This week, we're featuring a blog from CFID Officer Theo Clarke. Here, she reflects on our event with Channel 4's Jon Snow in conversation with former Development Secretary Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP.
It was great to hear from Jon Snow and we were very grateful for him giving up his time to discuss 0.7%, the need to lobby our G20 counterparts to do more, the conflict in Syria and human rights.
Conservative Friends of International Development hosted a packed Christmas Party in December. Supporters of the Party’s commitment to international development turned up to Policy Exchange in Westminster to hear broadcaster Jon Snow from Channel 4 in conversation with Andrew Mitchell MP. In an unusual break with convention, this time around it was the veteran television journalist answering questions from the former Secretary of State for International Development.
It was fascinating to hear Snow talk about his experiences and his career covering major world events including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the release of Nelson Mandela, the election of Obama and the earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti.
He was particularly eloquent on his time covering the revolution in Iran and his view today of the important role that the country continues to play in the Middle East. Throughout the evening, speakers and attendees discussed how important international development is to both the UK’s economic and national interest and current topics including Syria and human rights. The two spoke about the importance of focusing aid on enterprise and economic development and how it was essential to make sure that DFID money was properly spent and the process transparent. Snow paid “tribute to the Government for its commitment to spending 0.7%” and said, “ I hope the Government will continue to lobby other countries at the G20”. Mitchell talked about the Government’s role in enabling people to help people to move out of extreme poverty.
Snow shared some personal stories including his early experiences as a volunteer when he taught in Uganda before becoming a journalist. He described the moment when he first met Idi Amin and was temporarily tempted to kill the dictator before chickening out. He said, “It did genuinely cross my mind. “When you find yourself sitting as near as I am to you now to somebody who has definitely done some dreadful things … you think: ‘There he is apparently asleep and this gun is hanging out of his holster.’”
Snow also shared some thoughts on interviewing heads of state and politicians. To much amusement, he recalled that Margaret Thatcher was the most difficult, as she never answered his questions, but that he thought Mandela was the most wonderful.
Snow has been an avid early advocate of social media. He made a hilarious quip about having gained so many twitter followers during ‘Game of Thrones’. He recalled how people started to tweet at him the well known phrase ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’, from the television series, thinking he was the account of the actor Kit Harington.
Snow has become famous for his colourful ties. Answering a question in the audience about his collection, he told us how he buys a large number every year to sign and donate to British charities to help them raise funds.
Many Conservative supporters attended the event and a number of volunteers who had taken part in Project Umubano and Project Maya. It was interesting to hear their personal experiences working with different projects from education to business in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Burundi.
The CFID event was also attended by Nick Hurd MP, the new Minister for International Development, in one of his first speeches in his new role where he discussed UK Aid. He reiterated the importance of international development and said, “we must continue to engage and argue and make this case. That’s why Conservative Friends of International Development is so important.”
Theo Clarke was the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol East in the 2015 General Election. She previously led the Conservative Party’s education team of volunteers for Project Umubano in Sierra Leone. Follow her on twitter @theodoraclarke.