An unusual figure joined the do-gooders working the halls of Congress this week to lobby against deep cuts in foreign aid: Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s conservative minister for international development.
Mitchell, while in town for World Bank meetings, visited several key lawmakers on the Hill. His message: “Real conservatives do not cut aid.”
Britain’s conservative government has slashed Britain’s budget, but has promised to increase foreign development assistance.
Mitchell’s pitch was that providing international aid was not only the “right thing to do” but was in Britain’s--and America’s--interest. “Our security is not just determined by guns and bullets,” he said in an interview in his SUV as it plowed through rainy Washington streets.
He said his government had tried to secure support for the aid by focusing on results, so taxpayers could see how their money was being spent.
American aid groups have been alarmed by bills in the Republican-dominated House that would reduce foreign food assistance and the budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The House bills will eventually have to be reconciled with more generous Senate legislation.
Did Mitchell’s message resonate with American conservatives?
“Republicans were very interested in the arguments I was putting to them,” he said.