I can confirm that Liam Fox was offered Minister of State at the Foreign Office with responsibility for India, China and Latin America. He politely declined the Prime Minister’s idea, even when it was later sweetened with the offer of a place in the National Security Council. Fox, a former party chairman and defence secretary, had been tipped for a comeback and foreign policy is one his great loves (he recently wrote a book, Rising Tides, about the various risks the world faces). So why turn it down? My guess is that he saw Cameron’s offer as a means of plonking him on a slow boat to China in the last 12 months before an election. Fox has plenty to say – on the need for a more ambitious economic policy, the Russian threat and the need for European reform. He’s served more time on the frontbenches than almost anyone who has worked for Cameron, and is able to make these points without the platform of a job title. Also, how many meetings of the Security Council would he have attended if he was deployed down the Yangtze?
UPDATE Fox has now confirmed this, with a statement below:-
“I was honoured to be offered a post as Minister of State in the Foreign Office by the Prime Minister. I have turned it down. The issues that matter most to me and my constituents in North Somerset are the economy, immigration and Europe. I do not want to be distracted from what needs to be said on these matters at such an important time politically and I look forward to discussing them from the backbenches in the lead up to the General Election.”
P.S. I’m struck by how few of my colleagues are familiar with ‘Slow Boat to China’, so I’ve embedded it above for the uninitiated.