Britain's Role in the World: Highlights from the Conservative Party Conference by Ali Louis

Ali Louis from Bond writes a post conference round up for us this week as our guest contributor:

"Britain is looking outwards" was the message heard loud and clear at the Conservative Party Conference this week. "Global Britain" was referenced in most speeches and was a core component of the international briefs. This is an agenda the international development community should engage with and seek to shape.

Here are key takeaways from the Conference for international development.

Priti Patel’s narrative

The Secretary of State made her first speech to Conference on Sunday afternoon, where she built upon the narrative she started when she was appointed in July. Making a strong defence of Britain’s aid commitment, she focused on: Britain’s place in the world, reforming aid, Conservative values, aid working in the national interest, and trade.

Patel pointed out that Britain is a country that “others look to for inspiration and leadership”, stressing that “we can and will play an active part in making our world a more peaceful and prosperous place.”

Like Secretaries of State before her, Patel assured Conservative voters that she’ll be driven by a value for money agenda, ensuring every penny goes to those who need it most. She was clear that she would be “demanding more” from the “best performing institutions.”

Patel further outlined bringing Conservative values into the Department for International Development (DFID). The Department will empower people, encourage trade, build open and democratic institutions, tear down barriers to trade, and champion growth and investment.

Aid will also be increasingly focused on Britain’s national interest. She highlighted how conflicts around the world are destabilising our world and increasing migration.

Much of the speech was a narrative to frame our aid budget, rather than an announcement of significant changes to DFID. It’s likely the speech was aimed at Conservative party members and voters who may not have entirely bought into the idea of overseas aid. It continued the work and priorities of the Government’s Aid Strategy of November 2015.

During her appearance at the reception held by Bond with the Conservative Friends of International Development (CFID), Patel said that Brexit had given the UK an opportunity to talk loudly about DFID’s work and show leadership on the global stage. In her speech at Save the Children’s Reception, there was less on national interest and more on delivering aid because it is the right thing to do. She spoke about the moral imperative of our aid and recognising the global contribution we make.