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Tuesday 14 January 2019

The decade ahead may look bright under Boris, but there are still plenty of reminders of how bad things can get under the Conservative Party. The liberal media are awfully pleased with Gavin Barwell, chief of staff to Theresa May when things went from bad to shockingly bad, who made his maiden speech in the Lords yesterday in which he claimed Boris doesn’t have enough time to wrap up a deal with Brussels unless he extends the negotiating period.

Well of course he would say that. A defeatist attitude will get you nowhere, which is exactly what happened to May’s gloomy administration. Boris is no pessimist.

Barwell was rewarded with a peerage for his help in securing a terrible deal with the EU. He’s not alone. May’s former man in the field, Olly Robbins collects his knighthood today, good grief.

But not need to get sidetracked by the poor decisions of the past. If Liam Fox’s crusade to get the Department for International Development extinguished is anything to go by, the future truly is bright. The former international trade secretary was on the usual quality programming this morning in his quest to give his old portfolio – Liz Truss succeeded him when Boris became PM – deservedly higher status at the expense of Whitehall’s herd of “sacred cows”.

“With a new government in the place with a strong mandate at such a key moment in our history, this is the time to slaughter the sacred cows to which successive governments have given a last-minute reprieve in order to buy political peace,” Dr Fox will say in a speech at the Institute for Government later today. Amen to that. Unless Boris does the right thing, the government is on course to spend £14.5bn on international aid next year. Need we say more.

The DFID jamboree would be bad enough even if other departments were sufficiently resourced, but they’re not, making Fox’s campaign an absolute imperative. The UK has more civil servants working on aid projects in Kenya than it does trying to get trade deals underway in all of Africa. A spokesperson for a charity was invited onto Radio 4 to argue the contrary and claimed DFID is widely recognized as the world’s best development agency, which is not remotely true – typically, the US stands head and shoulders above – and even if it was, the bar is extremely low. By far the best way to resolve Africa’s horrendous problems is to make it wealthier, which trade deals will deliver like nothing else.

You’ll find no better proponent of that particular law of economics than Boris himself who invited reporters into Downing Street this morning for his first live interview of the year.

“Free trade has done more to lift billions of people around the world out of poverty than anything else and that is why I believe in it. And we can do fantastic deals, not just with the EU, but countries around the world, that work begins on February the 1st,” said Boris on BBC Breakfast this morning.

Excellent, now let’s get DFID shut down.