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Monday 2 July 2012

Fox Shoots Itself To Save Time

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

Some of the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) must have thought it a jolly clever wheeze to get a former cabinet minister to grace their manor and give a speech chiming with one of their key demonisations, that being the EU. Sadly, the former minister was Liam Fox, already damaged goods. And his speech was just a re-hash of right-wing paranoia.

Consider this snippet: “For 20 years, since I entered Parliament, we have been told that we are winning the arguments on Europe and that it is coming in our direction. It is not true”. For this, Fox clearly does not feel he needs to provide any justification. Let me assist him. The first language of the EU is English. There is no more obvious sign that the EU is “coming in our direction”.

Perhaps the good doctor Fox would like another sign of how the EU is moving our way? Allow me to introduce him to the aviation industry, formerly a hotbed of restrictions and anti-competitive pricing. Now, through the open skies policy, which has brought genuine competition, the cost of travel has fallen. And British and Irish carriers have led the way in exploiting this new regime.

That’s free competition in an open market – just what Fox’s heroine Margaret Thatcher would have recommended. Added to all of that, although Fox talks of bogeymen in Brussels and Berlin – not that he’s mentioning the war, you understand – he ignores another fact, that the UK has never been outvoted in the European Parliament on any finance related issue.

We should, he argues, negotiate some kind of new relationship with the EU, and only then have the referendum that so many on the right seem to think will be the solution to all our problems. What that may be is not told, and here he appears to be singing from the same hymn sheet as Young Dave. But, whatever temporary raising of his profile takes place as a result of this speech, his previous problems will not go away.

Fox was forced to repay £3,000 of expenses last March – and apologise in writing – following revelations about his “friend” Adam Werrity. He had previously over-claimed over £22,000 in mortgage interest payments. His “errors of judgment” were significant enough for the Werrity affair to precipitate his resignation from the post of Defence Secretary in late 2011.

But, as I pointed out on a number of occasions last year, Fox was being serially disloyal to Young Dave: a number of leaks from his department were not a coincidence. Cameron should have sacked him well before he resigned. The TPA may believe that they have scored some kind of coup, but all that has happened is that his intervention has only underscored that Fox is tainted goods.

But it’s good to see he chose to shoot himself to save time.

[UPDATE1 1745 hours: in an hilarious coda to the Fox intervention, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, tame gofer to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, has posted another of his "Berlin Wall moment" slices of hyperbole in reporting on the speech.
What Cole did not mention in his Tweet was that he had begun his question by stating "One day people may look back on this speech as the first step towards an EU exit for the UK". I am deeply impressed at the restraint shown by all the real journalists there, who did not dissolve into uncontrollable laughter at this display of weapons grade bullshit.
Cole then told that Nick Robinson "seemed horrified by Fox's claim that he was not afraid of a post-EU Britain". Like heck. This is mere projection: the only thing about this morning's event that would have horrified Nick Robinson was that he had wasted so much time on a has-been like Liam Fox. Another fine mess]

[UPDATE2 3 July 1030 hours: the TPA has delegated new recruit Jonathan Isaby to talk up the Fox speech, and he has gushed enthusiastically "The event was given excellent coverage by all the major broadcasters ... as well as gaining many column inches in the papers".

Sadly for Isaby, the BBC News page right now has no mention of it at all, and the homepage of Sky News ("first for breaking wind") has just one mention at the very bottom, where a comment item by Sophy Ridge is signposted. Fox has been shot by real news.

But the TPA has hopefully linked to the entire 20-minute video of the speech. They might as well not have bothered. Liam Fox is still a has-been, and he ain't about to make a comeback any time this decade]

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