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Fox looks like he’s a goner – good news for Osborne for now

Posted on 9 October 2011 | 7:10am

Having been through a few ministerial media frenzies, and knowing as I do how the press can twist and distort every little detail to feed the frenzy, even with Tories I like to let the benefit of the doubt linger for as long as I can.

It partly explains why you will have to look very hard through the archive on this blog to find too many ‘so-and-so must go’ headlines, and well done shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy for resisting the temptation to dive in too early with that one on Liam Fox.

But … I fear the defence secretary is a goner.

Particularly right now, with war in Afghanistan, and the military more offside than they usually are because of cuts and reorganisation they feel will put national security at risk, his job matters even more than in ‘normal times.’

Through misjudgements of his own, and the exploitation of his friendship by Mr Werrity, he has landed himself in a mess of his own making. Once a minister’s judgement within a department is under question, his authority ebbs. Once his activities become an embarrassment, political support ebbs too.

David Cameron has shown with his hanging on to Andy Coulson for so long that he is not keen to let people go. That is not a bad trait. Frenzies can pass, and provided there is nothing wrong at the core of the issue or personality involved, it is remarkable how many of these kind of situations it is possible to endure.

But this has a bad feel to it now, and though doubtless parts of the press are indeed twisting and distorting, peering through to what facts are clear does not make good reading for Dr Fox.

The mistakes do not just relate to his friend, his access to the MoD, his previously denied tagging along on visits (the exposing of the falsity of those denials would have been enough for full-blown media frenzy under Labour), the ‘charity’ run from his office, the business deals done in his wake.

They relate also to the way he has conducted his politics. I think I am quite skilled at working out where stories come from, and there have been too many which have emanated from Dr Fox, which either show him in what he believes to be a good light, or which paint him on what he believes to be the right side of an internal policy debate. As for posing with Maggie shortly before conference … not sure about that one, and how it will have gone down over the road in Number 10.

Cameron has asked to see a report on Fox by Monday morning. That guarantees another 24 hours of major hype around the embattled minister. He has that time to prepare solid answers to difficult questions. If he doesn’t have them, I fear someone else may already be being lined up to stand in for him at Defence Questions tomorrow.

# a footnote. One beneficiary of the Fox fuss is George Osborne. But for the focus on his colleague, his out-of-depthness and the failure of his Plan A would be getting even more attention. But once the Fox frenzy is over, his time will come again.

  • Bill Kristol-Balls

    Mandelson would have gone by now eh Alastair?

  • Ehtch

    Tara, each, as you say. Liam Fox is a bit strange, isn’t he/

  • It would be nice to see this media attention turn to Mr Osborne.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Talk is cheap, Mr Osborne.
    In Manchester George Osborne said that Labour thought that you can borrow without regard to ability to pay. Let us make sure that this NEVER happens again, he added.
    David Cameron blamed Labour for overspending by £428bn.
    But Messrs Cameron and Osborne are going to overspend by £480bn, at least.
    Before the financial crisis Britain´s debt was 36.5% of GDP (the Maastricht Treaty allows 60%).
    At the time of 2010 general election it was 53.5%, still under the Maastricht Treaty reference level. But Mr Osborne compared Britain to Greece which had three times more debt and claimed that Britain was “bankrupt”.
    Now under Mr Osborne Britain´s debt will reach 71% of GDP, over the treaty reference level.
    Government spending in August was 7.2% higher than in 2010. During 12 months to August public spending outstripped 2010.
    Public borrowing will be £125bn this year.
    Britain´s debt was £581bn in 2008/09. It will be £940bn in 2011/12. But by 2015/16 it will rise to 1,500bn!
    In 2009 Britain paid £31bn in debt interest, 3% of total tax receipts. 2015 debt interest will be £67bn, 10% of tax take. Totally unsustainable level!
    QE2 was Mr Osborne´s plan B. He will now need a plan C.
    Britain´s economy started to recover from recession in the last quarter of 2009 thanks to 21% depreciation of sterling and £200bn QE1.
    Cuts did not have anything to do with recovery as Mr Osborne only launched them in 2010.
    Osborne believes that reducing government borrowing is equivalent of transferring money to private sector.
    But Keynesians know that this in not the case. This method only results in smaller aggregate demand and the “saved” money simply disappears.
    Expansionary fiscal contraction (plan A) only leads to stagnation, not recovery.
    The chancellor should boost demand.
    But Messrs Cameron and Osborne are totally out of depth because they believe in neoliberalism which collapsed in 2008. Their medicine is more of the same!
    According to their “philosophy” credit markets always work optimally. State should not intervene in financial system.
    Public debt was meant to crowd out private debt. Cutting public borrowing would automatically mean an AUTOMATIC increase in private borrowing as interest rates fell and confidence grew.
    All of this is, of course, 24-carat rubbish. To believe in such a fairy tale is beyond my understanding.
    Will Hutton wrote in the Observer that this is a fiasco.
    George Osborne put blind faith in free markets and lost his reckless gamble which had zero chance of success from the day one.
    The costs to British taxpayers will be huge as I have shown above.
    Mr Osborne must now switch to Keynesian economics if he wants to avoid  economic collapse in Britain. Neoliberalism must be abandoned.
    Labour has already switched to moral economy based on social democracy and fairness which will save capitalism after 737 people looted 80% of the world´s wealth and killed the demand in the economy.
    So Britain now needs tax cuts for people on low incomes plus investment spending.
    Spending cuts should, of course, be eased. At least one bank needs to be nationalised and forced to lend to small businesses. Project Merlin of the Tory-led government has been a total failure.
    British banks must be reformed immediately, not in 2019.
    So Britain now faces the worst financial crisis ever with Messrs Cameron and Osborne at the helm.
    They have no clue what to do next. Their bankrupt free market ideology tells them that markets are self-regulating, and the job of the government is just to sit on the sidelines and marvel at Adam Smith´s Invisible Hand.
    Unless they abandon neoliberalism and start to boost demand with Keynesian methods, things will only get worse.
    Even Mrs T changed course not long after stating that lady is not for turning.
    George Osborne has now abandoned plan A with quantitative easing (QE) which should not even have happened in his “perfect world” of free market capitalism.
    But this is not enough. Now we need a plan C!

    Ps. UK banks Barclays, RBS, Lloyds and HSBC have £214bn exposure in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. RBS´s share is £96bn, Barclays´ £94bn and HSBC´s £23.5bn. Lloyds claims that its exposure is only £86m in Italy and Spain.  

  • MicheleB

    I like The Week but do wonder who added a 31st to September!!,news-comment,news-politics,liam-fox-adam-werrity-the-atlantic-bridge-mystery


    In the same type of ‘economical with the truth’ habit used by May last week (only mention the facts you wish to, rather than include their context) I’ve also read that Fox has declared that Werrity never ‘travelled with’ him so I wonder whether that is a total fib or just a partial one meaning they sat separately on planes?   Awww diddums.

  • MicheleB

    He’s neither said that nor said Fox should be.

    / / / A special contribution for a special multi-ID 🙂

  • MicheleB
  • MicheleB

    “……………….During 12 months to August public spending outstripped 2010……..”

    No need to worry Olli, that’ll just be all the average £40k redundancy packages to people kicked out of Big Govt jobs in to Big Private jobs that have only one customer …… errrrrr ‘Smaller Govt’ (plus set-asides for continuing pension liabilities).

  • AC fair post, as your know yourself a miss managed sacking aka Lord Mandelson the 2nd can cause long term political damage, as I recall the Dark Prince stated in his memoirs you would have sacked Mrs Blair if you could have over the flat business. Also lets recall Robin Cook dumping his wife on the way to the air port, Ron Davies etc. Your being kind on the Labour view, you can see it on their faces, they seem to have forgotten they were in office for 13 years, and have their own political resignations that echo even today. But PM Cameron has to be a good butcher, it’s a non story from my reading, bad judgement over a friend, but no illegal activity, no bribes and used fivers, since No 10 has not got a close relationship with Dr Fox, might as well let him go, but they could use the nuclear option on Labour, have a committee look at Fox and Blair, recent article that the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee will discuss looking at the Blair and Gaddafi meetings. Would that shut up Labour?

  • MicheleB

    Pres Obama recently expressed high regard for his behaviour at table 🙂

  • Ah, a footnote with handsome meaning. Fox could almost be a welcome smokescreen – but not quite. Too serious for that. 

    And so easily avoided if ministers would just keep to the common good and watch their backs for hangers-on clinging too tightly.

  • Quinney

    I see duck face has launched his technical academies plans today. Only one problem here. Where’s the future jobs after all the factories have gone eg Bombardier, BAE and Westlands?
    Perhaps he could have a word with Cameron advisor James Dyson and get them jobs in Malaysia at the vacuum cleaner factory which he uprooted from Wiltshire.

  • MicheleB

    Pragmatism often rules.

    Jeremy Bowen had his reasons and would have been supported in his decision to meet with (and even giggle with) Gaddafi.

    I daresay Chuchill had his reasons for having talks with Stalin.

    It’s all called politics, not a tea party and some very clean people have to swallow bile for the sake of others.


  • Dave Simons

    Would you say that Cameron sucks up to James Dyson?

  • Ehtch

    For those that have forgotten the rugger World cup, and it is left to the taffie, froggies, kiwis and ozzies to sort this situation out, in getting a winner, may I remind you of the beautiful Hayeley Westenra, a kiwi herself, singing in Ireland, recently, after this in Wellington, Kiwi country,

  • MicheleB

    We’ve just heard all the deflection about all these overseas meetings having been for no personal gain to Liam Fox.

    Was there any suggestion that there was?
    Wasn’t it rather about what’s been in it for his ex-flatmate?
    Why would he describe himself as being an adviser to Fox and how woud he just happen to coincide with so many overseas ministerial visits if it had not been to be part of military discussions?

    Re the particular visit that’s the subject of the released video, I’d not mind knowing more about what is Govt and Fox stance re Sri Lanka.

  • The downside risk of failing to credibly cut the deficit is very high.  Low growth is bad, but pressure on sovereign debt is worse.  I hate the tories but economic security is paramount.

  • Dave Simons

    He has certainly made me reconsider my views about Fox-hunting.

  • The downside risk of failing to have a credible plan to cut the deficit is greater than the risk’s posed from low economic growth.  Economic stagnation is bad, but not as bad as pressure on sovereign solvency, demonstrated by many states in Europe at the moment.  I hate the tories but economic security is paramount at the moment.

  • MicheleB

    I’m sure this will be considered bitchy, perhaps it is.

    Fox occupied one of (I presume) limited university places to become a doctor  and stood for Parliament the first time only four years later.

    What a waste of (a) space.

  • Libdem

    I think you’ll find Ed Balls actually only had a ‘real’ job for 4 years too after Uni, then it was the joys of full time politics. As you say, what a waste of space.

  • MicheleB

    You’ve missed the point (I have a surprised look on my face, honest injuns).

  • Ehtch

    oo-err misses don’t – oh please yourself!
    Double entendres live on, as far as I am concerned.