Coffee House

Ministers behaving oddly

14 October 2011

It’s a rum deal being a Global Networker. This morning’s Times reports (£) that Adam Werritty has received nearly £200,000 in donations from clients who appear to have employed
Werritty to lobby Liam Fox on ideological issues such as Israel, the Special Relationship and Euroscepticism; although why anyone thought it necessary to lobby Fox, who is a resolute
neo-Conservative and Atlanticist, on these matters is something of a mystery.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reveals that Fox and Werritty
enjoyed a $500-a-head dinner with American military figures in Washington, which the Ministry of Defence has not disclosed (perhaps because no British official attended the dinner). This suggests
that Werritty and Fox may have met abroad on more occasions than is currently thought. None of this seems to fall in Fox’s favour, although it has also emerged that Werritty is connected to defence minister Lord Astor, which may take some of
the heat from the defence secretary — but you wouldn’t bet on it.          

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But, if you think the Fox-Werritty axis is odd, think again. Oliver Letwin has escaped from his box in the Cabinet Office and has been caught disposing of government documents in the bins of St.
James’ Park. The Mirror has the full story (and pictures), which it
relates in gleefully excoriating tones. Letwin maintains that none of these documents were “sensitive”; but, even so: behaving like a fugitive in a Le Carre novel doesn’t look

Neither does it inspire confidence in the government’s competence, which has been shaken this week by the revival of the Lansley Health Risk. As Fraser has noted, Lansley’s shortcomings as a politician are all too evident, but he was still strikingly bad on
Question Time last night, albeit in very hostile surroundings. The presence of Dr Phil Hammond (GP, stand-up comic and
contributor to Private Eye) on the panel should have alerted Lansley of an ambush. But, by the end of their exchanges, it appeared as though Lansley didn’t understand his own legislation and
certainly didn’t know his way around it. Hammond knew that this televised debate would be decided largely by how it looked on screen. He simply waved a copy of
the Bill in front of the cameras and flicked through it occasionally, which created the impression that he could point to the relevant section to support his argument at will. 

Lansley, of course, knows the legislation back to front, but he answered Hammond not by picking up the text and indicating exactly where the Bill guards against privatisation or insists that
care should be integrated. Rather, he chose words — far too many words, delivered with an air presumed superiority. He said “I want to reassure you” so often that
it implied the opposite, and his spiels became ever more convoluted. The tribal audience soon turned completely against him and he began to grin and chuckle in awkward apology. It was excruciating
to watch; Celebrity Big Brother beckons.

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Show comments
  • ndm

    David Blackburn writes:

    — Fox, who is a resolute neo-Conservative

    I would have thought being a devotee of an utterly discredited ideology would have been reason enough not to give him the job in the first place.

  • Tony (Somerset)

    David Cameron really needs to get a grip.

    It is surely self evident that a minister in charge of the defence of the realm must be seen to be in complete command of his brief and the situation surrounding him. Our safety and security demands nothing less.

    Any minister showing such appalling lack of common sense as Oliver Letwin appears to have done should be shown the door immediately.

    A Prime Minister who fails to take appropriate action demonstrates his own weakness, a weak PM is the last thing we need right now.

    Perhaps Mr Cameron could dispose of Messrs Fox, Letwin, and Huehne as a job lot.

  • Nicholas

    “All the whingeing on here about the lefty BBC is pathetic.”

    No, it is the lefty BBC that is pathetic and those who deny its bias possibly more so. Its bias is well testified to, not least by arch doyens of the lefty BBC themselves. The fact is that this country as a whole has been shunted left, not centre, and anyone who objects to that is likely to be accused of being an “extreme right wing” loony.

  • Dean

    Purpleline – are you serious? Would you want to be washed and wiped by an unemployed youth who is doing it because otherwise his Jobseeker’s will be stopped?

  • Bill Brinsmead

    Ex Buller but overt Labour supporter Dimbleby ignored Mark Littlewood for most of the programme. Ms Sands looked nice.

  • Sue Collini

    The idiocy and incompetence of this government is breathtaking, as is the total absence of leadership or grip on the part of the Prime Minister. Who and where are the famous men in grey suits who are going to confront Cameron and tell him to start showing some judgement and resolve or to go. As one of the many ill-judged Tory election posters had it: we cannot go on like this.

  • FvH

    All the whingeing on here about the lefty BBC is pathetic

    The Question Time and Any Questions audience are as likely to applaud a Tory going on about law and order and the EU as they are a lefty complaining about NHS cuts

    Lansley is a dead loss – over complicated things and has set back the cause of reform

  • and I’ll go to bed at noon


    “a thoroughly alien influence in our government”

    I really hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means, but your use of the phrase “Neo-Con”, especially by a person of the Right, is also a dead giveaway. If I’m right, I don’t want your agreement.

  • daniel maris

    Letwin is a diversion. Fox has gone to ground but the hounds of the press will drag him out – piece by piece. Cameron should put a stop to it now. Fox has done wrong by allowing himself to form a close association with a paid lobbyist, allowing him to accompany him on official visits. That’s enough in itself, but we all know there’s a lot more.

  • Gus W

    Interesting point, RocketDog, have you thought of posing that one to Dr Fox?

  • MajorFrustration

    Where is David Davis when you need him? Come back all is forgiven. Sorry Dave you had your chance.

  • Ruby Duck

    Small note to Purpleline.

    The biggest users of NHS and all other welfare services are old people, so I suggest that your list of those that should be made to pay for private insurance start with those genetically disposed to live to a great age and anyone pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

  • RocketDog

    QT. Don’t ususally watch it, but interested in Health, and so did. Unbelieveable. Red Ken being pious about media balance on the BBC! Lansley was onto a loser as the ‘audience’ seemed to have difficulty getting their words out straight, never mind trying to understand his argument. The lefty ‘comedian’ GP must have cost us all something to train. Why wasn’t he in A&E somewhere stitching up car crash victims and not Ministers of the Crown
    It was a circus

  • Tony (Somerset)

    Where are Letwin’s green credentials ? Shouldn’t his unwanted paperwork have been re-cycled ?

  • Fish

    ‘…albeit in very hostile surroundings’

    You bet. It wouldn’t have mattered which Tory was on QT last night, the BBC (or the production company) who claim balance, assembled a rigged audience of activists who would shout down anyone who would dare to criticise the NHS.

    Most of those who spoke were complacent in their self interest and in complete denial, preferring to think of the NHS as univerally loved…a world leader.

    What was astonishing about last nights’s QT was that there was not a single question or a comment about the biggest issue that emerged yesterday – the CQC report in to the appalling care of the elderly. So astonishing as to reinforce a feeling that there was something that was not quite right about the programme; the BBC must have felt that the report would not fit with their narrative or that of their chosen audience – a sharp contrast to all of those ringing in to PM and Nicky Campbell yesterday who had plenty of evidence about the NHS’ failings.
    So much so that Campbell seemed a bit defeated that so many (including NHS staff) were critical and seemed to be pleading for those supporting the NHS to ring in. Perhaps they were too busy, making their way to the QT venue.

  • Dimoto

    Have to agree with “bed at noon” bloke.

    Yes, the media are trashy and our civil service deeply compromised, and both are Labour-infiltrated, but what has that got to do with our Defence Minister casually showing that he is in the pocket of the deeply discredited Neo-Con tendency ?
    That is a thoroughly alien influence in our government.
    What happened to Cameron’s “insisting on impeccable standards in a government led by me” ?

    As for Letwin, another idiot, brought up in a sheltered environment, with a strong sense of gilded entitlement, and a responsibility deficit.

    Cameron doesn’t want a reshuffle, but he should cleanse the cabinet of lame-brains and bring in some new blood.

    It would be salutary.

  • Pot Head

    When CH starts choosing pictures of Fox looking like a nobber you know the game is up.

  • Master Cobbett

    One of the reasons that the QT audience is a lefty gormfest is that it’s recorded earlier in the evening; most people working in commerce, industry and the like, want to go home after a days work. This leaves the studio audience free to be filled with teachers, local government workers, nurses ( not a job to boast about at the moment ) and the dreaded students and even school children. The BBC are aware of this; in recent years they have slanted the panel in favour of the right or ‘centre right’, but its useless against such an increasingly vocal and strident audience. Its the same on radio 4’s Any Questions.

  • alexsandr

    Letwin is an arse behaving like that. We are all told to look after our personal papers and shred them. And there is a minister of the crown disposing of stuff in an ill disciplined way. Its either arrogance or ignorance.
    He should have taken the unwanted stuff to the office and shredded them.
    does no-one train politicians about data security because they seem to be amazingly dozy about this.

  • Nicholas

    Dr Phil Hammond’s politics are left-wing and he works for the BBC as part of their exclusive “lefty comedian” cabal (not inconvenienced by any right wing comic alternative) so he was hardy a neutral observer. I agree that Lansley’s response to his propaganda stunt was dire. Gobby Labour activist “audience” questions (often ideological rants), heckling and booing now seems to be an integral part of the show (trial).

    Tories are mugs. Attempting to “play the game” against a scripted opposition who drive the narrative with relentless propaganda and who own the BBC.

  • FvH

    The lack of real leadership doesn’t help

    Call me Dave’s talkthetalk NOT walkthewalk will mean more retreat, u-turn and embarrassment

    Fox clearly has no respect for him and feels he can challenge his leadership with impunity

    Still a few more lovely, lovely speeches from the Eton 6th form debating society playbook and everything will be just fine!!

  • Maggie

    On Question Time last night and as soon as Dimbleby said “Question Time comes tonight from (some college/ university)…” I knew the BBC would have assembled a baying mob rather than an audience so I turned it straight off.

  • Silent Hunter

    And the difference between this government and the last would be. . . .?

    Perhaps if the MSM “went after” ALL the corrupt politicians, bankers & petty bureaucrats in equal measure . . . we would have a better world in which to live.

    I see that Dave Hartnett – the top civil servant and head of HMRC, who allowed Goldman Sachs off their £40 million tax bill has been allowed to quietly slip off the news agenda.

    Who says crime doesn’t pay . . . especially when your a top civil servant or a Minister.

  • and I’ll go to bed at noon


    Yes, utterly sickening, the way the BBC forced Liam Fox, at knifepoint, to bring his mate along on official business. Also, how the Mirror tricked poor Mr Letwin by taking a photograph of a thing he was doing. Worst of all, the entire MSM* have obviously colluded in swapping health policy genius Andrew Lansley for an impostor who can barely string a sentence together. The blackguards!

    Back on planet Earth: I seem to recall the same media, who are supposed to be relentlessly pro-Labour, running endlessly with the (many) stories of incompetence under Brown, such as the various lost data scandals. “Our leaders are bumbling fools” is always, always a good story, regardless of the party in power. Of course, the difference is that Labour were in power for a decade before the scenery seriously started collapsing.

    *Another brilliant American import.

  • Purpleline

    Fits of all I am not an apologist for The ‘Dandy’ Letwin or Fox. But I do see a danger in the lynch mob mentality of the newspapers and left in cahoots with Labour stalking these men.

    It is obvious Fox made enemies in putting right the MOD budget. However, that said, I as a staunch Tory believe he is not suited to government.
    The Dandy needs time out in a clinic he is obviously going through a mid life crisis. That said again one must question why were the Mirror alerted, who alerted them, why were they stalking him in a public park.

    With regard to Lansley, I feel sorry for the man, I honestly believe he is pushing water uphill with reforms to the NHS. It is simply a cancer eating away at our society, it is a money pit, with vested interests so secured in their position they are and feel untouchable.

    It is time to add privatisation into the health service by introducing insurance for certain treatments. If your illness is self caused, eating, accident / personal injury from Sport. Obesity, Lung Cancer caused by smoking, drug or drink related then the person attending Hospital should have private insurance cover to pay for treatment.

    To avoid health tourism, we should have an initial £150 excess charge at Hospitals, repaid immediately through the NI or PAYE system into the salary.

    And on fast food outlets a voluntary voucher system to start with where the customer can pay an additional £2 on top of his burger n Chips to receive a voucher increased by £3 by the local NHS trust for access to a gym or health centre.

    Finally, use the unemployed youth in the NHS on the wards as a special corp to look after the patients, as obviously Nurses are now too important to wash n wipe. The wage could be linked to job seekers scale but with an option of free university fees for those wishing to move into higher education. For those not looking to go to higher education the NHS can make up the salary difference to match the minimum wage.

  • Jon Carter

    I think your appraisal of Lansley on QT last night is a little unfair. It was unbelievable TV. I really do think that the BBC need to sort out the show. Dimbleby doesn’t even put up a pretence of neutrality, and the audience is, every week, biased towards the left – and even more so when the main issue is the NHS. It is almost beyond a joke. I actually feel sorry for any government minister.

  • Nick

    You would have thought that Letwin would, at least, have gained some kudos from being up at 5.30 working on behalf of his constituents.

  • Woody

    Looks like the whole of the MSM is in hunting mode this week. They can’t bring down the coalition it seems, so they are going after individual minister’s one at a time.

    Truly sickening.

    No wonder newspaper sales are falling. Journalism in this country is just the absolute pits.

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