Paterson on stand by for Defence?

I know Liam Fox is in the job, and rumours of his immanent departure may be exaggerated, but as a fellowright winger in the cabinet, our own Secretary of State, Owen Paterson it seems is the favoured son of the right should the Secretary of State for Defence have to step down.

They argue that he’s needed to maintain political balance within the coalition cabinet. It may also suit Mr Cameron to keep a right winger camped on the Military establishment to hammer through cuts and reforms in procurement policy that are likely to be unpopular in that quarter.

If it occurs, that’s one hell of a step up and out…


  • Have never heard Owen Patterson being discussed in circles on the ‘right’ except as someone in the IDS sphere (and IDS is rarely enough discussed), and never in respect of being promoted to anything. However, with Cameron, nothing would be a surprise and Patterson would be much more likely to work along the Party line.

    Fox has been subject to a great many leaks and stories since he took on the Defence role: he is known to fight the Defence corner robustly, and on principle, while targeting the huge waste in contracts and top-heavy command. Take your pick on who would wish to see him go, but now its personal and that is a whole different level that borders on the reckless.

  • Drumlins Rock

    what ever happened to a “slap on the wrists” the whole idea of sacking ministers for any and every misdemeanour is out of hand, and has been for years, surely there has to be some scope for monor mistakes to be acknowledged but without causing disruption and turmoil in the departments far exceeding any potential failure the original act may have resulted in.

  • nabidana

    @thedissenter he’s Cornerstone group. He’s the very model of a modern right-of-centre tory. My kind of guy. @drumlinsrock if the misdemeanour is serious enough, he’ll go. He has honour, he’s not like the Labour lot.

  • There have been straws in the wind, and whispers in shell-likes, for a few days.

    Fox has a track-record of being puffed in the press shortly in advance of major outings. He hasn’t been forgiven for those convenient and inexplicable “leaks”. One of my acquaintances suggested that the skids well and truly went under Fox when that photograph of him with Thatcher appeared on the eve of the Tory Conference.

    Note, too, the comment (Nicholas Watt in The Guardian) that Fox’s:
    greatest offence, in the eyes of senior Tories, was the shiny blue shirt he wore. “That was a sackable offence,” one source joked.

    Meanwhile consider the emphases on:
    ¶ the age difference between Fox and Werrity,
    ¶ that theirs is a “close relationship”,
    ¶ the way yesterday’s Independent editorial gratuitously linked Fox/Werritty with Hague/Myers,
    ¶ the throw-away in yesterday’s Times that Werritty was in the “spare room” of Fox’s second-home flat,
    ¶ how often the story keeps coming back to hotel rooms, including the one in Dubai “which had not been granted MoD clearance”.

    One might think we were being told something therein, something that is also in those indiscreet whisperings.

    Now take in the generality of today’s (London) news-stands. The reptiles have the scent of blood in the water: the Mail in particular using the word “lying” in its main headline, which is a substantial gloss on what Jim Murphy actually said. Guido Fawkes (and it appears to be the man himself, not the junior Tory Bear, is pointing to the betting odds — now evens of Fox being the first out of the coop.

  • Comrade Stalin


    what ever happened to a “slap on the wrists” the whole idea of sacking ministers for any and every misdemeanour is out of hand,

    This is not a misdemeanour. This is apparently someone having special access at high levels within the Ministry of Defence without being formally employed, and therefore without having been through the usual security checks. Furthermore, that person is apparently representing the country abroad.

    It is a relatively straightforward matter for Ministers to officially appoint trusted confidantes into senior roles within their ministries – so the fact that Fox did not do this suggests either that he is an idiot, or that there is something about this man that precludes him from being appointed officially. And whatever those reasons are, Fox is unable to explain them in public.

    Fox may well be the victim of an agenda to have him removed, but he really did set himself up over this. You can’t have government ministers bypassing MoD security procedures and diplomatic protocol.

  • @nabidana Paterson is certainly what Cornerstone would call a ‘Friend and supporter’, and certainly a socially conservative Tory. Modern is not a phrase that would spring to mind.

  • Rory Carr

    Paddy Power. Latest Betting:

    Liam Fox Next Chancellor 6/1

    Liam Fox Next to leave the Coalition Cabinet 6/4

    Liam Fox Next Foreign Secretary 9/2

    Liam Fox Next Prime Minister 12/1

    Dr Liam Fox Next Conservative Leader 12/1

    Fox will most certainly go. And not because of his shiny blue shirt (although that should be a sackble offence) nor even (immediately) because of any manly “mentoring” with Mr Werritty (what a delightfully roguish Dickensian name), but because of the access his relationship with the Defence Minister was allowing Werritty to pursue his own business dealings, the uncertain nature of which we will undoubtedly be regaled with over the coming days.

    There are nine days remaining before the next issue of Private Eye hits the news stands. Mr Fox will not last that long.

  • Rory Carr @ 3:22 pm:

    Reality check on the next issue of Private Eye.

    The last edition came my way on 28th September (number 1298, 30 September – 13 October). So I’m reckoning on this coming Wednesday in my local Sainsbury’s (good to see they’ve caught up with the trend).

    And, as you say, “Mr Fox will not last that long”.

  • The main contender for “next out of the coop”/”rat off the sinking ship” is, of course, Huhne. Even if he gets off the speeding charge, he is up for dumping the Farage-ian cat-litter onto Theresa May.

    Currently the ship-of-state is not a united crew.

    On the other tack, I’d have thought the ambiguous interpretations of Paterson’s political posture would be an advantage. After all Cameron needs all the Cabinet yes-men he can muster.

    Then who goes to Hillsborough? Hugo Swire is yet another Old Etonian, ex-Guardsman, and has redeemed himself from that 2007 Front Bench sacking. Which creates a small spot for another loyal newbie to be b(r)ought onto the payroll.

    Moreover, were Fox to be driven out into the howling wilderness, we can cheerfully expect him to be neutered with “revelations” via the Cameroonie press gang.

  • Watch this space! Has Monday’s Daily Telegraph got the smoking gun?

  • Rory Carr

    Malcolm Redfellow has graciously corrected my error on the date of the next Private Eye, which is indeed due out on Wednesday of this week. I had been away in my retreat on the Blackwater Estuary and missed out a week in the ‘real’ world. I expect in any case that Fox will be toast by then.

    The important question of course is whether or not he was sufficiently long in office to have, like his predecessors at Defence, earned enough gratitude from the big defence contractors to secure a directorship or two, or one or two consultancies at the very least. Even if he has not, I would imagine that rewards will yet be forthcoming if only in order to maintain a tradition and to remind those who might attain the office in future of what goodies lie in store for the reasonable man..

  • Unless anything new comes out in the report by the Cabinet secretary, Fox will survive.

    Time to call off the dogs.

  • Seymour Major @ 8:49 pm:

    Your first sentence may be proven correct. The trouble is that Fox’s account keeps changing: he now admits up to forty occasions when Fox and Werrity have been together — not socially, but either at the MoD or on foreign trips. Fox is emphatic that all this didn’t infringe national security: clearly it did breach the Ministerial Code, and it did — apparently deliberately, as with the choice of a non-approved Dubai hotel — fly under the MoD radar.

    It all comes down to whether Fox has further misled MPs and whether Werrity has gained financially in any way.

    Your second sentence ignores the plain fact that it is Cameron who has set the dogs snarling — e.g. Trevor Kavanagh for The Sun and Peter McKay in the Daily Mail. Equally it is Cameron who has left the holder of major Office of State on “probation” for the next two weeks.

  • Rory Carr

    He hasn’t gone yet. Apparently he was attending a Cabinet meeting earlier today where at least we may imagine that he required no briefing on the main order of business.

    There are so many reasons why this man is unfit for office: his action in entering upon a heterosexual marriage (“marry a beard” in the argot of the demimonde) in order to contest the Tory leadership, effectively constitutes a lie to his electorate and to the party rank and file whom he intended so to deceive. That it also gives the lie to a new found Tory acceptance of “out” homosexuals may not be pertinent but it is worth remarking upon. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” may have been abandoned as policy by the US Army but it still holds good in Berkshire.

    Allowing his male lover, Werritty the opportunity to profit as a consequence of his easy access to Fox in whatever poltical office he held, first as Shadow Health Minister and now as SoS for Defence, surely is quite intolerable. The longer Fox remains the more questions will be asked and when the light starts to shine in one dark corner who knows what other cob-webbed secrets may be revealed. His nervous colleagues will surely send him packing sooner rather than later (and preferably before Friday if my wager is to come good).

  • Rory Carr @ 2:57 pm:

    An afternoon with my long-standing dentist meant I was passing through Liverpool Street, and so picked up Private Eye a day early.

    Sure enough, it’s the first story. Quite short, but the theme is inevitably picked up in the Komic Kuts section.

    For those shy of spending thirty bob, the Eye is being historical, taking the narrative back to 1999.

    … when the MoD passed valuable MRSA-detection technology to a Porton [not as in “Down”, but a vehicle of Harvey Boulter’s] company, Acolyte, in which the taxpayer retained a stake. In 2007 the company was sold to 3M for a price to be determined by commercial success. But no success materialised, says Boulter, due to failures by 3M. Since the MoD retained an interest in the outcome of the case, it was a legitimate matter for Fox to discuss, in the right company of course.

    What the Eye is nibbling at there is the still-unexplained Dubai hotel treff (see! Malcolm knows his spook-novel slang!).

    The Guardian, as far back as June this year, seem to have had the general drift. They asked Fox about Boulter, and the spat with 3M. Fox went into full denial mode. Why, for heaven’s sake? Fox is no pale ingenu: all that he needed to do was say nowt or go off the record.

    Worse still, Fox later imputed deceit to Boulter. [Fox? Boulter? The hunting analogies never cease!]

    So Fox’s initial problem persists. The remarkably under-qualified Werrity has to be the middle-man who schemed this Boulter-Fox meeting in Dubai. Everything goes back to why that had to be kept sub-rosa. Which is why The Times, and others are scenting Werrity’s air-miles.

    Meanwhile, as I am suggesting elsewhere, we can reasonably be sure that Liam Fox was checked over long before he reached his current position. The securocrats took a beating over the Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov triangle, which must be ingrained in the psyche.

    So, any doubts or difficulties, then or subsequently, would have passed across the desk of Jonathan Evans, DG of the Security Service, and from him to GOD himself (the almighty Gus O’Donnell).

    In the current disposition, such wrinkles might then be vouchsafed to GOD’s representative on earth, David Cameron.

    If that didn’t happen … heads will roll. And it won’t be singular.

  • Rory Carr

    He’s gone. And about bloody time too ! Now for the man with the strange attachment to public litter bins.

  • Hope you didn’t have money on the basis of whoever was bigging up Paterson.

  • thedissenter @ 7:10 pm:

    Don’t be daft. Putting money on anything about this lot is piddling into the wind. Pity is they’re piddling our money into the economic gale.

    Meanwhile: Hammond. Is that a roundabout way of his “greatest hits? HS2? And/or 80 mph?

    If so, hoo-bloomin’-ray!

  • MR, reference was back to the original post where “Owen Paterson it seems is the favoured son of the right should the Secretary of State for Defence have to step down.”

  • thedissenter @ 9:39 pm:

    Err, yes.

    A bit of history here. I’m responsible, in a way, for this thread. I emailed Mick Fealty after:
    [a] hearing last Friday-night Westminster pub gossip assuming that Fox was on the way out;
    [b] follow-ups putting Paterson as number two in the succession race (curiously, in that circle, Hammond was not mentioned);
    [c] Mick had noted, as others did, that ConHome were also touting Paterson.

    There is no doubt that the hard Right are very worried about their Cabinet quota. Hammond is regarded as “sound”, but not thoroughly trusted. Greening, now going to Transport, is (I hear) “shrill” — this is a chauvinist lot — but may be something of a pay-off. Greg Hands, getting a small uplift, is Osborne’s messenger to the tea-room, and is regarded as “adaptable” and ambitious: he certainly has put himself about among the grumblers.

    Meanwhile, what of Paterson? The term I heard was “a striver”, which is hardly an enconium. And Hillsborough is the small country, far away, of which we know little — provided it’s not causing grief. So don’t stir any turds.

    When the dust of the Fox-business has settled, we’ll need to re-appraise a whose lot of things: the UK version of the Tea Party (which is/was Fox’s natural environment), HS2, Heathrow expansion, and a whole stack of domestic issues. That really is the limit of this south-of-England Tory Party (Hague being the honourable exception, and the main gainer from the Fox defenetraton).

    Meanwhile Hammond’s job is to keep the brass hats content, while the PBI are given their P45s and put out to grass, while we rat out out of Afghanistan (as we did out of Iraq), while we wind down the Navy, bring back the Stringbags, do a soft-shoe shuffle of as many personnel as possible out of NI and direct them straight down to the Bru, while we close down as many bases north of Newcastle as we can without Salmond going ape … (I’ll leave you to fill in the rest).

  • Greening, shrill? Don’t know, but perhaps best away from the money (and mr Neil) and she is on Dave’s flightpath on Heathrow etc. Don’t know the people you drink with so couldn’t possibly comment on their tendency to chauvinism – though if they think Paterson was for Defence could hazard a guess on their outlook.

    Striver. Good word. Noted Paul Goodman promoting Paterson, which was a surprise. Will pick that up with Mr G sometime.