Owen Barder's excellent podcast series 'Development Drums' has an interview this week with Shadow International Development Minister, Andrew Mitchell (pictured). Mitchell has held the post for four years so is well versed in the challenges facing DFID and aid more generally. On most topics he follows the Labour lead, for example guaranteeing that the Department will remain independent with a minister in cabinet (historically Conservative governments have tended to have development under the control of the Foreign Office).
Mitchell does, though, propose some changes. He wants a Department that focuses on outcomes rather than inputs, that engages more with the private sector, and rather cryptically calls for an injection of 'civil service DNA into DFID'. Having listened to the section several times I am still not entirely sure what he means by this. I do, however, agree that there should be more emphasis on the private sector and the critical role it has in the development of any country.
Also in the interview Barder talks about the general consensus that exists in the British political mainstream on development policy. While I agree that Cameron and most of his front bench speak genuinely on the issue I return to my analysis in a LabourList piece from February:
Andrew Mitchell may have tried to drag his party kicking and screaming to the centre ground on the issue, but does anyone truly believe that the phalanx of right-wing MPs behind him will not influence the character and content of a Tory development policy?
To give this some context a group of backbench Tories tabled a bill today (that was withdrawn at the last minute) which would have effectively abolished the minimum wage in Britain. These extreme MPs will evidently have more power if and when a Conservative government takes office, a fact that we would do well not to forget.