Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is Liam Fox A Tory Version Of Chris Huhne?

I read the The Times (£) that Liam Fox has been opposing Cameron's commitment to enshrine in law the maintenance of a foreign aid budget at 0.7% of Gross National Income.

The defence minister's thoughts on the subject were exposed via the familiar (to him anyway) medium of the leaked letter. Yes, surprise, surprise, this isn't the first time a letter has been leaked that relates to a subject in which Dr Fox takes a starkly different point of view to the Prime Minister, a point of view that would appeal to the Tory right and boost his reputation as a more authentic voice for the party as a whole.

So is Liam Fox to the Conservative party what Chris Huhne is to the Liberal Democrats? Well, I don't know how reckless a driver he is but it certainly looks like he shares the same deluded ambition to be leader. He markedly described Cameron recently only as a "good coalition Prime Minister". He also seems keen to court the right wing of his party in the same way a Huhne is courting the left of his.

Now, I've got a lot of time for Foxy and his dogged defence of the Defence Budget but I can't see him as a credible leader of the party. Regardless of whether he has a point on the overseas aid budget, he would do better to leave the over-ambitious, internecine behaviour to the likes of the increasing pointless Huhne.

The timing of this leak seems odd though. After the successful elections and referendum Cameron is in the strongest position he's been in as leader than ever before. Fox would do well to apply the breaks and play a longer game. If he can tame his drive for the top spot, others may be more likely to accept his points.


I've just read James Kirkup's blog on the subject. He makes some interesting observations including asking how much insubordination can Cameron tolerate before he starts to look weak. He's allowed Huhne and Cable to get away with it. Now it's a Tory can he afford to turn the other cheek? But if he doesn't and sacks Fox (an unlikely prospect in the short term perhaps) Tory backbenchers will be justifiably angry at the inconsistent treatment of Lib Dem and Tory ministers expressing dissent.

I spotted this in The Telegraph, made me chuckle:

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