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Jerry Hayes

After the Mail on Sunday scoop that the entire Defence team might resign, Fox hunting may be moving up the agenda.

October 10th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Either Liam Fox is playing a very stupid game or else one of his team is out of control. Today’s story in the Mail on Sunday, that he and his Defence team, dubbed the Three Musketeers, will resign unless they get their way on the spending review is a problem. Of course, this is the Mail on Sunday and written by one of Fleet Street’s most able polisher of turds, Simon Walters. But to be a page two lead, this has to be is more than the feverish lunacy that engulfs Red Top newsrooms on a Saturday evening. Walters is an old pro. He doesn’t just gild the lily; he  smothers it in gold leaf and passes it off as bullion. But he is not a fool.  One of the Ministerial team, has whispered something in his ear. Probably at conference and probably a little pissed. It doesn’t matter, it is a serious story.

Unlike Brown, Cameron won’t howl at the moon nor Nokia his civil servants. He won’t call Foxy in for a bollocking. He will do what he normally does when displeased; become steely. Cameron does not micro manage. He is chairman of the board. He trusts his ministers to get on with the job and gives them plenty of slack. But he demands competence and loyalty. If Fox is not careful that slack will turn into a rope. And that rope into a noose.

Of course he is not going to resign, nor, unless he drops his trews and moons outside Number Ten, will he be sacked. But there will be a feeling that he is not a team player. That he might be a David Davies in the making. And look what happened to him.

The last time a ministerial team  resigned en masse was on January 6th 1958. Harold Macmillan, a Prime Minister, despite the hang ups, not dissimilar to Cameron, was having heated discussions with his Chancellor, Peter Thornycroft. It was over cuts in public expenditure, but slightly different to the arguments that are happening now. Thorneycroft believed in sound money, whereas Macmillan was a ruthless populist who wanted to spend more on the middle classes to secure another term in office. In the end, the row was all about £50 million (although purists will argue that it was more about the balance of trade and currency). Thorneycroft lost in Cabinet and the next day the entire Treasury team resigned, which included Enoch Powell.

Macmillan was petrified that this was the end. But being of the manager actor school, hopped onto a plane to a conference far away, with the languid comment, “just a little local difficulty”. And it was. The government survived survived until 1963 and Thorneycroft and Powell eventually brought back to government. Although Macmillan never placed Powell anywhere near him at the Cabinet table, “because of his piercing eyes”. In his diaries he noted that there was something, “of the Fakir” about him.

I suppose there is a lesson here. Quite what it is I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect it might be along the lines of , “Foxy old son, it’s time to eat that shit sandwich that lays at  the bottom of  every red box or else love will be withdrawn”. I think we will be hearing quite a lot of munching at the MOD on the 20th October.

Now there’s a weird date. On the 19th October 1922 Tory backbenchers met at the Carlton Club and voted to bring down the Liberal Tory Coalition. As Thatcher  said after being turfed out of Number Ten, “Funny old world isn’t it?”  Yes it is old girl.

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Liam Fox is not on the brink of resignation but playing a carefully choreographed game. And why Baroness Warsi, the Gaffer, has become a liability.

September 30th, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

While the nation collapses in Miliexhaustion and is perplexed that the New Generation comprises of pretty well the same old farts who messed  up the last and who thought fiscal rectitude was a disease of the sphincter, all eyes will now be on the Tories.

And for all those who are getting excited about Liam Fox, the man most famous for not shagging Natalie Imbruglia, to be on the brink of resignation? Calm down dears, it’s just a commercial. Spending reviews are the rutting season for political bucks on heat. They lock antlers with each other and sometimes get hurt, but there is rarely a fatality.

Now call me an old cynic, but I suspect most of these arguments are choreographed. Although these reviews are going to be painful, Cameron and Osborne are not fools. They would never allow the press to taint the Tories as soft on defence.

Similarly, forget the supposed row  with Ian Duncan Smith over his welfare plans. He and Osborne would have thrashed out the up front costings well before the election.

No, this is all about positioning. It is a wake up call for other ministers to settle quickly, with the subliminal message if we can screw big time with the defence budget, think what we could do to yours. Yet, these ersatz rows can make the Coalition look good. Spending reviews are a choice between the unpalatable and the disastrous. Let the press and Labour get in a tizz about impending doom and the unpalatable doesn’t look quite so bad after all. And, at the end of it all, like the Milibrothers, Cameron and Fox will hug and express undying devotion to each other. Better, Osborne will be able to say I listened to reason, while Cleggy can claim that it was the commonsense of the Liberal Democrats that made the spending review tough, but fair.

And as for the leak inquiry? Well, shock horror, it will run into brick wall, as they all do when the leaked document makes the minister look good. So Foxy will huff and puff, feigning horror and outrage, but with his fingers well and truly crossed. And Cameron will smile a contented smile, as next week it will be hugs, kisses and a promise never to let “our boys” down, to the collective orgasms of the Red tops. Everyone’s a winner. Our Defence Secretary not called Fox for nothing. And the long arm of Andy Coulson reaches far.

But there is a minor political time-bomb ticking at the heart of the Tory Party, Chairman, Baroness Warsi, foot in the mouther in chief: the gaffer. At a time when anti tribalism is at a premium, Warsi  rarely lets her lips quiver without some banal, partisan, claptrap slipping out.  Her latest  offering is that Cameron was robbed of an overall majority because of electoral corruption. Of course, she doesn’t give a shred of evidence for this and is made to look a fool for spoiling for an imaginary fight with Labour.

Yes, there is electoral corruption, mainly by the manipulation of  postal voting and particularly in some ethnic communities. The answer is change the law as was suggested by the electoral Commission years ago or shut up.

After the election Warsi wrote to all outgoing Labour Ministers asking if they would be prepared to forgo their resettlement allowances. These sort of ghastly, self indulgent, knee in the groin stunts, were the beginning of the end of New Labour. She should be warned.

But Warsi has form for Gonzo politics.  During her election campaign in Dewsbury in 2005 she earned a reputation for putting out noxious election material. She attacked Labour for lowering the age of consent, “allowing school children to be propositioned for homosexual relationships”. And over the repeal of clause 28 she claimed that homosexuality was being, “peddled on children as young as seven in schools”.

This offensive nonsense was totally off message in a Cameron party so she had to do a bit of nifty footwork. “God”, she protested, “why did I phrase it like that? What was I on?”

What you were on, my dear, was a cynical power trip. You pandered to the baser instincts of the Muslim community in the hope of getting elected.

Warsi is a woman who should be watched. She is a strong candidate for a sideways move, hopefully into obscurity.

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