By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.
As I've written before, I didn't get to know Liam Fox well during my ten years in the Commons. Our paths didn't cross during the 2001-2005 Parliament, and I voted for David Davis as leader during the next one (which didn't exactly draw us closer). He ran a bright, sharp, effective campaign during that contest, made a punchy speech at Party Conference, and was unlucky not to make it into the final ballot – where Team Cameron definitely didn't want him. I've always thought he is a jaunty, fluent professional with authentic Conservative views, and a real doctor to boot, with a real interest in such unfashionable matters as mental health. If anyone could claim to be the leader of the right in Cabinet, it was probably Liam Fox.
He has just made a personal statement to the Commons, and it was a model of how to get a message across. In this case, its emotional core was that although he resigned "without bitterness or rancour" he has recently experienced "vindictiveness and hatred". That this is a mixed message goes without saying, and the stress inevitably fell on the last part of it – which, as Fox will have known in advance, is what reports of his statement will lead with. Talking of stress, the former Defence Secretary looked shaken by recent events: almost anyone would be. It is astonishing that the first Defence Secretary to resign since Profumo is this consummate politician – on-message enough to have chosen a bright blue tie for his appearance.
Fox emphasised that no breach of propriety or national security has been found, but that he accepts personal responsibility for his mistakes. He attacked uncritical reporting of the claims of Harvey Boulter; praised his family and friends, paid due tribute to David Cameron and didn't mention Adam Werritty. But he did say that "you don't turn back on family and friends in times and trouble". Love and friendship matter to nearly everyone, loyalty counts politicians in a particular way, and Fox clearly values it very highly. What brought him down was carrying into Government a private support network that should have ended with opposition – an astounding lapse of judgement. I hope he is able to come back to office in future stronger for having learned from his mistakes.