The enquiry into an alleged leak of personal correspondence between Defence Secretary Liam Fox and Young Dave has not tracked down the culprit. Even with the involvement of the Military Police – thirty of them have been drafted in – the mole in the MoD has not been found. I am not surprised. My take is that the man they should be interviewing is Fox himself, and he’s not about to turn himself in.
But what of Cameron’s reaction to the ruckus? Well, he went on ITV’s This Morning and told that Fox had nothing to worry about. Given the scale of some of the cutbacks previously outlined, that means that some of the noises coming out of the Treasury are bluff – or that Young Dave knows there is going to be disquiet among the top brass when the cuts are revealed, and is putting off the inevitable showdown.
And that will only give opposition an opportunity to build a power base: Cameron has evidently not been reading his Machiavelli. Indeed, other ministers have begun to side with Fox, particularly Lib Dems Vince Cable and Michael Moore, the latter going in to bat for Scottish jobs. With the military lined up behind Fox, as I noted earlier, it will only get worse for Cameron the longer he leaves it.
For Young Dave to tell that “we are not going to take bad decisions” is no more than flannel: he isn’t addressing the central point of Fox’s letter. With the Maily Telegraph starting a readers’ poll asking if Defence should be exempted from the cuts, the issue will remain in the news, and Fox will remain a thorn in the side of his Prime Minister.
Cameron has to do the deed quickly, and never mind the upcoming Tory Conference. He has to sack Fox: any more drift and he risks being compared not to Margaret Thatcher, but Sailor Heath.