Fox hunting

What the papers are saying about the beleaguered defence secretary.

With the Prime Minister asking for the preliminary findings of an inquiry into Liam Fox's working relationship with Adam Werritty to be on his desk tomorrow morning, the position of the defence secretary looks precarious. This morning, the Observer produces video footage of Fox's meeting with the president of Sri Lanka last year at which Werritty was present, and which appears to contradict the defence secretary's earlier insistence that his friend and former flatmate had never attended any meetings with representatives of foreign governments.

The press pack has the scent of its quarry in its nostrils. Here's what the papers are saying about Mr Fox today.


Emails and video footage pile pressure on beleaguered Liam Fox: Film of Sri Lankan meeting and email exchange between friend and businessman undermine defence secretary's prior claims.

Sunday Times (£)

Cameron demands truth as Fox fights to keep defence job: The prime minister has launched an investigation into whether Liam Fox compromised national security by giving special access to his best man.

Sunday Telegraph

Liam Fox: I have nothing to hide over links with aide: Liam Fox has mounted a fightback in a bid to save his Cabinet job in a row over his working relationship with his self-styled adviser, Adam Werritty.

The questions Liam Fox must answer about his friend Adam Werritty.

Independent on Sunday

Fox adviser is involved in arms deals, says MoD source.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.