Why Liam Fox had to go

By DAVID WOODING

LIAM Fox finally quit the Cabinet today after the secret money trail which funded his Best Man’s globe-trotting was exposed.

The Defence Secretary was forced to go as wealthy backers claimed he asked Tory donors to help pay for Adam Werrity’s travels.

Dr Fox (pictured left) had clung on to his job after more than a week of damaging revelations of how his 34-year-old ex-flatmate posed as an unofficial adviser and accompanied him 18 foreign trips in 16 months.

But he was left with no choice but to resign tonight after it emerged he had solicited money to foot the £157,000 bill for Mr Werrity to fly the world with him.

Venture capitalist Jon Moulton, who gave up to £35,000 towards the trips, is said to have claimed that Dr Fox asked for the cash.

All week, political commentators have warned it was the money which could be the minister’s downfall – and so it proved.

The cash revelations left him open to accusations of a conflict of interest and he threw in the towel.

In his resignation letter, Dr Fox said it was in the “national interest” that he should go because he had allowed personal interests and government activities to become “blurred”.

Mr Werrity, who did not work for the government and had not been security vetted, had linked up with his close pal on trips across the world, including to Sri Lanka and Washington.

Dr Fox is the first Tory to quit the coalition Cabinet – the only other casualty was Lib Dem David Laws who resigned last year over revelations he claimed £40,000 of taxpayers’ money to pay rent to his boyfriend.

David Cameron swiftly replaced Dr Fox at the MoD with Philip Hammond, who is seen as a safe pair of hands ripe for a higher profile job.

The PM also took the opportunity to promote two young women.

Justine Greening replaces Mr Hammond at the Department of Transport, swelling the female ranks of the Cabinet.

Chloe Smith, 29, takes Ms Greening’s job as Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

Shadow defence secetary Jim Murphy said the resignation was “unavoidable and inevitable”.

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David Cameron: Bulldog spirit key to ending debt crisis

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

DAVID Cameron urged cash-strapped Britain to adopt the bulldog spirit to drag ourselves out of debt and despair.

The Prime Minister called for the nation to stop being “paralysed by gloom and fear” – and instead show some fight and energy to get our great country back on the road to prosperity.

He called on people in every walk of life to work together to turn things round and make Britain a beacon of enterprise for the world.

Mr Cameron (pictured left making his speech) issued the rallying call  in his closing speech to the Tory party conference in Manchester.

He declared: “Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources – but we had the spirit.

“Remember, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Overcoming challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves, this is what we do. It’s called leadership.”

The final flourish of his address – echoing on the conference slogan: “Leadership for a better future” – was aimed at contrasting his leadership skills with those of Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Cameron said: “Let’s turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity. Not sitting around watching things happen and wondering why. But standing up, making things happen and asking why not.

“We have the people, we have the ideas, and now we have a government that’s freeing those people, backing those ideas.

“So let’s see an optimistic future. Let’s show the world some fight. Let’s pull together, work together. And together lead Britain to better days.”

The 50-minute speech covered a wide-range of issues. Here’s a summary in nugget form:

JOBS AND DEBT: Mr Cameron said: “It’s an anxious time. Prices and bills keep going up – petrol, the weekly shop, electricity.” He admitted the “uncomfortable” truth that the slump is caused by too much debt and the only way out is to cut spending and live within our means.

EUROPE: Britain will never join the euro while Mr Cameron is Prime Minister, he vowed.  And he won’t let us be sucked into “endless bail-outs” of countries that are in the single currency.

SCHOOLS: He promised to tear down the “apartheid” between private and state schools. It was “disgusting”, he said that we should aim for any less from a child from a poor background than a rich one.

IMMIGRATION: Mr Cameron vowed to get tough with criminals who use human rights laws to try to stay in this country. But he warned we must not lock out talent and should give the red carpet treatment to the best entrepreneurs, scientists and students from around the world to attract them here.

JOBS and BENEFITS: More than 2.5 million people have been “parked” on sick pay as a con trick by governments to keep unemployment figures down. The PM said: “Under Labour they got something for nothing. With us, they’ll only get something if they give something.” He will spend up to £14,000 on long-term jobless to get them trained and back into work.

GAY MARRIAGE: He promised to give equal marriage rights to same sex couples – “not despite being a Conservative but because I am a Conservative”.

ADOPTION: Action to find homes for the 65,000 children in care. Only 60 of the 3,660 kids without parents under the age of one  were adopted in Britain last year. He promised action to end this scandal. “How can we let this happen? We’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies, while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families.”

LIBYA He urged everyone to remember what Gaddafi did – he bankrolled the IRA, was behind the shooting of a police officer in London and the bombing of a plane in the skies over Lockerbie. Mr Cameron said: “Let’s be proud of the part we played in giving Libyan people the chance to take back their country.”

HEALTH and SAFETY: Mr Cameron said he would overhaul barmy health and safety rules and scale back criminal checks rules to common sense levels. He remarked: “Britain didn’t rule the waves with arm bands on.”

Mr Cameron got the biggest ovation of the afternoon when he took a sideswipe at Ed Miliband who was met with jeers when he mentioned Tony Blair at Labour’s rally in Liverpool last week.

He said he had lucky enough to have strong support from all previous Tory leaders, including Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague, John Major and Lady Thatcher.

The PM quipped: “You know what? We don’t boo our leaders. We’re proud of our past and what those people did for our country.”

Tories wake up and smell the coffee

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

TWO former Tory girls are helping to kick start the party conference every day – with a mega caffeine boost.

Katie Perrior and Jo Tanner have set up a VIP marquee where MPs, journalists and other visitors can get down to business over free-flowing Starbucks coffee.

Jo (left) and Katie in the London Lounge.

Guests of the ex-Central Office Press officers can enjoy a complimentary cuppa and a pastry while they charge their mobile phones, connect to their internet wi-fi or use one of their private meeting areas.

It’s like an airport departure lounge with ministers,  broadcasters and public relations chiefs checking in throughout the day.

Jo and Katie’s company InHouse PR teamed up with sponsors Starbucks and the Total Politics magazine to launch the “London Lounge” inside the conference arena in Manchester.

It has proved such a big hit that plans are already afoot to extend it next year. Katie said: “We’ve been attending conferences for years and the biggest complaint is that there’s so few places to hold meetings.

“Most hotel meeting rooms have been booked up months in advance and there’s nowhere to have a private chat at short notice. We’ve tried to recreate the experience you have when you travel first class – comfort, free refreshments and plenty of room to get on with your work.

“We issued 750 passes to a wide range of people and are delighted with the take up.”

A vote on Europe at last…but we’re staying in, says Hague

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

WILLIAM Hague has ruled out letting the public decide whether Britain stays in the EU – even if MPs vote for it.

The Foreign Secretary has brushed off a 100,000-name petition demanding a referendum and appears to have shed his hardline Euro-sceptic beliefs, insisting: “Our place is in the European Union.”

His remarks will infuriate the Tory right-wing who are already threatening to use the issue to hijack this week’s party conference in Manchester.

MPs have been forced to stage a Commons debate on Britain’s future in Europe after Independent MEP Nikki Sinclaire handed in a petition demanding a referendum at 10 Downing Street.

More than 80 backbench Tories want voters to have the final say and many Labour MPs could back the move because it would be hugely popular with the public, who now pay an average of £299 a year each to run the EU.

It would be the first time Parliament has held a major debate on a giving the public a say since the 1975 referendum confirmed the decision to join the Common Market – and could be held before Christmas.

But if MPs vote in favour of a referendum, it would not be binding on the government.

And asked if he would grant one, Mr Hague said bluntly: “No”.

He admits the EU is “cumbersome, slow and bureacratic” but stresses the upside is the power of 27 nations uniting on vital issues such as imposing sanctions against Syria.

Mr Hague (pictured left with David Wooding) said: “When you you’ve negotiated them, 95 per cent of the sales of crude ooils are stopped because 27 nations together act on that.”

The former Tory leader’s comments are more remarkable because he fought and lost the 2001 general election on a tough anti-EU stance.

He still believes Brussels has too much power but since entering government has seen the bloc of nations acting as a power for good in the world.

Mr Hague’s referendum snub will anger his party’s Right-wing gathering in Manchester today – but cheer pro-EU Lib Dem coalition partners.

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the Conservative 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, said: “Europe is back as an issue. That is my message.”

Human Rights

But Home Secretary Theresa May has delighted the Right by calling for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped.

She said: “I’d personally like to see it go because I think we have had some problems with it.”

Her words fly in the face of Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s speech the the Lib Dems two weeks ago when he said the controversial Act was “here to stay”.

Europe and human rights will be among the hottest issues for David Cameron in his second conference as Prime Minister.

The economy, law and order and welfare reform will also be high on the agenda.

Mr Cameron will also be keen to reach out to woman after polls show he has problems appealing to female voters.

When asked to score on his understanding of women’s issues, respondents gave him just one out of 10.

In an interview with The Sunday Times today,  Mr Cameron admits he made a “terrible mistake” with his “calm down, dear” remark at Labour MP Angela Eagle in the Commons earlier this year.

He declared: “It’s my fault. I’ve got to do better, I totally accept. I’m the one who’s got to explain who I am, what I think and what I’m like.”

Follow me on Twitter: @davidwooding