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Houses of Parliament UK Government

Fox Hunting - a new Westminster field sport

October 11, 2011 | 3 min read

For those of us who thought that Fox Hunting had been banned by the last Labour Government the last few days have been interesting. Labour MPs have been lining up to chase a high profile urban fox around the Westminster village.

Dr Liam Fox, Defence Secretary, has found himself on the front page facing damaging allegations about his friendship with Adam Werritty and the confusion over his role as an advisor and connections in the defence industry.

As usual rumours and partial stories started to emerge last week. Firstly that Mr Werritty described himself on business cards as an "advisor to the Rt Hon Liam Fox MP" and then latterly that he attended meetings with Dr Fox despite having no official role either in the civil service or in the political office of the Minister.

Equally, as is becoming the norm in such Westminster stories, Twitter was alight with speculation and initial responses from Dr Fox were less than convincing.

However, despite a slow start, come the weekend Dr Fox started to get a grip on the story. Firstly by announcing his own inquiry led by the senior civil servant in the MoD. He then followed that up with statements admitting to poor judgement in confusing his personal friendship with his role as Defence Secretary.

Clearly he has been taking advice from some of the more militarily minded of his advisors. A pre-emptive strike to spike the guns of his enemies and those briefing against him. By admitting that it had "been a mistake to allow distinctions to be blurred between my professional responsibilities and my personal loyalties to a friend" he has started to take charge of the story This prompted Downing Street to demonstrate it had "full confidence" in the Defence Secretary.

Add to this a voluntary appearance to give a solid personal statement to the House of Commons and a robust performance at the Despatch Box in response to questions. Plus a determination in Downing Street not to give into a ‘trial by media’ and no decision on the interim inquiry until 21 October, it appears that Dr Fox will live to fight another day.

It would seem that so far this particular Fox has escaped the Hunt - the pack is now running around trying to regain the scent and looking for new angles to this story. Yet he is not out of the woods yet – this is the first skirmish in what may be a drawn out war.

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