Will the Fox saga show that Cameron and Clegg are truly spineless?
You can understand why the British public are so apathetic to politics when corruption runs deep and often goes unpunished, writes UK Political Editor Harry Cole
British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox is now over ninety-six hours into a really bad week that began on Saturday.
Just days ago he dismissed allegations against him as 'baseless', but he has now apologised and is in the midst of a full investigation from Number 10.
His vague attempt to launch his own 'internal investigation' was rightly hijacked by the Cabinet Secretary and although he may have lived to fight on Tuesday, this story is in no way going to go cold as quickly as the two time leadership contender would like it to.
At the heart of the story is his close relationship with his best man and former flat mate Adam Werritty, a long-time friend of Dr. Fox who has been grandstanding around the world with business cards claiming to be the Defence Secretary's 'adviser' - a fact that has not gone unnoticed amongst the smarter and tighter lobbying operations.
Though Fox claims the relationship is clean in terms of financials there have been questionable activities in hotels in Sri Lanka and Dubai. It looks a lot like government work has been going on... off the record.
Fox has known Werritty since they met when the latter was still at Edinburgh University and Fox was the visiting politico. Subsequently there have been over forty meetings between the two in the eighteen months that the Conservative-led government has been in power.
Werritty has no clearance, no declaration of interests, no vetting and so far, nothing to say for himself. The whole thing is a terrible mess. Rules state that Cabinet members should not have even the whiff of suspicion about their personal and business dealings. Frankly, this stinks.
But the worst thing as ever is the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence has now lied repeatedly in an attempt to suppress the story.
Just like Chris Huhne before him, the web is well and truly tangled but Dr. Fox is not going down without a fight.
The cover up is often a far worse lack of judgment than the original sin. There could well be an innocent explanation for Fox and Werritty’s transcontinental gatherings, but it’s the deception that renders both Fox and Huhne unfit for High Office.
They may not have the decency to walk as they know full well that Cameron is a weak Prime Minister who would rather have limping casualties (Cable, Huhne, Spelman, Clarke etc.) than risking sending anyone to the back-benches to act as lightning rods for anti-coalition sentiment.
Cameron and Clegg have been yapping on for eighteen months that everything that they are doing is in the “national interest”, except, it seems, the formation of their government.
Party strategy and leaders' paranoia is coming before what is in the best interests of the country, i.e. not having potentially corrupt, incompetent or compulsive liars in the Cabinet.
If the coalition leaders really wanted to show some leadership, they have to throw those banging their heads against the ship wall overboard. Yes, those cast asunder may rabble rouse, but frankly given the current state of party morale that’s probably going to happen amongst the 2010 intake anyway, without giving them a messiah.
Miliband isn’t going to hold this country properly to account, but there is some sign of life in his newly-reshuffled but still rather bland Shadow Cabinet.
The operation against Fox that is being lead by Jim Murphy has all the hallmarks of the Glasgow Labour playbook.
If he had played a bit more like this when he was running David Miliband’s leadership campaign against Ed, he might have beaten the younger brother who wasn’t scared to take the gloves off. Murphy might get a scalp yet.
This country has a weak opposition and a Liberal Democrat party already positioning themselves as in opposition to the Tories. In response, the right need a figurehead within the Conservative Party to counter the misleading left-wing “heart-string”.
As the next election approaches, a back-bench leader will emerge with or without Fox. Just as the yellows will find their sandal wearing standard bearer to march them off the social democratic cliff of electoral doom.
It says a lot about the confidence of the Prime Minister and his Deputy that they are frightened into thinking that proven liars would be an attractive option to the country.
If the leadership of this country don’t believe in what they are doing then why should anyone else? The fact that they would rather hug these deceivers close than take them on in public, is spineless.
This is why people don’t vote. This is why people have stopped reading newspapers. This is why people are sick of politics: because they see politicians like Huhne and Fox lie and cover their tracks and they are sick of it.
It's time for Cameron and Clegg to put the national interest first and clear out this damp, before it has the chance to rot their government in the coming years.
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