X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

Not just a wily Fox, but a watchful hawk with time on his side

3 June 2011

1:06 PM

3 June 2011

1:06 PM

Liam Fox is fond of reminding us that he didn’t come into politics to cut the
armed forces. A wistful look falls across his face when he says it – an indication of frustration as much as sincerity, a sense deepened by his letter of concern about the government spending so much more on
international development.

Opponents of Fox might characterise this as hypocrisy: he would reduce the size of the state without touching the armed forces, they say. His enemies in the Conservative party say that it’s
typical of this “clever fool’s” intellectual indiscipline. Fox the military and fiscal hawk wants to “have it both ways”.

The Economist has an essential profile of the defence secretary, which argues that Fox’s position is a choice not a
contradiction. Fox is a self-anointed standard bearer of the right and his politics are anything but incoherent. Cast you mind back several weeks to that thoughtful speech Fox gave on debt as a
national security concern. Might the robustly Conservative Fox cut further and faster to reduce the
burden of debt? One suspects that he almost certainly would.

[Alt-Text]


His relationship with the Cameroons has always been uneasy. Aside from their politics, there is an obvious presentational tension between the comprehensively educated Scot and the array of 
English advantage at the top. Fox embodies the aspiring voter and I doubt he’s missed that coincidence.

The Economist says that Fox still has leadership ambitions. Certainly, he works the tea rooms and bars with affable cunning. He charms select committees, where, naturally, he tells the likes of
Bernard Jenkin and James Arbuthnot that he’s doing his best to protect the forces – and the forces are grateful, apparently. He often uses more direct means to communicate with
backbenchers and the wider party. In the past, he has been accompanied by backbenchers to Washington, where they met with prominent Republicans. And, as James reported in the Mail on Sunday, Fox’s appointment of Lord Ashcroft to decide the fate of Britain’s
military bases in Cyprus has unnerved Downing Street, who are wary of this axis.

Perhaps this explains why Fox is thought to be unsackable. Even beyond the context of coalition, it would be expedient to trap him in Cabinet rather than free him onto the backbenches. Besides,
Fox’s opponent, Jim Murphy, has the easy task of attacking a right-winger overseeing substantial defence cuts at a time of conflict: it is not the position from which to launch an
anti-modernising counter-revolution. But, as the dutiful sounding defence secretary says, he wouldn’t have it this way, and you believe that he wants to set that right. At 49, Fox has that
most precious of all political commodities: time.

UPDATE: I’m told that the appointment of Lord Ashcroft had the full approval of the Prime Minister.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close