As I write, Dr Liam Fox (to give him his Bond-esq proper moniker) is still Secretary of State for Defence. This is now highly unlikely to be something that lasts the day given the reverlations in the Daily Telegraph; although, having said all that, David Cameron does appear to relish being the patron saint of lost causes (witness his grim determination to hang-on to Andy Coulson) so, you never know.
It should probably go without saying that Fox should be sacked. Quite what he was thinking in conducting his dealings with his best man, Adam Werrity, in the way he did is frankly a bit beyond me. I always think with these things, regardless of the level of actual corruption involved, tend to raise very big competency and judgement-based questions about the person involved.
Scandals tell us something about the people involved but they also, invariably in some distorted way, mirror the character of the government that spawns them. This is because the governments themselves unconsciously set the parameters of likely enquiry by the press. So, John Major’s government was hit by a slew of sex-scandals precisely because it played the ‘family values’ and ‘Back to Basics’ card.
Under Labour, things were different. What defined both the Blair and Brown governments was the extent to which both they embraced the market so, the fact that Bernie Ecclestone and Cash-For-Peerages became the big issues is not surprising. Note I don’t include expenses, because that was a more general thing that confirmed people’s long-held and deeply felt mistrust of the entire political process – it wasnt a Labour Party ‘issue’, nor a Conservative one.
This government will be marked by scandals which boil down to cronyism which is a reflection of the fact that it’s composed of a social elite which is distant even from the upper echelons of the middle class. Of course, this is not to say that the leadership of Labour is not socially elite but our leadership team comes from privileged middle class backgrounds, not privileged aristocratic ones and that is an important difference. It’s a difference that makes Cameron & Co even more disconnected and even more vulnerable to allegations of cronyism and of being a charmed circle, closed off to the rest of us.
Foxgate in that sense is setting the mould for the future stories yet to come. It’s an indicator of a broad theme that will continue throughout this government – they, the government are not really ‘amoung us’, they are aloof from us and are using that position, as Dr Fox did, to unfairly advantage those whom their good graces fall upon. It is this point that Labour should subtly hammer away at when dealing with these issues as they arise. No matter the context of the individual case, they all illustrate the fact that, David Cameron and the government, when they speak of Britain, of ‘British business’ and of the ‘nation’ really mean an exclusive social set that they belong too.
Let’s be quite clear, Liam Fox is not a ‘bad apple’, he is the product of his surroundings and everything this government stands for. Following Hackgate, it would be unfair to say this is the first story of its type, it does however look like the being the first to claim a senior ministerial casualty – let’s make sure it’s not the last but also not forget that the only way to end this kind of cronyism is to remove this government from office.