The European Journal of Development Research 25(2) pp 252-270

Insufficient research attention has been paid to the way that electoral politics shape public policy on overseas development aid. Accordingly, this study makes an original contribution by examining party politicisation, issue-salience and the policy discourse of international aid in the principal parties’ manifestos in post-war UK state-wide elections. The findings show that over the past five decades a trend of increasing issue-salience has been accompanied by inter-party differences in policy framing, with the parties of the Left attaching greater priority to promoting international equality, articulating aid as an entitlement linked to rights and the elimination of poverty, and employing tropes such as humanitarianism, democracy and good governance. Crucially, comparison of manifesto discourse and subsequent government policy raises questions over parties’ accountability, for, having secured a mandate on specific aid proposals, a key disconnect is seen to operate between the rhetoric of aid and policy delivery.