Left Foot Forward’s Alex Hern reports on the resignation in disgrace late this afternoon of defence secretary Liam Fox over the Adam Werritty scandal.
Embattled defence secretary Liam Fox has resigned from the government.
In his letter to the prime minister, Fox wrote:
“As you know, I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility. As I said in the House of Commons on Monday, I 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. 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 – a position which I have been immensely proud and honoured to have held.”
This resignation ends a protracted week when Fox repeatedly insisted, first that he had done nothing wrong, then that he had done nothing worth resigning over, and finally that he would wait for the report of Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell on Monday.
Although he has now rightly realised that his position has become untenable, this will not sweeten the deal much for David Cameron; many of the points made this morning by Paul Goodman still stand – although they now must be read as reasons why this was a lose-lose situation for the PM:
The first is that [David Cameron] dislikes reshuffling his own team, let alone one in which the Liberal Democrats are involved.
The second is he believes governments look and are weak if they allow the media to dictate terms – especially since an enquiry into Fox’s affairs is under way.
The third, and most telling, is that he doesn’t want to see a right-wing rival loose on the backbenches. If the defence secretary has to go (which I hope he won’t), the prime minister would rather he went weakened first – by the press coverage that may carry on running until the inquiry reports.
Fox has certainly been greatly weakened already, and the Friday timing of the resignation hints at more to come in the Sunday papers – but the belief that a strong right-winger on the backbenches would be a danger for Cameron is a pervasive one within the right-wing blogs, as Daniel Elton reported for us on Tuesday.
The longer term lessons to learn from this farce were detailed by Tamasin Cave:
In this instance, we now know that the ‘chance meeting’ between Liam Fox and the defence company Porton was the direct result of paid lobbying. Porton hired lobbyists Tetra Strategy to get to the defence secretary. It paid the firm £10,000 a month to secure a meeting. Tetra put Porton chief Harvey Boulter in touch with Werritty, who made the introductions to Fox.
This is how lobbying works.
However endemic lobbying may be in Westminster, though, it seems the corruption of this government goes deeper still; Fox is the first Tory to resign in disgrace this parliament, but he surely won’t be the last.
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• Is there any way out of the Fox-hole? – Alex Hern, October 14th 2011
• How long can slippery Fox cling on? – Shamik Das, October 11th 2011
• Fox’s sliminess shows how much we need lobbying regulation – Tamasin Cave, October 10th 2011
• Grayling dragged into Fox/Werritty scandal – are Osborne, Gove and Hague next? – Shamik Das, October 10th 2011
• Weak Cameron will struggle to fire Fox – Daniel Elton, October 10th 2011