The peculiar choices of Dr Liam Fox, our beleaguered secretary of state for defence, have come in for much scrutiny of late.
But in the last 24 hours or so, he has plumbed new depths. First there were briefings by *cough* “friends” of Dr Fox that Adam Werritty – Fox’s best man, business colleague, sometime co-habitee and apparently self-stlyed adviser to Dr Fox – was essentially a Walter Mitty figure, delusional about his contacts and importance.
Well, maybe. But why then did Fox entertain him so frequently – forty times on the record (not counting purely social encounters, for a start), and almost half of those abroad – and why did he introduce him to people like General John Allen, now in charge of Nato’s forces in Afghanistan?
Either Fox is a fool who was happy to introduce a naive fantasist to senior defence contacts – people, let’s not forget, who are vital to the security of our nation. Which would surely be taking the concept of the nanny state too far. Or he is someone who is now betraying a friend – who had hitherto demonstrably been of great importance to him – because that friend has suddenly become an embarrassment, an impediment to Fox’s career. Either way, it is Fox who is in the wrong, not Werritty. It is not Werritty’s responsibility to ensure that our secretary of state for defence acts with propriety, or puts the defence of the realm ahead of more personal priorities.
But Fox has also been busy briefing… Sorry, my mistake, friends of Fox have also been busy briefing against the prime minister, David Cameron. In what sounds remarkably like the sort of thing most of left behind in the playground – primary school, that is – someone has told the Daily Telegraph on Fox’s behalf that Cameron would be weak if he caved in to media pressure and sacked him. All I can hear in that is one sad little boy saying to another, ‘If you tell on me to teacher, I’m going to tell everyone you’re a wuss.’ Dear God. Whatever happened to the dignity of office?
This is a man who promised that defence cuts would not hit those on the front line, but who nevertheless has made 10,000 men and women in the armed forces redundant, some of whom received their notice while on active service.
If I were a Thatcherite Tory, I would want someone with more personal credibility and integrity to be my flagbearer. Wasn’t responsibility at the heart of her ethos?
I know politicians bemoan the contempt in which they are held be the electorate. They are right to do so; it is corrosive to democracy. But it would help if that contempt were not reciprocated so blatantly.