Defence Ministers' threat to quit in support of Dr Fox

From the Mail so digest with Sodium Chloride, however....

Fox's 'Three Musketeers' threaten to quit over Forces cuts in show of support for Defence chief

All three of Liam Fox’s Defence Ministers have threatened to resign in a
‘political suicide pact’ if he fails to win his battle to protect the Armed Forces from massive cuts.

The claim came last night as Ministry of Defence sources said Dr Fox is determined to step up his campaign to win more concessions from Chancellor George Osborne, who is pressing for savings of up to £7billion from the Services.

Prime Minister David Cameron was furious when a private letter to him from
Dr Fox – attacking ‘draconian cuts’ – was leaked to the Press. No10 is convinced it was a politically motivated stunt by supporters of Dr Fox.
But the Defence Secretary’s bargaining position has been strengthened by the staunch support of his ministerial team in his confrontation with the Chancellor.

The Mail on Sunday has been told that all three of Dr Fox’s Tory Defence Ministers in the Commons – Gerald Howarth, Peter Luff and Andrew Robathan – will walk out with him if the dispute is not resolved in their boss’s favour. Tory MPs refer to his loyal lieutenants as the ‘Three Musketeers’ whose motto is ‘all for one and one for all’.

‘Gerald, Peter and Andrew are solidly behind Liam,’ said a Conservative MP with a
military background. ‘Their attitude is, “If Liam goes, we all go”. They think he has been brave in taking on Osborne.

‘They know the devastating effect that big cuts will have on the Forces and they are not going to roll over like lambs.

‘They don’t want to go down in history as the Tories who presided over the dismantling of the Armed Services. They are committed.
‘Cameron and Osborne are a different breed of Tory with no natural affinity with the Armed Services beyond the school cadet force.’

Two of Dr Fox’s Tory deputies are steeped in military tradition. Mr Howarth, the Right-wing Minister for International Security Strategy, is a qualified pilot and was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Mr Robathan, the Veterans’ Minister, was an officer in the Coldstream Guards and a member of the SAS who served in the first Gulf War before becoming an MP.

Thatcherite Dr Fox’s defiant stand has led Tory critics to accuse him of ‘grandstanding’. He is regarded with suspicion by some close to Mr Cameron who believe that Dr Fox sees himself as a future leader if the Coalition collapses.

He is fighting a bid by Mr Osborne to slash the £40billion annual defence budget.

Tory MPs say the Treasury is determined to force the Ministry to save £2billion by abandoning one of two new aircraft carriers promised to the Navy. If both carriers are saved, the Navy faces having to slash its fleet by nearly half, leaving it with just 25 ships.

Dr Fox fears the cuts will destroy the Navy’s amphibious landing capability, making it impossible to perform even small-scale operations, such as Britain’s intervention in Sierra Leone under Tony Blair.

Other proposals being considered are sharing military facilities with other nations, cutting back on Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines, and phasing out either the Harrier or Tornado warplanes.
Losing his entire Ministerial Defence team would shatter Cameron's claim to be a supporter of the Armed Forces and be a twin blow to his personal credibility and that of his Government. If true it speaks volumes about the commitment of this new group of Ministers and begs the question, has Fox actually played a blinder? Can Cameron risk the PR disaster of mass resignation in a politically sensitive department?
Fox is clever.... he's putting himself in a win win situation.... if he get his way he increases his influence and credibility in the party thus making himself a future leadership contender, if he "loses" then his team resign, the coalition collapses and he emerges as a rallying point for the disappected tories who are tired of PC Dave and his Blair like lies.
It is just 'game play'. Not one of them is really prepared to fall on their sword.
There are lots of plays going on here, if there are minimal defence cuts made they have to be justified to other departments within the government and the general public.


Book Reviewer
At least it answers 'yes' to the 'Will the Tories be any different from Labour?' thread. That said, I reckon they knew what the answer was before they made the threat; they are politicians after all.
I think that if there is any credability about this (it is the Mail after all) then we may be looking at a rather more positive situation than if another defence minister simply rolled over and ate the cuts.

Personally I believe that the forces are the last place that cuts should fall. As significant cuts to the defence budget will invariably mean loss of capabilities. The Budget should only make real efficiency savings and the MoD should come out of this situation with serious direction and the imperative that their budget should be spent better.

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