Addios Liam

There seems to be an undercurrent of sympathy for Liam Fox.

I don’t mind about the short term and incoherent mess that was SDSR and I quite like the fact that he marked the cards of the defence chiefs whilst putting the MoD on the road to financial credibility but any achievements (and these are in no doubt significant) in no way provide some sort of pass for the shabby behaviour that has obviously been going on.

The homosexual innuendo is a smokescreen, no one actually gives two shits about that but what is telling is the complete absence of judgement and even greater absence of integrity and moral authority.

The Secretary of State for Defence is one of the greatest offices of State, the person in the job manages and governs a budget of nearly £40 billion, is responsible for over 200,000 personnel, provides strategic direction for the defence of this nation and let’s not forget the prosecution of two demanding operations plus numerous other deployments.

We are not talking about someone in charge of the paperclip budget for a borough council.

Being an effective minister is completely and utterly irrelevant.

Have we all put standards aside because he was the least worse option?

Just because it is an awkward or inconvenient moment does that mean the complete lack of judgement is swept under the carpet?

Does doing a good job insulate you from the consequences of your actions?

Do we do an Admiral Nelson and turn a blind eye because it’s simply more convenient to do so?

It’s just not good enough to start the conversation with ‘it’s a shame because’

This is a man with an overweening political ambition who has used defence as part of his political game. Quite happy to grandstand on issues as diverse and PFI’s to pen pushers to gain political advantage in opposition, when in a position of power the U turn gear was constantly engaged and we have to ask who has ultimately suffered.

So what of the future?

Let’s not over analyse what type of minister Phil Hammond will be, the fact is defence will continue to get shafted. If he can stand up to the massed ranks of the civil service, service chiefs/defence industry then that is the best we can hope.

Mr Hammond at least has some real world experience and understands his way around a balance sheet, is this necessarily a bad thing.

The future will soon become known.

Good luck as they say.

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October 15, 2011 1:44 am

too true
“provides strategic direction for the defence of this nation”
and Atlanticism is a valid plank (of argument) in the NATO construct (of yesterday, today and tomorrow), perhaps to a varying degrees.

But Defence and Foreign Policy are so interwined that giving paid-for access to the pro-Israel lobby in inter-governmental meetings/deliberations and perhaps deviating from the declared UK policy is not so good

As such, no “defence corruption” has been proved in any way?

Bill Chapman
Bill Chapman
October 15, 2011 2:44 am

Liam Fox has not eally gone at all. You’ll find he is still a well-paid MP who can influence defence issues. This is a seedy, sordid business and Fox should resign as an MP. Maybe it’s time for a General Election.

October 15, 2011 8:49 am

Fox was clearly ill briefed in opposition – examples being his description of the British Army basing in Germany as if they do not contribute to current operations and the numbers of people employed in Defence Acquisition – although the general thrust may have been correct, the wrong detail undermines the message. His thinking on these issues bled through into the PM’s narrative as well.

That the people largely responsible for the poor briefing continued to influence him whilst SofS is doubtless why he drove through such crass decisions on other issues.

All told, if Fox was not going to last the Parliament on the front bench, it would have been better if he had resigned on principle after the leaked letters during the spending round instead of signing up to gut the armed forces in the crazy dog’s breakfast that was the SDSR – that so palpably failed the acid tests that he set for it.

Whilst reflecting on his leaked letters, I wonder if his mate visited him in MB during the period the letters were leaked? There is, after all, a police investigation into the leaking….

October 15, 2011 9:29 am

One newspaper commentator had counted “Apparently since 1997 the average length of stay for a Secretary of State for Defence is between 12 and 18 months and *in the last decade there have been 9 SSD’s*”
– wonder if he counted the new one into the nine?

And was it 13 years between Defence Reviews?
– no wonder things have been left drifting; and then you get panic reactions without the proper grounding in scenarios,alternatives formulation and cost effectiveness studies

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
October 15, 2011 11:04 am


Sorry for the recycling.
But if this is the LF thread then this is the best place for it.

Final score just in –

Level Eight 1 – Extension 0

LF is and always will be a complete chancer.
He has a booster club in the media and you have to ask why?
Possibly seen as the only “True Believer” at the top of the Tory Party?
However he is nowhere near as talented and capable as his ego would suggest.

You have to ask wil the MOD get a benefit from this change?
LF was using his department as a lever to further his own political ambitions.

JM = The Opposition
Dave the Rave = The Enemy.

Did LF cost the MOD £700mill / £1.1bill pa?
Did his posturing mean the MOD lost 8% instead of the expected 5%?

Fair enough that Dave the Rave acts as if he was terrified by the Etonian Cadet Force and that he is more interested in international social workers than the Armed Forces but LF never looked to manage the MOD in rational and constructive manner.

More a case he was looking for cheap headlines, raw meat for the Tory right and a few point scoring exercises to wind up Dave the Rave.

I don’t think he will be missed.
Not that I hold a grudge, it was his childish student politics that mean’t I couldn’t get into the Tech on a Friday night.

Beyond irony that his social life should have turned out as it has after all his early rabble rousing.

October 15, 2011 2:26 pm

First I like to say, if Liam Fox had any backing by Dave C, he would have easily survived this storm. In fact, the opposition made such a bad picture on the debate on monday, that he was practically in suvive-mode.

So, I can only guess on the real background here. Maybe his opposition against the DfID-budget made him an easy target.

His record as a secretary is currently bleak, but we have to accept that the merits of financial credibility require a long breath.

LFs behaviour may not apply to HMGs ministerial code of conduct. Be it so. If we look all over Europe, especially to France and Germany, one has to observe that secretaries of both don’t make any trip without a up-to-100-person strong delegation of the industry. So, taking one single close friend with him is a first class laughter.

Which brings me to
“Have we all put standards aside because he was the least worse option?”

My opinion here is clear. To current standards, neither the Dalai Lama nor Jesus C could meet the standards. Neither could Willian Pitt, nor Charles Middleton, nor Jackie Fisher, nor Winston Churchill, nor anyone else of the great british defence reformers or statemen.

The standard we set are assuring, that only machine-politicians can survive. We want mediocre wallflowers.

And then, when we finally get them, we are perplexed. Simple bigotry.

October 15, 2011 2:47 pm

Well, I’m no fan of Fox, however, its going to be interesting to see how this plays out on the Back Benches.
In the past week, we’ve had a cabinett bringing a mate around the world on jollies, and forced out for it, and a cabinett minister caught briefing against collegues who’s sitting pretty.
One is poor judgement, the other is sackable offences 1.1

Fox was absolutly right when he said sacking him would make Cameron look weak, the lib dems are the junior partner, and an election tomorrow would see them reduced to a handful, yet Cameron (or Clegg) refuses to move against them when faced with the most outragous provocation.
Fox was a vapid incompetant pole climber who wont be mourned, but unjust treatment always bring about a response in the end.

October 15, 2011 3:08 pm

Daring the PM is not such a good idea (really leaves him with only one option), as in
“when he said sacking him would make Cameron look weak”
– but the message was clear: you can have me inside the tent, or pissing into it from the outside

Let’s see what we will hear from the more conservative Conservative wing in the back benches about the big society, here and in the world village, once the dust has settled a bit

October 15, 2011 3:38 pm

Big society is OUR idea!
Cameron and his coterie slapped a few of the buzzwords from it on their plans, but its our (The) Plan and Camerons failure to do, anynthing, so far stems primarily from the fact that he doesnt like the idea of distributing power yet half arsed an election on that premise.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
October 15, 2011 6:25 pm

I have not commented on Dr Fox, but I know this: Liam hs always had a heart-felt interest in Defence. Hammond: Don’t really know who he is.

Is Her Majesty’s Armed-Forces any better-off? Hard to say considering Osborne’s sensible budget-constraints and BAe-Systems spend-thrift projects. Adios Liam….

October 15, 2011 7:13 pm

I have to agree with Fluffy Thoughts here, whatever his shortcomings, at least Liam gave a damn about defence, not sure that Phil Hammond is anything more than yes man for George Osborne who will happy sacrifice defence spending to keep Dave and George happy!

October 15, 2011 7:31 pm

But did he?

He talked the talk in opposition, but did he walk the walk in government?

The first thing I remember him ordering when he got in the big office, was an additional 120 MWMIKs (jackals), specificaly for convoy escorts in Afghanistan.

In its first 16months of service in Afghanistan, Jackals hitting IEDs caused 8.5% of the casualties for the entire war that far.
The vast majority, driving along roads (or so my source says, I didnt go through the casualty reports myself, but they did), where there much vaunted “mobility” is useless and their complete lack of mine protection, fatal.

He may have genuinly cared about casualties, but he didnt do a damned thing to prevent them.

October 15, 2011 7:57 pm

It’s hard to defend someone when you are not sat in meetings with him, but given that equipment requests come from the armed services not the Defence Secretary you have to presume that someone senior in the Army requested the additional Jackals and he signed them off rather than him ordering them over other vehicles more suited to Afghanistan. The question is really, did he do enough to prevent cuts in the defence budget (and there is a school of thought that George Osborne hated him so much that he cut defence budget just to spite Liam)

October 15, 2011 8:08 pm

RE “Army requested the additional Jackals and he signed them off ” – Was it a case of “had to be British” and no firm in the country was on the ball (yet)
– I wonder why so many on this blog were enthusiastic about them becoming the standard issue for light recce squadrons?
– I was putting my money on further Foxhounds for the role (as the current version is not ideally configured for this role)

October 15, 2011 10:24 pm

But he was the Minister of Defence, not the cheque signer in chief.

He should have had the wherewithall (is that a word or a sentance?) to tell the defence staff they were wrong, considering these are the people who wanted to spend £60bn on FRES, it can happen.

What Jackals would do to a light infantry regiment moving across the country in Bedfords doesnt bare thinking about, they’d’ve been tits at goose green too, for extended range war fighting, they are phenominal. But Logistics Patrols in Afghanistan are not extended range warfighting. The Jinglies being escorted have to use the roads and bridges, so the jackals escorting them have to drive near those same roads and bridges, doesnt matter how mobile you are, if you have to stay within eye contact of the bridge, that narrows your crossing points into a mineable number.

Anything but Ridgeback, Mastiff and Wolfhound is the wrong answer if the question is “convoys in Afghanistan”.

Stick a Javelin in the back and Jackal is awesome for the first wave and expansion phase of an amphibious assault. Its great for early deep range patrols and interdictions against an enemy without armour.
But its not a convoy escort against a mine warfare strategy.
Its not a bad vehicle, in the same way a 747 isnt a bad aircraft. We dont use 747’s to dogfight SU30’s.

October 16, 2011 9:54 am

I fully agree with your line of thought “But he was the Minister of Defence, not the cheque signer in chief.”
– I think in the early days, when he took over, he gave a statement that the existing delegation limit was for (anything?) up to £400m

October 16, 2011 10:33 am

lol, my first job, anything over £500 had to go to the group fd, for whom we had a po box number :-)

October 16, 2011 8:02 pm

@ Admin – “Does doing a good job insulate you from the consequences of your actions?”

No, he behaved improperly so he had to go, that is politics, but, that does not mean I am not very sorry to see him cease to be at the head of the MoD as defence needs his reforms.

Unpleasant as they were in the absence of an increase of 8%, rather than 8% cut that actually happened, this was the only way to balance the MoD books after years of fantasy economics whereby the Gov’t threw the forces into war after war while refusing to fund the equipment necessary to fight those wars.

If we want to argue that defence should have got that 8% increase rather than an 8% decrease then fine, i’m with that 100%, but that was simply never going to happen at a time the CSR was demanding a department average of an 19% budget reduction.

If that is the case, and we are stuck in afghanistan till 2015, then chopping aged stovl carriers with aged stovl jets – which have little training commonality with the proposed change to catobar – makes a great deal of sense.

Can anyone find a better way of chop the budget, accommodate the capital cost of the trident replacement, make good a £38b procurement overhang, without resorting to yet more destructive salami-slicing and fantasy economics?

Fox made a choice to focus resources and capabilities on naval and expeditionary elements, and to reduce the army to 85,000 as a consequence, and i think he made the right choice unless we can magic a huge Defence budget increase into existence…………?

The case against his resigning is far more compelling, and likewise based on ‘judgement’, for his Defence reforms represent the very best outcome that I could hope for in the light of the CSR.

I hope his successor continues in the direction Fox mapped out.

October 16, 2011 8:04 pm

@ FBoT – “Did LF cost the MOD £700mill / £1.1bill pa?
Did his posturing mean the MOD lost 8% instead of the expected 5%?”

Is there any evidence for either statement?

I’m pretty sure the expectation was a 15-17 percent cut prior to the SDSR……………….

October 16, 2011 8:18 pm

The best politicians are driven by ambition (I am not saying that LF was among the best) and to get to PM (who else has a say about how to bind together diplomacy, intelligence, armed forces and foreign aid?)they will all have to have a stepping stone, many in fact.

What bothers me is the “private” foreign policy aspect. The fact that any of that happened is very disturbing.

October 16, 2011 8:24 pm

Has anyone else spotted the “extra” £3.9bn?
– I put the quote (from Telegraph) on the Open Thread as I am sure it predates the LF debate, even the tenure.

October 16, 2011 8:46 pm

i’ve not ‘done the numbers’, but i think historicaly most pms go from shadow minister (so know nothing) to shadow leader to pm.
Lets face it, ‘ed’ wasnt a serious minister and its far from likely he’s going to be pm. None of the floaters from last time will displace him either.
Dont get me started on the current front bench….

October 16, 2011 9:09 pm

RE “Lets face it, ‘ed’ wasnt a serious minister and its far from likely he’s going to be pm.”
– he was just one mafia’s plot/ revenge on two others
– just imagine the defence policy under Ed

Mike W
October 16, 2011 9:58 pm

“I’m pretty sure the expectation was a 15-17 percent cut prior to the SDSR……………….”

Yes, I agree with you. In fact, a the very beginning I heard the figure of 20% expected cuts.

I have no where FBoT got his figure for the following:

“Did his posturing mean the MOD lost 8% instead of the expected 5%?”

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
October 16, 2011 10:58 pm

Jedi-B et al

15 / 17 / 20% reductions in the MOD budget were all a bit of Treasury scaremongering, shroud waving, negotiating ploys.

The Torygraph story backs up my primal point, LF was done over in the original settlement as a F-U for doing his negotiating through the papers.

As for the original sources they were media stories after the event.

Biggest issue in all of these numbers is the fact that the MOD budget has been cut in real terms by 8% over 4-5 years yet we have lost 30% capability in 12 months in 2 of the 3 services.

The numbers do not lie, the MOD is a shambles.
Just what is the wage bill and what level of value does it generate?

35K in the RN – What is the wage bill?
Anything over £1.5bill and we are being had.

If the MOD / Services are looking at 250K in total in 2010, what is the total wage bill – £10bill ?
Again, value for money?

I fear we are needing a New Model Army / Air Force / Navy.

October 16, 2011 11:00 pm

“Biggest issue in all of these numbers is the fact that the MOD budget has been cut in real terms by 8% over 4-5 years yet we have lost 30% capability in 12 months in 2 of the 3 services.”

Were you not aware of the fantasy accounting that led to a £38b overhang?

October 17, 2011 7:41 am

Thanks for raising that, TD, I was about to

October 17, 2011 8:53 am

Have we ever seen a breakdown of the £38b by the way, what was it made up of?

This is a good point and I can’t be the only one to suspect that this is an exercise in kitchen-sink accounting (i.e. chuck everything you can think of in there and pull it forward to this year to generate a huge number that justifies whatever you wanted to do anyway).

Public sector accounts are incredibly weird anyway, and being cute with them is behind a lot of our problems (tory side: PFI, Annington Homes, not buying A310MRTT back in ’96, labour side: slowing down the carriers to save money in-year and nearly doubling the overall price)

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
October 17, 2011 11:30 am

Maybe the only good thing to come of this (and maybe Fox’s lasting legacy) will be will be the tightening up of rules regarding lobbyists (being portrayed as a “casting out of the moneychangers” by Call Me Dave). It needs doing, but who in the Cabinet is brave enough to do it, when they realise that the Gravy Train will immediately be withdrawn? After all, our democracy has turned into “government by lobbyists” everyone from Defence Contractors to charities do it!

As to Hammond? As much as I regret saying it, maybe having a good eye on the finances and having to ask expert opinion on capabilties is a good thing for an SSD, or indeed any manager (imho)?

October 18, 2011 11:04 am

McZ: My opinion here is clear. To current standards, neither the Dalai Lama nor Jesus C could meet the standards.

No disrespect to either gentleman, but I think the Dalai Lama would be a terrible Defence Secretary, and Jesus would be even worse*. What with them both being pacifists and everything.

(*The Dalai Lama at least has extensive top-level managerial experience.)

October 28, 2011 1:14 pm

(I find the blasphemy in the above comments falls short of TD’s usual high standards. If it was directed at Islam, TD would be on very sticky ground. Just because the C of E is so forgiving, however, doesn’t make it any more acceptable. TD please remove.)

It is very telling that by March of this year none of the three service chiefs was on speaking terms with Liam Fox. Cameron’s direct involvement in SDSR effectively neutered Fox. With Fox effectively trying to orchestrate his own vision for Foreign Policy behind the scenes, a showdown with the PM was inevitable. But to shoot himself so completely in the foot seems extraordinary.

He is finished politically.

Hammond is a highly competent bean counter who is frequently described as having had his personality amputated. He will certainly do David Cameron’s bidding and cut cost from the Defence budget. Actually, Hammond could be just the man to get a grip of the MoD.

October 28, 2011 3:55 pm

I thought the original was quite funny actualy.
But as a commited adherant to the Temple of the Savior Emperor, I tend to take religious giggles in my stride.