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Liam Fox Walks And Talks Like A Challenger-In-Waiting

After a very bad spell and recriminations among the coalition partners, David Cameron may face intraparty challenge.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 7/16/2012, 6:42 AM

David Cameron
David Cameron
Reuters

Last week was probably the worst for the Conservative Liberal-Democrat coalition. 91 Conservative MPs broke ranks and torpedoed the bill to reform the House of Lords.

Passage of the bill was part of the coalition agreement and in return the Liberals were to have backed the redrawing of parliamentary constituency boundaries in a manner that would have given the Conservatives an advantage over Labour in the next general election.

The Conservative rebels were composed of those who have disliked David Cameron from the beginning, those who felt shortchanged when it came to cabinet selection and those - like former Defence Secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind, one of the House of Commons' most respected members - who argued that the proposal was bad for the country.

David Cameron, as the architect of the coalition with the Liberal Democrats, will live or die by the coalition - he cannot disavow his creation. He must, however, reverse the party's position in the polls because otherwise the knives will be out for him.

It is fairly easy to start a leadership fight in the Conservative Party and while London Mayor Boris Johnson has made no secret of his ambitions, there is now another almost declared candidate in Dr. Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary.

Over the weekend, Fox launched two broadsides at Cameron using the mass circulation Sun and the broadsheet that is most closely allied to the Conservative Party,  the Telegraph.

Instead of helping Cameron keep the coalition intact, Fox appealed to the party base by reminding them that the coalition was definitely  plan B and not a master stroke by Cameron.

Let’s not beat about the bush. Their view about Britain’s future in Europe is comprehensively and fundamentally different from ours. We are in the Coalition for reasons of electoral arithmetic and we maintain the Coalition for reasons of economic necessity, not because we are ideological bedfellows.”

Fox  felt that the Liberal-Democrats should be cut down to size "What I think they have to remember is that they are a sixth of the Coalition, not half the Coalition."

Fox has also attacked the European Union, claiming that Britain joined the union under false pretenses, believing that they were entering a common market, not an embryonic super state "They did not vote for constant political interference from Brussels by unelected bureaucrats.That must change. The British people must be heard. Our destiny must be determined within our own shores".

The policy of Cameron and his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, that would like to see a solution to the Euro Crisis, was also assailed by Liam Fox, who called the currency a “profoundly flawed project ...You can throw as much good money after bad as you like, and you can have all the fiscal discipline you want, and you’re not going to turn Thessaloniki into Düsseldorf any day soon”.

He has already forced Cameron to take a tougher line on Europe and this, too, will rankle the Liberal Democrats who are the EU's strongest supporters in Britain.