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Coffee House

Ministers behaving oddly

14 October 2011

9:25 AM

14 October 2011

9:25 AM

It’s a rum deal being a Global Networker. This morning’s Times reports (£) that Adam Werritty has received nearly £200,000 in donations from clients who appear to have employed
Werritty to lobby Liam Fox on ideological issues such as Israel, the Special Relationship and Euroscepticism; although why anyone thought it necessary to lobby Fox, who is a resolute
neo-Conservative and Atlanticist, on these matters is something of a mystery.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reveals that Fox and Werritty
enjoyed a $500-a-head dinner with American military figures in Washington, which the Ministry of Defence has not disclosed (perhaps because no British official attended the dinner). This suggests
that Werritty and Fox may have met abroad on more occasions than is currently thought. None of this seems to fall in Fox’s favour, although it has also emerged that Werritty is connected to defence minister Lord Astor, which may take some of
the heat from the defence secretary — but you wouldn’t bet on it.          

[Alt-Text]


But, if you think the Fox-Werritty axis is odd, think again. Oliver Letwin has escaped from his box in the Cabinet Office and has been caught disposing of government documents in the bins of St.
James’ Park. The Mirror has the full story (and pictures), which it
relates in gleefully excoriating tones. Letwin maintains that none of these documents were “sensitive”; but, even so: behaving like a fugitive in a Le Carre novel doesn’t look
good.

Neither does it inspire confidence in the government’s competence, which has been shaken this week by the revival of the Lansley Health Risk. As Fraser has noted, Lansley’s shortcomings as a politician are all too evident, but he was still strikingly bad on
Question Time last night, albeit in very hostile surroundings. The presence of Dr Phil Hammond (GP, stand-up comic and
contributor to Private Eye) on the panel should have alerted Lansley of an ambush. But, by the end of their exchanges, it appeared as though Lansley didn’t understand his own legislation and
certainly didn’t know his way around it. Hammond knew that this televised debate would be decided largely by how it looked on screen. He simply waved a copy of
the Bill in front of the cameras and flicked through it occasionally, which created the impression that he could point to the relevant section to support his argument at will. 

Lansley, of course, knows the legislation back to front, but he answered Hammond not by picking up the text and indicating exactly where the Bill guards against privatisation or insists that
care should be integrated. Rather, he chose words — far too many words, delivered with an air presumed superiority. He said “I want to reassure you” so often that
it implied the opposite, and his spiels became ever more convoluted. The tribal audience soon turned completely against him and he began to grin and chuckle in awkward apology. It was excruciating
to watch; Celebrity Big Brother beckons.

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.


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