Oliver Wright: No 10's strategy? To let the Fox tire itself out before going in for kill

If Fox were to return to the back benches, he would be free to channel unrest about the Coalition

Oliver Wright
Monday 10 October 2011 00:00
Comments

As endorsements go it was hardly ringing. Asked yesterday morning whether David Cameron still had confidence in his Secretary of State for Defence the answer came back: "The Prime Minister is remaining supportive of Liam Fox while the facts are established."

Later in the day the backing was increased and Downing Street said the two men had spoken and "David really doesn't want to lose Liam". But the fact remains the two men have never much liked each other and privately Mr Cameron would not be unhappy to see the departure of Mr Fox.

But there's a catch: Downing Street can only force him out if he returns to the back benches under such a cloud that he can't cause trouble for the Coalition in the future.

Mr Fox is the highest profile rightwinger in the Government. As a minister he is bound by collective responsibility, but if he were to leave office he would be free to speak his mind and emerge as the de facto leader of the anti-Coalition movement inside the Tory parliamentary party. That would spell trouble down the line for the Government. So what is likely to happen next?

One of the problems is the very narrow terms of reference for the current inquiry which were agreed between Mr Fox and the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Ursula Brennan.

It only covers the meetings between Mr Fox and Adam Werritty inside the MoD itself and not their trips to Sri Lanka and Dubai which have been the subject of the substantive revelations. It also does not appear to address what advice Mr Werritty was providing Mr Fox or whether at any stage Mr Werritty profited from that relationship.

It is quite possible therefore that the initial results today could clear Mr Fox on one level – but are inconclusive on other aspects of the affair. In that case it is likely that Downing Street will play for time – still not fully endorsing the Defence Secretary and waiting to see what else emerges in newspapers over the coming days.

It's a slightly clichéd analogy, but it is in Mr Cameron's interest to let the Fox tire itself out before going in for the kill.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in