Yesterday’s Mail On Sunday carried a less than flattering analysis of Defence Secretary Liam Fox: his “partying” lifestyle, enjoyment of an “occasional social drink”, and his tendency thereafter to “get ... carried away and ... very chatty” were dropped into the article.
This has caused Iain Dale, a compliant and reliable conduit for Tory propaganda, to show signs of distress. “The smears against Liam Fox must stop” he bleated in a recent blogpost, clearly unable to grasp the significance of this off-the-record briefing.
Fox has been playing a game of high stakes in defence of his budget, and to the clear irritation of Young Dave and The Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet. The supposed leak of a letter to Cameron – not copied to Osborne – was, I reckoned at the time, done either by Fox or on his behalf.
And, as I pointed out, this was a clear sign of someone trying to build a rival power base. My conclusion was clear: that Cameron had to sack him (followed up HERE and HERE). Downing Street hesitated, but has now clearly given the nod to a routine campaign of character assassination.
From the smear about his supposed drinking will follow – if need be – a further one suggesting that this may have security implications. From there it will be a straightforward task to propel Fox out of the door and into political oblivion. Young Dave will have, at last, mastered his basic Machiavelli: do not allow opponents to build a rival power base.
Which is what Dale and the rest of the right leaning blogosphere do not seem to get: there will be a need to put the boot into purveyors of inconvenient behaviour whoever is in power. No-one doubts that Alastair Campbell was behind the description of Pa Broon as “psychologically flawed”, and Big Al shares the same journalistic background as Andy Coulson.
So there should be no surprise when the new smear machine looks very much like the old smear machine.