Liam Fox’s concerns about setting legal targets for increasing overseas aid spending – which were aired in a leaked letter yesterday – are widely shared on the Conservative benches. Many MPs believe the plan is unaffordable at a time of public spending cuts. And plenty are happy to speak out about their concerns.

Philip Davies, an executive member of the backbench 1922 committee, challenged David Cameron on the issue last week. Davies told us:

I’ve absolutely no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people in the country share my view rather than his. I agree with Liam Fox. It will be hugely cheering for people around the country that at least someone in the cabinet is speaking out on this.

But in riposte the prime minister insisted during the meeting that the coalition would honour the 0.7 per cent target, arguing that it was the right thing for the country to do.

According to one witness Mr Cameron’s comments were greeted with enthusiastic banging of desks by Tory MPs, convincing the prime minister that he can still win the argument in his party.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.