The Week in Politics: Gaddafi and Fox, two very different political reckonings

Fox was dignified, but still disgraced
Fox was dignified, but still disgraced, this week

The last seven days have seen the departure of two politicians, but from two very different frontlines.

By Alex Stevenson

Muammar Gaddafi's demise, bloody and violent, came in a desperate flight from Sirte and ended with a bullet in the head. The other, dignified but nevertheless disgraced, saw defence secretary Liam Fox apologise to MPs amid the fallout from his dealings with best man Adam Werritty.

In one case, the grisly demise of a real monster. In the other, the end of 17 unbroken years in the Conservative frontbench team. There is no comparison, really. The scale of one drama dwarfs the significance of the other. So there is something fundamentally awkward about writing this week's review of events in Westminster.


Fox himself was aware of this contrast of scale in mind as he began his personal statement of penitence to MPs on Wednesday. Two weeks before, he said, he had met a man in Libya who showed him photographs of his dead children. "One was an unbearable tragedy, the other was a deep personal disappointment," he said at the start of his statement. "I begin with that necessary sense of proportion." A good start, but the rest was less impressive. Fox had been sternly rapped on the knuckles by the Cabinet secretary's report, the publication of which had been inexplicably delayed on Tuesday. His behaviour had handed Miliband an easy win in this week's PMQs, too. But when it came to his opportunity to explain himself, we soon discovered that some apologies are bigger than others.

Fox's departure was also bad news for the Ministry of Defence, which is bracing itself for further cuts under the leadership of the new defence secretary, penny-cutting Osbornite Philip Hammond. So it will have come as a welcome relief that Gaddafi was decisively taken out of the equation on Thursday lunchtime. His gory end moved attention away from Westminster. This was the week when it became clear that the Libyan war, a real gamble for David Cameron and co, had very much paid off.

Meanwhile, the economy continued to be an ulcer in the side of the coalition. Terrible inflation figures, accelerating above expectations to 5.2%, were followed by more long-term gloom on borrowing figures at the end of the week. And unrest over the ongoing eurozone crisis contributed to the establishment of an Occupy Wall Street camp near the London Stock Exchange, outside St Paul's Cathedral.

This was also the week - brace yourselves - in which Boris Johnson admitted his political hero was the mayor from Jaws, England cricket captain Andrew Strauss offered some friendly advice for politicians and veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn told us he thinks this is the most beautiful parliament, ever. That last comment formed part of our charm, sex and politics podcast - which, in our opinion, only gets boring when listened to for the seventh, or maybe even eighth, time.

So, an odd, troubling week in politics, and one which will surely be remembered more for images of a bleeding, dying man than that of a disgraced UK politician. Still, there's a lot coming up in parliament in the next seven days. Have a look at our pick of the highlights here.

Comments

Load in comments