Liam Fox resignation

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 19, 2011, 3:13 PM GMT+0

Over half of the British public think former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox's private life had no impact on his ability to do his job, our results for last weekend's Sunday Times, taken just prior to Fox's resignation, can reveal. Yet, in another poll taken in light of Fox having since stepped down, the majority of people support his resignation, with nearly three quarters of people feeling that Fox himself is to blame for making poor judgements and breaking ministerial rules.

Dr Fox recently stepped down after concerns surrounding his working relationship with friend Adam Werritty.

  • In a poll conducted just before Fox’s resignation, over a half (58%) of Brits said his private life was his own business and had no impact on his ability as Defence Secretary
  • Compared to 31% who said that it did have an impact
  • However, in a second poll conducted just after Fox’s resignation, the majority (73%) of people think it was right for Dr Fox to resign
  • Compared to just 6% who feel it was wrong (and 21% who don’t know)
  • In the same post-resignation poll, 72% say Dr Fox himself is to blame for making poor judgements and breaking ministerial rules
  • Compared to 12% who feel the media is at fault for ‘hounding Fox over relatively minor misjudgements’ (and 15% who are not sure)
  • 53% of people say Cameron, who supported Fox, was right to try and keep the Defence Secretary in his job while his conduct and contacts with Adam Werritty were fully investigated
  • Compared to 31% who feel Cameron should have sacked him sooner

Ministerial business

Dr Fox’s own admissions that his personal and professional responsibilities were no longer separate came after a week of pressure about his close ties to his friend Mr Werritty, culminating in Fox’s decision to resign last Friday. Mr Werritty and Fox came under scrutiny after it was revealed that the two had had regular meetings concerning ministerial business, including trips and discussions abroad, despite Werrity not being an MOD employee or an MP.

Some commentators have suggested that Liam Fox did not want to be hounded out by a media campaign, but following an inquiry into the issue by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, it was concluded that Mr Fox’s actions indeed did break the ministerial code, although it was also established that he did not gain financially from the situation.

Yet Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy claims that the report only touched the surface of the issues surrounding Dr Fox and Mr Werritty’s reported involvements with numerous organisations, including the ‘Atlantic Bridge’ charity founded by Dr Fox, and the not-for-profit ‘Pargav’ company that was allegedly set up to fund Mr Werritty’s expeditions abroad.

'Serious shortcomings'

Murphy’s letter to the Prime Minister regarding his concerns has since been published in the national press, and details what he calls ‘serious shortcomings in the scope of the [MOD] inquiry’. Murphy has claimed that the truth is being held back in large part by Cameron, stating that ‘we are searching for the truth here, and only three people know everything. One of them has resigned, one of them is Mr Werritty about whose whereabouts we have no idea, and the third person who knows everything,’ he said, ‘is the Prime Minister’.