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« New campaign launched to defend party democracy | Main | Michael Gove MP: The Case for David Cameron »


James Hellyer

In my opinion, that's the best endorsement we've seen here so far! I think it captures the personal and politcal qualities that would suit Dr Fox to the party leadership.

In the past, Dr Fox has been (unfairly) characterised as some sort of uber-Thatcherite. The things he's said since the election on issues as diverse as human rights and mental health, show that he's far more than that. Perhaps more importantly, they confound the perception that the Conservatives are somehow uncaring.

Despite the talk in the press, neither Davis or Cameron has shown that their campaigns have "legs". Polls only show Davis as having more than about 15% support when they narrow the choice to him or Cameron. There's probably a lot still to play for.


While not being my first choice for leader, I do rate Liam highly. The endorsement made an excellent read. The difficulty we have now is much the same as Labour had in the 90s it is difficult to pick out who is Prime Minister material. I think Liam would build on the success of Michael Howard, something I doubt David Davis could do. I'm really not sure if Liam Fox could be 'sold' to the public as a Prime Minister in waiting. Maybe though.

Graeme Archer

He's always seemed quite a real person ie a life outwith politics, which I like, and I think he's constantly under-rated by commentators who are determined that this is solely a Davis vs Cameron discourse. The speeches which have most impressed me during this period have been by David Cameron and (on a wider brief) those by Liam Fox. I can nearly forgive him the "Put the Doctor In The House" stickers from Perth conference in the '80s :-0).

The Political Thinker

I have to agree with James in that I think this is probably the best endorsement so far.

Personally I've always quite liked Liam, and could view him as next Conservative leader and next Prime Minister – Something I'm not sure of about Davis, or Cameron actually. He is young, more likeable than Davis in my opinion, a good debater and has clear views on important issues.

Having read a lot of speeches by the various leadership candidates, I must say I agreed more with Liam's than the others'.

Simon C

This series of endorsements represents the first attempt by each camp to set out a campaign prospectus.

On that basis, the Fox campaign has done better than any of the others so far. Liam Fox is cheery, outward-looking, principled, competent and experienced. Those qualities will characterise his campaign and leadership, and are evident in Stephen O'Brien's endorsement.

I expect Michael Gove will do an excellent propaganda job for David Cameron. How about "David Cameron: the Future of the Right"?

Simon C

"I think he's constantly under-rated by commentators who are determined that this is solely a Davis vs Cameron discourse"

This is a really important point that we must not lose sight of. As others have pointed out, we must not allow the media to impose a limited choice on us simply because too many journalists find Cameron v Davis an easy story to grasp and write about. They are not the only options. Indeed, both have weaknesses which, thus far in this pre-campaign, they have not managed to address. There is plenty of room and time for other candidates to make a convincing pitch.

The Political Thinker

Couldn't agree more Simon.

Councillor Tony Dixon

Does Liam Fox believe that all parties in a dispute have the right to be heard? (i.e. the laws of natural justice). If so, as co Chairman of the Party, why didn't he act to ensure that Howard Flight was given a fair hearing by the Ethics and Integrity Committee?

James Hellyer

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Howard Flight fiasco, prolonging it further by holding hearings would only have allowed Labour's take on events to continue dominating the news.

Councillor Tony Dixon

The Conservative Party must always put the law first.

The principles of natural justice were derived from the Romans who believed that some legal principles were "natural" or self-evident and did not require a statutory basis. These two basic legal safeguards govern all decisions by judges or government officials when they take quasi-judicial or judicial decisions. One is nemo judex in parte sua (no person may judge their own case) and the other is audi alteram partem (the right to be heard).

As the Conservative Party revisits it's core values I hope that it will feel able to embrace the laws of natural justice and to accept the principle that all parties in a dispute have the right to be heard.

It would be interesting to hear Liam Fox's views on this.


I agree that the whole Flight affair was deeply regrettable and did not reflect well on the party or its leadership. However to be fair to Fox, once the decision had been taken to deselect Flight (which I believe came from Michael Howard), even if Fox's natural inclination would have been to insist on due process, in the context of a general election this would simply have added fuel to a fire that had to be extinguished as soon as possible, as even Flight himself recognised. Leaders need to balance principle with pragmatism and I think Fox deserves the benefit of the doubt on this point. As for Flight, I hope whoever becomes leader will ensure he is offered a peerage at the next opportunity.

Harold Hall

Whatever the attributes they bring in a bid to lead our Party each contender will no doubt wish for the Conservatives to be seen as fair and decent and themselves as exemplars. If those characteristics are treated as subordinate to decisiveness and pragmatism then little wonder we are thought of as politically expedient with the capacity for nastiness which Therese May detected. There is widespread agreement that the treatment meted out to Howard Flight and the Constituency Association in the run-up to the election was, to put it mildly, unfair and unbecoming. We may yet find it was also unconstitutional and unlawful. The manner in which we deal with this injustice towards Howard Flight will tell the voters what kind of people we are, what we look for in our Leader and what kind of nation we seek to govern. Let's see how each aspirant addresses this issue.


Unbelievable!I simply cannot understand the sympathy for Flight on this board.He wanted to lie to the electorate,it was discovered and he was fired.That to me was both electorally expedient but much more importantly the right thing to do.
If we give a peerage to Flight we should also give a peerage to Aitken and how about earldoms to the 'cash for questions ' duo?
If Blair and his cronies have a major weakness it is their propensity to tell lies.One day Blair will be ruined by this as I think Byers is just about to find out.
I pray that the Conservative party take so lessons from Blair in the lying stakes

Mark O'Brien

"Unbelievable! I simply cannot understand the sympathy for Flight on this board.He wanted to lie to the electorate,it was discovered and he was fired."

I know this has been discussed enough in the past, but what he did justified Michael Howard in sacking him from the Front Bench, but not from sacking him as an MP. That was going way too far, and it was the most recent of many similar cases where candidates were sacked from Central Office without any care for the wishes of the local party or even the candidate's freedom of speech!


No,no no!I do not want liars in the Conservative party either in shadow cabinet positions or as backbenchers.I fail to see the difference between the two.
Of course candidates should have freedom of speech,I don't think anyone is suggesting that they don't.Rifkind amongst others spoke extremely eloquently against the Iraq war during the campaign and nothing happened to him.Lying is however quite a different matter.

Mark O'Brien

Do you remember what he actually said? I don't. But I remember hearing his words and thinking to myself that he didn't really say that we had a hidden agenda. What he really said was that we SHOULD have a hidden agenda.

I think the characterisation of him as lying about the party's policy was a media fabrication. And considering that he was flung in the dustbin in the same way that Danny Kruger was for calling for 'creative destruction' of the public services as well as several other candidates, Flight was only a part of a worrying trend.

Councillor Tony Dixon

It surprises me how many Conservatives are prepared to pass judgement without any attempt at a fair hearing. Is that what we want for the Conservative Party of the 21st century?

The questions posed by the Howard Flight affair have to be addressed for the sake of the Party in the long term, for instance;

Can an Association have two adopted candidates at the same time? Should one be de-adopted before a second can be adopted?

Is there now a threat to the independence of all Conservative MPs caused by the precedent, now established, of de-selection by the Leader if they use words open to misinterpretation?

There has long been a tradition in the Conservative Party that the Leader does the “hiring and firing” in the Westminster Party and that the Constituency Associations do the “hiring and firing” at Constituency level. Does the Party no longer support this principle?

The Political Thinker

Councillor Tony Dixon,

I don't know about you, although I believe the Flight fiasco needed to be dealt with swiftly. Maybe Howard did go a bit overboard by withdrawing the whip from him, although it was near to the election and impressions were everything. He didn't just give his opinion, he actually said that there was a hidden agenda – There's a difference.

It was unfortunate that the media had to go on and on and on about it – But they did. Howard had to do the best he could, given the situation he was put in by Flight.

Please, don't get me wrong. I agree with Flight that the tax cuts were too timid, and weren't even worthy being talked about, but Michael Howard was running the show. And it was so close to the election. Whether or not there really was a hidden agenda, don't be dumb and tell the public!

If there wasn't a hidden agenda, then why on earth word what you are saying to make it out as if there is one?


"It surprises me how many Conservatives are prepared to pass judgement without any attempt at a fair hearing." I don't think you can extrapolate that assertion from the comments made above. Most of the commentators on this blog seem to agree that Flight was not treated fairly and the practical questions raised by Cllr Dixon certainly need to be addressed in the aftermath of that episode. My point is that Fox (assuming he is supportive of the principle of natural justice, which I have no reason to doubt) was placed in an extremely difficult position as a result of Howard's decision, and I think he called it right. What would be welcome now is a clear indication that Flight's treatment was an aberration and will not set a precedent, but in the context of the candidates' wider plans for party reform rather than raking over that specific episode.


Howard Flights were not open to misinterpretation Councillor Dixon.If they had been he could have sued the odious Tom Baldwin and the Times and now be even wealthier!He didn't do this because he knew he would lose.
Amore honourable man would have resigned immediatly.
The Danny Kruger affair was completely different,Danny told no lies but was merely selectively quoted which made his comments appear far worse than they should have been.Danny in my opinion has a much better case for claiming that he was unfairly treated but he put the party before self in this instance.Ihope he benefits in the future

Mark O'Brien

This comes from a BBC News Online report at the time:

'He told a private party meeting on Wednesday: "The potential for getting better taxpayer value is a good bit greater than the James findings (which have been) 'sieved' for what is politically acceptable and what is not going to lose the main argument."

He hinted that further tax and spending cuts would be possible once the Conservatives were in power because "everyone on our side of the fence believes passionately that it will be a continuing agenda".

Mr Flight said after an election had been won, "you can actually get on with what needs to be done".'

My reading of those words is that Flight said:
1) It is possible to find further cuts than what the James Review said (which it undeniably is, if we were to bring free enterprise into the public services)
2) Conservatives are passionate about bringing that free enterprise into play
3) Political debate is skewed against these ideas at the moment

He was not making a statement about party policy but about what he as a believer in free markets felt should be done. The talk of Flight revealing a hidden agenda was simply New Labour spin. The strongest defence of Michael Howard's actions is that he got scared at election time and had to distance himself as far as was humanly possible from Howard Flight. But that still does not defend the emasculation of grassroots activists that actions like the sacking of Flight, Kruger and several others represented.

Councillor Tony Dixon

"It surprises me how many Conservatives are prepared to pass judgement without any attempt at a fair hearing."

Some commentators are suggesting that Liam Fox "made the right call" and, in so doing, are effectively endorsing what happened. It was a blatant breach of the laws of natural justice.

It is important that we don't pass judgement on Liam Fox himself - but we are perfectly entitled to seek an explanation from him. Liam (unlike Howard Flight) should have the right to be heard.

We are also entitled to explore Liam's position on the laws of natural justice.

If the Conservative Party is to have any credibility with the electorate it must be seen to be fair and just and any potential leader must demonstrate that he is willing to address difficult issues.

Liam Fox should address this issue by explaining why Howard Flight was not given a hearing (remember, it was Good Friday. Any hearing could have been completed before we had even finished our Easter eggs!)

Liam Fox owes us a statement.

James Hellyer

"The strongest defence of Michael Howard's actions is that he got scared at election time and had to distance himself as far as was humanly possible from Howard Flight."

The strongest defence is that Michael Howard had made personal integrity a key issue of the election, and could not afford for any of his MPs to suggest he was being less than honest.

Although Flight did not imply that, it's what he *appeared* to imply. Sadly in an election campaign, appearance can dominate reality.

Councillor Tony Dixon


Thanks for introducing the actual words.

It is hard to work out how The Times got from those words to what they called a "hidden agenda". I suspect it was with help from the Labour Party!

It is hard to understand how Michael Howard interpreted those words as "misrepresenting the Conservative Party" (Michael Howard's words not mine).

It is possible to interpret any words in more than one way and, of course, we all know that sections of the media will apply malicious interpretations to generate stories and sell newspapers.

A good leader should not fall for such obvious media mischief. Instead they should support their team when the going gets tough!

James Hellyer

"A good leader should not fall for such obvious media mischief. Instead they should support their team when the going gets tough!"

Quite. Furthermore by sacking Flight Howard gave the story legs. If that hadn't been so unfair Flight considered fighting, it might have worked. As it was it kept the story in the news. Wholly counterproductive.

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