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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    -7

    Comment number 176.

    I think it is a great shame that yet again the press have hounded a decent minister from his post over something that may not have been sensible but in the scheme of things is hardly a sacking offence.

  • Comment number 175.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 174.

    Anyone see the position of the word 'finally' on the live coverage?

    LIAM FOX RESIGNS
    ---------------finally

    Made me giggle.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 173.

    Sorry, but I can't work up much sympathy for Dr Fox. I simply don't want ministers attending important meetings abroad with their mates, who are pretending to be advisors while having no official status, then dodging any legitimate query about the matter. We're told Dr Fox was very good at his job, at least as good as Oliver Letwin. Maybe, but I can't see how if this kind of thing was going on.

  • Comment number 172.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 171.

    Re Hep - his mate was trousering hundreds of thousands of pounds and representing some quite unsavoury regimes and characters on the back of his relationship with Fox. It ain't right, simple.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 170.

    7.george boulton
    "hope all you hounds are happy that this poor goverment has lost one its best ministers."
    ************
    He took his mate on official trips around the world, and this mate was being funded by private lobby groups. Open your eyes.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 169.

    What is up with people shouting "who's next?" "another show of the media forcing out a good politician"

    I'm sorry but if you pulled that sort of stunt in a private company you'd be sacked. Same should be true of Government.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 168.

    Most of you are missing the point in as much as Mr. Fox overstepped the boundaries that are laid down for ministers no matter how junior or senior they are!
    His disrespect for the office in which he served is why he has resigned and lest face it, a stupid move by a supposedly clever chap!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 167.

    Why do these people always hang on until the last minute.

    But hang on it's Friday, what revelations are going to come out in the weekend press, which probably has more to do with it.
    Apart from the fact that he's broken just about every rule in the book as regards 'normal' ministerial practice, and despite Ken Livingstones support, remember that when you vote or Ken Livingstone next year.

  • Comment number 166.

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

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 165.

    How did Liam Fox ever imagine that he could carry on? To hear his supporters this last week being so stubborn about him, whether out of party-factional loyalty or very weak sense of what is and is not proper behaviour in office, was amazing to behold. He should have resigned or been sacked once he was found out, and that was a week ago.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 164.

    With hindsight he should never have left Capital Radio - DJs never seem to make a successful transition to politics, it was bound to end in tears.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 163.

    Call me a cynic but the fact he's gone now after resisting for so long calls for his resignation, suggests there is more to come.

    I am sympathetic to anyone losing their job at this tough time, though I am sure in this case his wealthy backers may well find him a directorship for his services to them while in office.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 162.

    Good.

    Oliver is next, then it should be DC, who must be the frank Spencer of character judgement.

    Andy Coulson

    Rebekah brooks,

    Dr Fox

    Ollie Letwin.

    In a midst of a crisis we have a bunch of self obsessed upper class twits in office who bow to the media and are wined and dined by bankers, defence contractors, energy companies and other large corps.

    they make me sick

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 161.

    If your 'friends' are paid to be your 'friends' by a shadowy group of right-wingers and accompany you when you're working for us, the electorate, then I think more than resigning is required - a full investigation of Werrity, his relationship to Fox, and Werrity's group of backers at the very least. Then decisions made by Fox need to be scrutinised through this prism.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 160.

    Greedy, arrogant, corrupt, ignorant, undereducated careerists; this applies to all MPs in all parties. I think we need to start again by overhauling the whole selection process. We need the concept of service instilled into the basic tenets of political life. Keep business and unions out of it they do nothing more than corrupt.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 159.

    Obviously there will be more on this, he wouldn't have gone so quickly otherwise in my opinion.

    Also loss of face was on the cards for Dave if he had to fire him.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 158.

    I am a School Governor and prior to every meeting we are asked to declare any conflict of interest.

    It would never enter my head to act in this role with anything less than 100% honesty and integrity.

    Why on earth did Fox stay on so long, when it was obvious to virtually everyone that he had acted improperly, on many occasions?

    Letwin next.

    p.s. I support the Tories as the least worst party.,

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 157.

    He made a simple error...yes, but if he does not have the basic good sense to avoid such an error of judgement, surely he is not a fit and proper person to hold such an important position?

 

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