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Liam Fox urges colleagues to stop “navelgazing” over their party’s opinion poll slide and instead build the country’s Covid crisis recovery and tackle economic challenges.

The ex-international trade secretary’s appeal on the ConservativeHome website today follows alarming New Year opinion polls, one giving Labour a five-point lead.

Dr Fox admits that for him and many other Tories, the Government “smacks too much of big tax, big spend, big state more reminiscent of Edward Heath than Margaret Thatcher”.

But he says it should be “a time for unity over division, hard work over personal ambition and putting the country before party”.

He writes: “Leadership changes can bring about short-term improvements in political fortunes, but the internal wounds can leave long-lasting scars, as the political assassination of Margaret Thatcher proved.” He says inflation threatens to be a major problem and the Government should “concentrate its efforts on the substantial tasks at hand, rather than engaging in a bout of navel-gazing that will lead to division and paralysis”.

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Dr Fox also says claims of parties in Downing Street opened a “one rule for one and another rule for others narrative that will be hard to dispel”.

He says it has also exposed a “chaotic internal management system”, adding: “Boris has many strengths. Campaigning is one of them, administration is not.”

Dr Fox says the Prime Minister needs to build a team around him that includes “someone with the authority to make the right calls on what needs to go into his box”.

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