British Defence Secretary Liam Fox resigned on Friday over his friendship with a businessman who posed as his adviser, jolting Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government and potentially slowing down efforts to reform the military.
Cameron named Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, generally seen as a safe pair of hands, as the new defence secretary. Hammond is considered to be on the right of the governing Conservative Party, but not to the same extent as Fox, around whom many ministers had rallied before his resignation.
Fox, 50, who oversaw Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan and Libya, admitted he had allowed the lines between his personal and professional life to blur. The British media have in the last week been awash with stories about the relationship between Fox and his former flatmate and best man, Adam Werritty, 34, who met often with Fox at the defence ministry and on his official trips abroad.
“I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred,” Fox said in a resignation letter to Cameron.
“The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days. I am very sorry for this.” The loss of Fox amid accusations of impropriety could open Cameron up to allegations of sleaze, a failing that helped doom the last Conservative-led government in a 1997 election, relegating the party to opposition for the next 13 years.
Cameron can ill-afford the government’s authority to be compromised as it pushes through the toughest austerity measures in a generation to tackle a big budget deficit. The integrity of parliament itself has only recently recovered from an expenses scandal that saw several legislators prosecuted.
In a letter, Cameron said he was “very sorry” to see Fox go, and praised the “superb job” he had done. Fox’s successor would have to reconfigure the military, as well as manage the eventual return of British troops from Afghanistan and take decisive action during future conflicts.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ