact on developing countries, and the annual Save the Children reception with ConHome.

Sharma and Johnson on the main stage

Speaking on the main conference stage on Sunday, Alok Sharma reiterated his focus on economic development since joining DFID. He stressed the importance of mobilising private sector investment to create jobs and build more sustainable economies in the future.

Finishing up the conference on Wednesday morning, the prime minister Boris Johnson delivered a speech that was more focussed on his domestic agenda for the country. This was a missed opportunity, as his speech would have been a strong platform to hear about his vision for what he calls “Global Britain”.

With the prime minister holding policy announcements back, it is likely we will hear more about his vision for UK aid if a general election is announced, which is looking increasingly likely.