By Paul Goodman
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Richard Kay of the Mail wrote today about Liam Fox's party earlier this week. He correctly records that George Osborne was present: the Chancellor never misses a chance to keep a friendship in working order. Kay also identifies Chris Grayling and the actor Edward Fox. Among the other Ministers I saw there were Gerald Howarth and Stephen O'Brien, plus David Cameron's PPS, Desmond Swayne, and Mark Francois, now the third most senior whip.
Indeed, there was a sizeable contingent from the whips' office present plus Fox supporters from the 2005 leadership contest – the one sometimes flows into the other. As far as I could see, the former Defence Secretary was also operating a Eurosceptics-only invite policy. He made a short speech in which he noted that "to say 2011 was uneventful for me is a bit of an understatement". We can expect to hear more from him in 2012.
Which got me thinking. I suppose Fox would like to return to the Cabinet. I suspect this is unlikely in the near future, though one never knows. But whether he does or not, the self-styled "free market, Unionist, atlanticist Euro-sceptic" would clearly like to keep his name in lights and has a lot of views to offer. The former Defence Secretary was on the front bench for roughly 20 years. When he started, the main means of getting one's message across was to make a speech.
Fox will obviously use this method both in the Commons and out of it. But if he really wants to help frame political debate both in the party and outside it he should write a blog (as well as get on Twitter). There are some first-rate MP bloggers around, and I will cite just two of them, one not so well known – I think – and one well known.
The one not so well known is Rory Stewart's. This is counter-intuitive, given that he is a successful author and lovely writer, but his is a reflective, meditative blog which is not trying to make waves at Westminster. The one better known is John Redwood's. His is not so much a work of art as one of brainpower. Redwood is a highly intelligent man, and his sharp and lucid blog sends waves splashing through the Village and elsewhere.
Above all, he blogs pretty much every day and gets his daily article up first thing: there is no substitute for maintaining momentum and starting early, thereby helping to frame the day's events – and maintain his presence as a player in the Conservative Party. For example, his recent piece on Scottish and English nationalism was a timely reminder that lots of Tory MPs have a sympathy for the latter. His blog also allows him to display his pawky sense of humour.
So the man who wants to make a comeback in 2012 could do worse than follow the example of Conservative Home's backbencher of the year in 2011. The former Shadow Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary has a lot to say about world affairs. He was also Shadow Health Secretary for years and Party Chairman briefly. He lacks neither energy nor ideas. A blog would provide an outlet for both.