Once upon a time, Governments did not do leaks. Admittedly, this was a very long time ago: the last such was Sailor Heath’s administration in the early 1970s. Since Heath left 10 Downing Street in early 1974, every Government has done its share of leaking. And, as I noted recently, the present one appears to be no different.
Coming hard on the heels of the alleged leak over quango abolition is a rather more serious one from the Ministry Of Defence (MoD). As with the quango “leak”, this has been fed to the Maily Telegraph, a paper sympathetic to Young Dave, and with a free to view website. The content is the full text of a personal letter from Defence Secretary Liam Fox to Cameron.
But, so what? Well, the letter lays bare Fox’s distress at the scale of the cuts that the military is going to have to make. The question of Trident replacement, which I’ve considered previously, remains unresolved, with Fox still of the opinion that the money should come from the Treasury. Two new aircraft carriers may now not be completed. Manpower reductions into five figures are indicated.
So Fox has a scrap on his hands if he wants to keep the top brass sweet. He suggests that other ministers support his view, and that cuts by a previous Tory Government made the Falklands campaign rather more marginal than was admitted at the time will remain in many memories. But all parts of Government have to take their share of cuts: only then can the policy be sold to the public.
And that suggests the leak did not come from Downing Street, nor from the Treasury. That leaves the MoD, or Fox himself: my conclusion is that the latter has caused the letter to arrive at the Maily Telegraph. Right now, Liam Fox is dodging any questions about his future. He looks guilty, and silence merely compounds the thought that he is.
Thus Young Dave’s first serious challenge from within. He shouldn’t even blink: there is only one course of action open to him, and that is to sack the SOB. End of story.