"Liam Fox could have been designed by a committee of Tory modernisers. He was brought up in a council house, educated in a comprehensive and worked as a hospital doctor in the deprived East End of Glasgow. He has met Mother Theresa, still buys pop music and has long campaigned for the unfashionable cause of mental health provision. His wife is a lung cancer specialist and charity worker. But he fails the soft-focus New Tory test on one crucial point: his politics are unashamedly, defiantly Thatcherite."
So begins Fraser Nelson’s Spectator interview with Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
Liam Fox has been very quiet over the last few months. There was one big speech on Iran but little else. This had led the Kremlinologists to believe that the Thatcherite doctor has been avoiding having to defend Camodernisations that he doesn’t like. In the interview Liam Fox insists that he has "been swotting, not sulking". He has been focused on drafting a new Tory defence policy. Here are some of his early conclusions, as revealed to Fraser Nelson:
- Trident: “With regimes like Iran trying to become nuclear powers it seems to be ludicrous for Britain to lose our nuclear deterrent. The onus is on the abolitionists to tell us how they can guarantee we will not face a threat in the next quarter-century that would require us to deter it, if necessary, with the threat of nuclear arms”.
- A dangerous world: Fox’s world view is bleak: Russia has quadrupled its defence budget “and while that is not a direct threat to us, regimes can change.” He believes recent British deployment to the bandit-ridden Helmand province of Afghanistan is too small. “We’re sending 1,300 combat troops for a country twice the size of Wales” he says. The Tory critique is nuanced: do it properly, or don’t do it at all. This is an issue where the normal Labour-Tory support over military action may founder.
- Defence expenditure: “The defence budget is now 2.3 per cent of our national income, the lowest since 1930,” he says. “Before Blair came into power, he had the gall to talk about military overstretch. Today, we have more attack aircraft in the RAF museum than under strike command.” Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tories have proposed cutting defence spending: Fox wants to either reverse this trend, or to pull out troops. “Britain can no longer avoid this debate,” he says. “If we want to keep doing these kinds of operations, we should pay for it.”