Defence Secretary Liam Fox quits

 

Key moments over the last seven days that proved fatal to Liam Fox's career in front line politics

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Defence Secretary Liam Fox has resigned after a week of pressure over his working relationship with friend and self-styled adviser Adam Werritty.

Mr Fox was being investigated amid claims he broke the ministerial code.

In a letter to David Cameron, Mr Fox said he had "mistakenly allowed" personal and professional responsibilities to be "blurred".

Mr Cameron said he was very sorry to see him go. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will replace Mr Fox.

Labour said Mr Fox had not upheld the standards expected of ministers and his departure had been "inevitable".

Business cards

The defence secretary has been under pressure since it emerged that Mr Werritty, a lobbyist, had met him on 18 foreign trips despite having no official role.

Mr Werritty, a former flatmate of Mr Fox and the best man at his wedding, handed out business cards suggesting he was his adviser and was present at meetings Mr Fox had with military figures, diplomats and defence contractors.

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In short he went before he was - in all probability - pushed”

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Questions were also raised about who paid for Mr Werritty's business activities and whether he had personally benefited from his frequent access to the defence secretary.

No 10 sources said that the prime minister had been willing to give Mr Fox time to stay in his job - at least until the details of a report by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell into his conduct were published early next week.

Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond. In a mini-reshuffle caused by Mr Fox's departure, Treasury minister Justine Greening has replaced Mr Hammond - becoming the fifth woman in the Cabinet.

In a statement released on Friday night, Mr Hammond said his predecessor had done a "brilliant job".

"I look forward to picking up the baton from Liam and working closely with the prime minister, foreign secretary and international development secretary to ensure that our defences are robust and that the finances that lie behind them are equally robust," he added.

National interest

In his resignation letter, Mr Fox said he had "mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred".

"The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days," he added. "I am very sorry for this.

"I have also repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest.

"I now have to hold myself to my own standard. I have therefore decided, with great sadness, to resign from my post as secretary of state for defence."

ANALYSIS

Liam Fox was far from universally popular with either the military or Ministry of Defence civil servants.

He arrived at the MoD with energy and vigour, unafraid to ruffle feathers and determined to sort out what he called the Labour legacy of the "car crash" of the MoD's finances.

He said he had to fill a black hole of more than £38bn. That meant brutal cuts to iconic military kit - scrapping the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, the Harrier jump jets and the new Nimrod spy planes.

He ordered a series of painful redundancies for all three services but few doubt that, without him, cuts could have been even more severe.

Friends of Liam Fox said he loved the job. He wanted to leave a legacy of a military machine that was fit for the next decade. He also pushed ahead with reforms that he hoped would end the overspends and late delivery on military kit.

Despite warnings from military chiefs that they were overstretched Liam Fox managed to maintain Britain's commitment to Afghanistan and to begin the fight on a second front - Libya.

Helping bring about an end to the Gaddafi regime looks like his most obvious achievement. The rest remains unfinished business.

Responding to Mr Fox's resignation, Mr Cameron said: "I understand your reasons for deciding to resign as defence secretary, although I am very sorry to see you go.

"We have worked closely for these last six years, and you have been a key member of my team throughout that time."

He said Mr Fox, MP for North Somerset for 19 years, had "done a superb job in the 17 months since the election, and as shadow defence secretary before that" and had overseen changes that would allow the armed forces to "meet the challenges of the modern era".

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the prime minister had given Mr Fox time to defend himself but the defence secretary had struggled to stem the tide of questions about his dealings with Mr Werritty.

No 10 had come to the conclusion on Thursday that Mr Fox's position was becoming untenable, he added, and Mr Fox had reluctantly reached the same view.

'Inconceivable'

Mr Fox apologised to MPs earlier this week about how his links with Mr Werritty had been perceived but he maintained there had been no impropriety.

Labour said Mr Fox had "fallen foul of the standards expected of ministers and broken the rules".

"The facts have caught up with Liam Fox and he had to resign," shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said. "It was inconceivable that once a minister had been seen to break their own code of conduct on so many occasions that he could survive."

And former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said recent events had undermined Mr Fox's authority and morale at his department.

"Mr Fox has bowed to the inevitable," he said. "It had become impossible for him to draw a line under the story."

But Conservative MPs rallied behind Mr Fox, saying he had made a major contribution in his time at the Ministry of Defence and some suggested he could, one day, return to government.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES

  • Transport Secretary Philip Hammond replaces Mr Fox at Ministry of Defence
  • Mr Hammond is succeeded by Justine Greening, number three at the Treasury
  • Ms Greening is succeeded as economic secretary by assistant whip Chloe Smith
  • Greg Hands becomes a whip

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former defence secretary, said Mr Fox had done an "extremely good" job and his departure was "very, very distressing" as it would lead to further upheaval at the MoD.

Conservative backbencher Peter Bone told the BBC Mr Fox had made errors but they did not constitute a "hanging offence".

"He said he made mistakes and with hindsight he wouldn't have done it but I didn't think that was enough to require him to resign," he said.

"But when the story, every news item, isn't about what's happening in Afghanistan and what's happening in Libya but who said what to who then he put his country first and resigned."

David Pasley, a Tory councillor in Mr Fox's North Somerset constituency, described the MP as "hard working" and "diligent", and said he was "deeply saddened" by Friday's events.

But he added: "He's someone who you can't keep down.

"He has got such experience in his political career that I'm sure it will just be a question of time before he's back, and I hope he's back very soon in a high profile position."

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 436.

    I am very pleased that Dr Fox is no longer the peoples Defence Secretary. He was clearly unfit on judgement grounds alone. Now the worry is who will be replacing him. Hopefully someone who will reperesent the people of this country and not the countries of some Hedgefund from abroad.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 435.

    After hubris comes nemesis!. Labour may be crowing but had they practiced what they now preach a number of their ranks would not have remained in office.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 434.

    Well, it had to come.
    Shame, as apart from this, he has been an outstanding Defence minister. He has stood up for the Armed Forces where possible, and despite a couple of errors, has served well.

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 433.

    Once again the Press is acting as Judge and Jury and abusing their power to influence Governmental structure by stating public opinion by proxy!

    Another capable and talented Minister hounded out of office for some alleged trivial action. If the Press wish to retain their valuable 'freedom' they need to start to regulate themselves before someone else does it for them, who would be surprised?.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 432.

    The man's a fool. Good riddance. Incidentally, were we paying for Mr Werritty's travel and accommodation?

  • rate this
    +134

    Comment number 431.

    There's a fair bit of nonsense here: the man conducted himself improperly, not distinguishing the personal from the public - and then he attempted to conceal the truth. The press did not remove him - they quite properly raised questions, which he sought to evade. That's the function of a free press, and a critical part of our democracy. We, and the press, need politicians to be held to account.

  • Comment number 430.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 429.

    People are bemoaning the fact that "yet another minister hounded out of office by the press" - I wonder where they were positioned when our greatest ever Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was mercilessly hunted down by the BBC, SKY, CHANNEL4 and every right wing paper in the country. Fox's sexuality is at the heart of this matter - a 'fake' marriage to cover up for his homosexual dalliances on the job

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 428.

    407.
    Nic Oatridge
    There is probably more to this story to come out, but if he continues to show integrity going forward, he will bounce back.

    ----

    Yep, politics is a funny ol' game...Mandelson bounced back....twice !!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 427.

    Cameron on Fox: "You have overseen fundamental changes in the Ministry of Defence and in our Armed Forces..". Praise for a man trailed around the world to defence-related meetings by a man who The Times claims is funded by Israel and a private intelligence firm. How many changes were "advised" by Werritty and benefited his financial backers? Coulson now Fox - how good is Cameron's judgement?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 426.

    352.
    musiclover4ever /351/350
    I'm curious which planet these posters live on. The likes of Fox and Letwin believe they are invulnerable & unaccountable: the kryptonite that is the press - and public anger rightly despatch them to where they belong. Fox capable? Try saying that to troops & the industry dependent on MOD competent behaviour. Like Tony Blair's support, Cameron's is the death knell.

  • Comment number 425.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 424.

    Yes he's gone... for now! But when will he sneak back in by the back door as have so many others, who have 'honourably' resigned?!!!

  • Comment number 423.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 422.

    This was croneyism of the worst kind, the investigation should continues as more than an apology may be needed.

    Those saying "who is next on a media witch hunt ?" Well, by any standard Letwin's behaviour is simply bizarre.

    Both stories deserve to be made public.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 421.

    @Daryll

    The cabinet has such a tenuous link to democracy (they are all freakin' appointed so as not to cause the PM bother or as a reward for support) that it hardly matters if the press brought him down.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 420.

    WHY is David Cameron sorry [to see Fox go]?

    If there were cause, Cameron should have sacked him first; if none, he should refuse to accept the resignation and Fox should remain Secretary of State.

    Cameron is either weak for not sacking Fox or weak for allowing him to go, depending upon the facts - to which [virtually] none of the contributors here are privy!


    Did Fox go to [try to] save Letwin?

  • Comment number 419.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 418.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 417.

    two questions that immediately spring to mind:

    1. what's Fox trying to hide with his resignation?

    2. Landsley+NHS Cameron+Coulsdon Clarke+rape May+cat Fox+MoD Letwin+garbage _ how many months has this bunch been in power so far????

    it doesn't bode well_ does it? >: \

 

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