Whiff of incompetence? Letwin and Fox give Downing Street a headache

By Ian Dunt

The government is at risk of developing a reputation for incompetence after a row over Oliver Letwin dumping government papers jostled for position with the ongoing scandal surrounding Liam Fox.

Mr Letwin, minister for the Cabinet Office, was photographed dumping official government documents in a park bin, some of which dealt with counter-terrorism issues.

Letwin caught dumping government papers in park – full story

Meanwhile, Mr Fox's position looked increasingly tenuous after more reports emerged of his friendship with Adam Werritty, a former flatmate who came on 18 of his trips as defence secretary.

Fox friend linked to pro-Israeli lobbyists – full story

Mr Fox is already under investigation by Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell and Labour is demanding a separate investigation into Mr Letwin's episode.

The situation was not helped by a poor performance from health secretary Andrew Lansley on Question Time last night, where the health secretary struggled to appear on top of the controversial health reforms recently passed by the Lords.

The evening will have contributed to the sense that the beleaguered health secretary, who handed control of the bill to David Cameron and Nick Clegg when it drew universal criticism, is unable to inspire confidence in his abilities.

Twitter burst into life with jokes at Mr Letwin's expense this morning, but party strategists will treat the story with absolute seriousness.

Reputations for incompetence can be very difficult for government's to shake and the range of stories hitting Downing Street could have a potentially devastating effect.