With bright lights, cameras and TV Political Editors, it certainly looked like a comeback attempt from Liam Fox this morning. The excited glint in his eye and a new tie were only let down by the cheap polyester Union flag next to him. In many ways Fox had won before he reached the podium – the trail of his speech was enough to force the Prime Minister’s hand yesterday, triggering a U-turn on his dismissal of a referendum just hours previously. The first chance to question Fox since his cabinet departure proved more interesting…
Nick Robinson seemed horrified by Fox’s claim that he was not afraid of a post-EU Britain. “Why don’t you fear it?” pushed Robbo with terror in his voice. “Why are you not afraid of leaving?”. Asked if Dave would be happy about the intervention, Fox tried to avoid the politics. Apparently “we have to start thinking about life beyond the Westminster village”– somewhere the former Defence Secretary has spent plenty of time recently. Surely renegotiating would be impossible with LibDems? “Well it’s not easy.” Guido put it to the good doctor:
“One day people may look back at this speech as the first step towards an EU exit for the UK. Might we also look back at your first step toward politically recovery? Is taking on this cause part of your rehabilitation process for a return to high office?”
Suddenly the smile was gone. Fox replied with cold stare and chatter about the need to escape the prism of Westminster village, avoid petty personality politics, represent his constituents et cetera. So that’s a yes then.
The one time Tory leadership runner is clearly still very sore. “How do you feel?” asked Christopher Hope of the Telegraph like he was talking to a poorly aunt. “Do you wish you were back in government?”
“I don’t imagine I would be in the heart of government for about twenty-five minutes if I had given this speech.”
Apparently there aren’t “a huge amount of consolations” on the outside, but Fox said the freedom to speak out is one of them. Over to a serving Cabinet Minster to prove him wrong…