Breathtaking hypocrisy from Liam Fox at PMQs, who claims that the Guardian’s coverage of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks had left “security personnel more vulnerable”:
“Can we have a full and transparent assessment of whether the Guardian’s involvement in the Snowden affair has damaged Britain’s national security?”
Fox obviously has a short memory. Two years ago this month a report from then cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell found that the former secretary of state for defence had risked the security of his staff by sharing his official diary with his close friend Adam Werritty.
“The disclosure outside MoD of details about future visits overseas posed a degree of security risk not only to Dr Fox, but also to the accompanying official party.”
Making security personnel more vulnerable, eh?
UPDATE: Fox calls for inquiry in letter »
Conservative chairman Grant Shapps has hilariously claimed that he has banned negative campaigning in the Eastleigh by-election – while senior colleagues simultaneously launch attacks backed up by posters. Sometime online marketing spiv Shapps told the press he would be organising a:
“unrelentingly positive campaign”
Strangely enough, bruiser Liam Fox didn’t get the memo, blustering to Sky News:
“I think that the Lib Dems really have a problem about trust, I think they’ve got to explain to the students who voted for them in the last election about why they ditched their pledge on tuition fees, and then why having decided to pledge on an in-out referendum in Europe before the general election that they do not want one at all now.”
While certainly negative, Fox’s remarks on trust dovetail conveniently with this official poster which emerged over the weekend:
It might be more truthful to say that “Hutchings is the candidate you can trust … but David Cameron can’t”. Indeed, the selection of Hutchings could be seen as a challenge to his authority from the right:
- Hutchings said she would have voted against gay marriage
- Scrapbook revealed her to have more extreme views than Nadine Dorries on abortion
- She has been forced to deny telling a reporter that the previous Labour government had done more for “the immigrants, the gays, the bloody foxes” than for children with special needs
- Having told reporters that Tony Blair should “stop focussing” on Africa after she ambushed him on a live TV debate in 2005, it is certainly questionable whether she supports Cameron’s pledge to spend 0.7% of UK national income on aid.
Watching Tory spinners attempt to manage her should be entertaining.
The Tories’ latest attempt at online campaigning struggles on weakly — despite being discredited by Scrapbook for buying Facebook followers from India and links to a controversial Ukrainian oligarch. The new petition launched by Right Angle, a cack-handed attempt to emulate the huge success of 38 Degrees, has garnered just 13 signatures in five days.
The group attempting to leverage the site are Conservative Voice, the right-wing Tory faction launched by Liam Fox and David Davis last month. Suffice it to say that the call for more apprenticeships fronted by Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price doesn’t seem to have caught on.
It’s hard to say why it hasn’t quite steamed its way to its target of 10,000 (yes, ten thousand) that it is aiming for.Could it be the amateur-hour video featuring backbencher Ms Doyle-Price stood on a windy industrial estate? Or perhaps the startlingly vague terms the petition is couched in, calling on the government to “boost skills funding even further“ and, errr, “slash the red tape”.
No wonder Right Angle is a joke even amongst online Tory colleagues.
Just as Liam Fox attempts to relaunch his career by ranting about the EU in front of a Taxpayers Alliance logo yesterday, new details have emerged of just how deep his entanglements with inappropriate organisations were while he was in government — including an official role which he failed to declare.
It was reported last year that Fox’s banned pseudo-charity Atlantic Bridge had ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shady US right wing group whose motto is “Limited Government, Free Markets, and Federalism.”
Up to now, it was understood that Atlantic Bridge’s relationship with ALEC amounted to the signing of a “special partnership” with the controversial lobbyists. But it has now emerged Liam Fox’s personal involvement went much deeper.
Documents obtained by the US campaign group Common Cause reveal that Fox was listed as a member of the group’s International Relations Task Force — an official role which he failed to declare in the List of Ministers’ Interests when he was secretary of state for defence.
There are now questions as to whether Fox’s acceptance of a place on the Task Force was in breach of the ministerial code. The regulations, under which Fox was already slapped down once in October 2011 for his bizarre business arrangements with Adam Werrity, states:
“Ministers should take care to ensure that they do not become associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with Government policy and thus give rise to a conflict of interest.”
From teaming up with the NRA to denying climate change and campaigning to minimize environmental regulation, ALEC has plenty of conflicts with government policy.
Not to mention the defence interests of some member corporations.
Image: Guido Fawkes
Could there be a better time for Jeremy Hunt to quit than the day after his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday? With Britain scheduled to spend a four-day bank holiday weekend distracted by Diamond Jubilee celebrations, this timing could do much to soften the blow to David Cameron.
This theory has been gaining currency in Westminster circles since the evasive testimony of his former special adviser last Thursday. Such a move would mirror the fate of Liam Fox, who attempted to leave the media flat-footed by quitting as defence secretary at 4:10pm on a Friday.
Meanwhile, the expenses scandal which engulfed Sayeeda Warsi this weekend raises the delicious prospect of a double sacking. Liberal Democrat backbencher Bob Russell is already banging the drum for a police investigation:
“There are similarities [to the Lord Hanningfield case],” he said. “I think there’s a prima facie case for this to be looked at by the police.”
You’re in trouble when a convicted fraudster is defending you.
With Leveson evidence revealing communications between Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser and Murdoch’s lobbyist, the email exchange perhaps offered one chink of light for the culture secretary: the claim that his SpAd, Adam Smith, had acted beyond his capacities and without Hunt’s knowledge. This is basically the same excuse offered by, erm, Liam Fox during the Adam Werritty scandal.
In contrast with Werritty’s unofficial jet-setting, however, we have the clarity of the Ministerial Code. And it doesn’t help him very much:
“The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment.”
Would Hunt have us believe he’s the only minister in Whitehall who doesn’t know precisely what his SpAd is doing?
Liam Fox may be long gone, but the MoD-owned paintings he planned to sell for a veterans charity are not. A Freedom of Information request has revealed that despite the fanfare made of the idea in September 2010, the paintings still haven’t been sold — with Help For Heroes missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds
The collection, commissioned by Geoff Hoon, was criticised when it was amassed using money that could have been used to equip soldiers. Fox was much praised when he announced he wanted to sell them off and donate the profits to Help for Heroes — while conveniently heaping opprobrium on a Labour predecessor.
But in response to an FOI request querying the status of the paintings and how much money had been raised, a year and a half after the announcement, the MoD replied:
“…we do hold information within scope of your request. The paintings you listed were not sold and they remain in the Ministry of Defence Art Collection.”
Scrapbook supposes it’s easy to forget such pledges, when jet-setting around the world with your best man.
Israeli officials disclosed secret information on Iran to Adam Werritty because they assumed he was Liam Fox’s official adviser with appropriate security clearance, The Times has claimed (£). Fox’s controversial friend even used the word “we” to talk about the Ministry of Defence.
Werritty reportedly quizzed Israeli officials on potential airstrikes against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions, with one asking:
“Why was he allowed to meet with us and hear sensitive security information if he had no official standing? I shared information with him that I would not have otherwise.”
As a “freelancer” Werritty was able to operate outside the constraints of a diplomatic straight-jacket. This was to the keen interest of British intelligence services, who were given to debriefing him on his return from foreign jaunts.
One cannot imagine Israeli officials will be thrilled that the contents of discussions — with someone they assumed to be the Defence Secretary’s close aide and a hawkish “fellow traveller” — may have been passed directly to MI6.
This could yet get even more messy.