Craig Woodhouse, Political Reporter
31 Oct 2011
Former defence secretary Liam Fox today said he was ready to make a frontline comeback – less than three weeks after he was forced to quit over links to his friend Adam Werritty.
Speaking for the first time since his resignation, Dr Fox said he would “certainly like to return to the front bench” but conceded the timing of a possible ministerial comeback was “another matter”.
His bold statement provoked amazement from Labour but cheered Tory Right-wingers. Former Cabinet colleagues have expressed hopes that Dr Fox’s front bench career is not over, and Downing Street made clear when he quit that a return would not be ruled out. Speaking to BBC Bristol, Dr Fox said Mr Werritty was a “very good friend of mine” but admitted his “mistake” in effectively allowing him to operate as an adviser.
He said changes made to the ministerial code in the wake of his resignation would be “helpful to everybody”, but defended the right of ministers to meet friends in Whitehall departments or on trips abroad in private time.
He stepped up his attack on coverage of the affair, saying reporters targeted his 14-year-old nephew.
“We have to have a free press,” Dr Fox said. “But a free press doesn’t mean the press can do what they want.”
A Labour source said his chances of a comeback should be “zero”, adding: “It is astonishing that he is talking about coming back before we have even got to the bottom of the murky dealings that took place when he was at the Ministry of Defence.”
But Tory MP Peter Bone said Dr Fox had an “important role” to play in the future, adding: “His views need to be heard and it is good that he intends to play a full part within the party.”
Dr Fox quit on October 14 after a damaging stream of revelations about his links to self-styled adviser Mr Werritty, the best man at his wedding.
The 50-year-old MP was later found to have committed a “clear breach” of the ministerial code of conduct, creating a security risk by sharing details of his diary.
A report by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell also found there had been an “inappropriate and unacceptable” blurring of lines between official and personal relationships between Dr Fox and Mr Werritty, who met the former defence secretary 22 times in Whitehall and 18 times on trips abroad.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Dr Fox had done “good work” as the defence secretary but added: “He did only resign a few days ago.”