To the joy of the Tory benches, Liam Fox has just come out swinging in the House of Commons. In his initial statement, Fox apologised to the House for allowing the lines between his personal and
professional life to become blurred out of “personal loyalty to a friend.” He then conceded that Werritty had travelled on 18 overseas visits with him since May 2010 and visited the
Ministry of Defence 22 times. The presence of George Osborne and Michael Gove on the front bench showed how determined the Cameroons are to indicate support for the defence secretary despite the
political differences between him and them.
Jim Murphy missed the target in his reply. He was overly theatrical and failed to make clear what he actually wanted answers to. There was none of the forensic attention to detail that was needed.
This gave Fox the confidence to deliver a performance full of ‘80s brillio in response; his opening line was “I’m not sure what the questions were”. One Labour
questioner after another was dismissed with a put down. The most damming of which was Fox’s line to Dennis Skinner that “it is possible to keep a good bottle just a little too
But if the statement in the Commons went well for Fox, the press briefing afterwards did not. It turns out that Fox’s confidence that Werritty did not profit commercially from their
friendship comes purely from an assurance that Werritty has given Fox. There was also confusion about whether the Ministry of Defence is even now aware of which firms Mr Werritty has a contractual
Overall, though, today’s events have increased Fox’s chances of weathering this storm. The defence secretary has undoubtedly made some poor decisions, but none of them so far appear to
be a hanging offence.