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Despite the impression given by today's Telegraph, voters are open to supporting Coalition's aid policy

By Tim Montgomerie
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An article on the front page of today's Telegraph puts the worst possible spin on internal Conservative Party research on Britain's aid budget. Voters were asked if people agreed that "even as we deal with our deficit, Britain is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we should be proud that we’re continuing our commitment to international development.” It's a leading question but that's legitimate in polling if you are trying to identify the best way of presenting a controversial policy. In total, 48% of voters agreed and 38% disagreed - signalling to me that, in time and with potent examples, the aid policy can win over the public. Women are marginally more supportive of the policy (+12% compared to +9% for men). Polling of Conservative members found that the more specific you are with the benefits of aid the more support it receives.

The Coalition certainly has a good story to tell in terms of the way that Andrew Mitchell and his team are making better use of Britain's development budget:
  • £100m is being cut from departmental bureaucracy so that it can be spent on fighting poverty.
  • Countries like China are losing all UK aid (and not a moment too soon) and it's being directed to Commonwealth, strife-torn nations and the very poorest nations.
  • All aid is being made transparent so we can see how our money is being spent.
  • Aid to inefficient multilateral institutions is being reviewed and, if necessary, withdrawn.
  • More money is going into the most effective form of aid - child vaccinations.
  • Business is becoming involved in aid projects, such as in india.
  • An aid watchdog has been established to scutinise efficiency of spending.

I know many, many Conservatives oppose the aid commitment but The Telegraph, Mail and Express should report some of the good aspects of the policy as, interestingly, The Sun is very good at doing. One of the most interesting findings of the Tory polling - conducted by Andrew Cooper - is that the Conservatives are now 5% more trusted on aid than Labour. That advantage might be a reflection of voters' trust in the Conservatives to spend their money more carefully than Labour. As Angie Bray blogged yesterday, Labour's wastefulness with voters' money deserves to be hung around Ed Miliband's neck for a generation.


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