It is almost heartening really to find that the Tories, in spite of protestations to the contrary, are still the same old sleazy lot as they have always been. Of course they have changed now in as much as their ability to handle the media has improved and they have managed this through what Orwell had described years before as Newspeak. A case in point is the currently beleaguered Defence minister Dr Liam Fox who is accused of impropriety regarding the conduct of himself and “a friend” with whom he has been seen at various functions where it would have been expected that only authorised MoD personnel or government officials would have been present.

Rather than blazon out the storm and simply say that nothing had happened, or to come out ashen-faced and say he screwed up and throw himself on the mercy of the Prime Minister as might have happened in the media-naive pre New Labour days, Fox has been a great deal more crafty and ended up doing a combination of both. Let’s have a look at what he said:

“I do accept that given Mr Werritty’s defence-related business interests, my frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing, and may also have given third parties the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend”

Let’s deconstruct this tangled web woven by the minister, the phrase “given the impression” implies that despite how it might look no impropriety took place.  To then use the same term again in that the impression may have been given that Werritty was an official advisor implies that somehow people have jumped to the wrong conclusion on both points.  In fact Fox did not stop here but went on to cast aspersions in the more than a little right-wing biased Sunday Telegraph stating that “underlying issues behind these claims and the motivation is deeply suspect”.  Clearly of the belief that being held to account for his actions was a task well beneath a minister.  So did he actually do anything wrong or is this another ‘expenses defence’ in that no actual rules were broken despite the morally questionable nature of the conduct being pretty plain.

In the Ministerial code it clearly states that ministers “must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests“.  That would appear to make it quite clear that at least in respect of Parliamentary conduct Fox has transgressed.  Moreover since Werritty attended meetings with Fox and had business cards printed that referred to him being a direct advisor it is pretty clear why such an impression might have been arrived at.  What is also interesting about the latter point is that Fox claims that he told Werritty in June not to hand out these cards because they gave the wrong impression.  Given that he was aware so long ago why was the matter not made public at this point in order for Fox to be open and honest about the situation, rather than waiting until late August when confronted about it by MoD Permanent Secretary, Ursula Brennan?  After all in the Sunday Telegraph interview Fox had said that he had “absolutely no fear of complete transparency in these matters” which doesn’t quite seem to tally with the months of silence.

Let us also not forget that this is not someone just taking their mate to an office party to avail of a free bar, this is a man who has already brokered deals between Fox and businessmen being admitted to a circle that inevitably involves highly classified information of a national security nature.  How this could be construed as anything other than a serious conflict of interest and abuse of ministerial privilege is beyond me.  David Cameron on the other hand believes that Fox should be given the chance to explain, a pity the latter was not keen to do so before the revelations were made public by the media investigations and I’m afraid this is where I lose sympathy.  If you have done something wrong and you are aware of it and wish to atone you come clean and ask for forgiveness, if absolution is given then you may return to the fray hopefully a wiser person and with your integrity intact. After all we all make mistakes but it is what we do with them both during and after that defines our true conduct.

The truth is that Fox has been caught with his hand in the till but was not clutching any money at the time and would have us believe that the money in his pocket is not the result of the pilfering and that to suggest otherwise is to accuse without substantiation.  [Rather like the accusations of those on Incapacity Benefit all being scroungers that sort of thing, the Tories know a thing or two about unsubstantiated accusations.]  The fact is that Fox is trying to make a great fuss about the accusations about the contents of his pocket in order to deflect his attention to his hand being in the till in the first place.  Cameron has shown himself to be either too weak to do anything about a member of his cabinet or unwilling to take a stand to preserve the semblance of moral integrity of the government.  There may be multiple reasons for this.  Firstly Fox is a senior figure on the Tory right, given that the Tory centre is to the right of Genghis Khan this means Fox leads the rabid section of the party (you can make the jokes up at this point yourselves!)  Cameron is not keen to have such a senior member languishing wounded and angry on the backbenchers where he may snipe at an already frail government.  Additionally Cameron probably feels that Fox has been foolish but not outright criminal, but this misses the point, very often ministers and MPs have to leave their positions in order not to bring the government into disrepute because they have lost the confidence of their colleagues, this as stated at the beginning though is a new Tory party, one with the same politics as before and very often the same figures but more adept at smoke and mirrors.  Let us not forget that the Health bill is going through the House of Lords this very week so further deflection from this is also very much to the government’s advantage, especially since the Lib-Dems are having to try to pressure their own peers who are reluctant to support the bill and are not subject to the same political control as their colleagues in the Commons.

All in all it is yet another example of power and privilege, of the contempt that the national politicians show the wider population, if there is anyone out there who did not know this already then where the fuck have you been?

Song Of The Day ~ The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy – Down The Drain