He’s only been in the business a matter of months, but already Laurence Fox’s two sons want him to ‘stop doing politics’.
The 42-year-old ex-actor, who starred as the restrained James Hathaway in ITV’s Lewis, barely has time to kick a ball around with Winston, 12, and eight-year-old Eugene since he recast himself as the fervent leader of the anti-woke party Reclaim back in November.
‘I have to put time for my kids in my diary,’ says Laurence, who shares custody of his sons with his ex-wife, actress Billie Piper. ‘I don’t stop. I can’t.’
He is, of course, the well-loved scion of the Fox acting dynasty — which includes dad James, uncle Edward and cousin Emilia — whose hugely successful career was scuppered last year because he dared to challenge claims on BBC Question Time that a racist British Press was picking on Meghan Markle.
After that episode saw him ‘cancelled’ by many of his colleagues in the acting profession, he was trying to work out what to do with the rest of his life. Then the eye-wateringly wealthy investment tycoon Jeremy Hosking offered to fund a political party for him.
Three weeks ago, Laurence sensationally declared he was going to stand for election as London’s next mayor in May, against the incumbent Sadiq Khan.
Laurence Fox and guest GQ Mens Fashion Dinner, Inside, Berners Tavern, Fall Winter 2020, London Fashion Week Men’s, UK – January 2020
On the face of it, Laurence and Mr Hosking are unlikely bedfellows. The financier is a former Tory Party donor who spent a chunk of his £375 million fortune funding the Leave campaign. Laurence — who was, as he says, ‘part of a safe, arty, Leftie world earning a s***load of money from Netflix’ — voted to Remain.
He claims the Brexiteer Hosking has said to him: ‘It’s all right, darling, I forgive you.’ He adds: ‘I 100 per cent support Brexit now. Look at the way the EU is behaving. I love Europeans but I don’t like that lot.
‘I am quite Leftie, but Right or Left doesn’t matter any more. We’re entering a new area of politics. It’s authoritarian or anti-authoritarian. That’s it. You’re either with or against this censorious mob who go: ‘No, you can’t say that, that’s wrong. It’s chest-feeding not breastfeeding. Tear down all the statues.’ ‘
In full flow, he continues: ‘It’s a burgeoning religion with no repentance and no forgiveness. I never understood before how Nazi Germany could happen. Now I do. It makes me want to resist with every single ounce of my being.’
We meet at the Reclaim party headquarters in Central London in the week Laurence is launching a provocative poster campaign, featuring a statue of Winston Churchill being gagged. This, as Laurence hoped, is making many of us sit up and take notice.
He hasn’t eaten yet today so is running on zeal with a huge scarf wrapped around his neck to keep out the cold.
Speaking of the poster, he says: ‘I wanted it to be like a Clash album cover so people start to get it into their heads that politics is now rock and roll.
‘The arts are meant to challenge cultural norms, but that’s dead now. Politics is the only place you can challenge those little woke b*****ds.
People climb on a bus shelter as they take part in a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Bristol
‘I also wanted the design to work on the level that history can’t speak back to us, yet we’re speaking to history by scribbling ‘racist’ on the side of statues. It is an expression of attempts to gag free speech.
‘They [he means the wokerati] had [actress] Anne Hathaway apologise for playing a three-fingered woman [in the movie The Witches] to the limb-different community. They say only a trans person can play a trans person, only a gay person can play a gay person — but we have a black Anne Boleyn.
‘It’s inconsistent and it’s wrong. But we’re not allowed to speak out for fear of losing our jobs.’
The appearance on Question Time ended his 22-year acting career. For those who aren’t familiar with one of the most notorious TV moments of last year, Fox clashed with an audience member — a university lecturer and race and ethnicity researcher — who said the way Meghan Markle had been treated by the Press was ‘racist’.
When she proceeded to call him a ‘white, privileged male’, he turned the tables by calling her ‘racist’.
‘I watched Question Time again the other day because of the Meghan Markle interview,’ he says. ‘I don’t understand what she says half the time. When she goes: ‘Harry and I are trying to build a world with greater conversations and more inclusion,’ you’re just like: ‘You’re talking s***, babe!’
‘What she’s done is said: ‘I’ve experienced racism but I’m not going to [identify the culprit] so I’m going to make the family seem systematically racist.’
‘That’s cowardice. You should call out racism directly — as I did on Question Time.’
Many watching in the real world agreed, but the ‘little woke b*****ds’ didn’t. He was eviscerated on Twitter, vilified by the actor’s union Equity, who called him ‘a disgrace to our industry’, and let go by his agent.
Laurence Fox with his ‘Free London’ Winston Churchill trailer which has been circulating central London
‘My dad [the hugely respected actor James Fox] always says to me: ‘Remember, it’s the means to the end. They’ve no f***ing idea what the end is but they love the means.’ That’s true.
‘They are the exact thing they accuse you of but they [pretend to be] kind and tolerant. They cause chaos and violence. They ruin people’s lives and cancel their careers. I feel sorry for my agent. She knows I’m a nice guy who works hard and was also making her a s***load of money, but [a person that she knew] was like: ‘We think he’s a racist.’
‘My agent said: ‘Do you think it would be a good idea if you spent some time off my books?’ ‘
Laurence is playing for laughs with me, but he bites his nails and chews his way through a jar of sweets. You know he is deeply hurt at being pilloried by those he once considered mates.
‘The funniest thing is, I’ll have an actor or director on Twitter going: ‘Laurence Fox is despicable. How appalling. How can he? Right-wing fascist . . .’ Then I’ll get a private message going: ‘Love you mate. I just had to do that.’ ‘
He loved to act. His father suggested he try it as a career after Laurence, ‘a typical, angry, p***ed off child’ was chucked out of posh public school Harrow for getting too intimate with twins at the sixth-form ball on the dance floor.
‘I auditioned for RADA [twice], got in and the rest, as they say, is Lewis [the TV detective role that established him as the thinking woman’s crumpet]. Stick me on a stage and I’m as happy as Larry.
‘Time slows down. I know what I’m doing. I enjoy it. When I got myself fired it was like when anything big happens in your life, it starts off as shock, then you go into denial and then I thought, I’m going to double down because I’m not going to apologise to these f***ers and they’re not going to forgive me anyway, so f*** em.’
Laurence has a large tattoo on each hand. One says ‘freedom’, the other ‘space’. His mother Mary, a former nurse, used to tell his father she wanted more of both in their large, chaotic household of five children. She died following a fall at the age of 79 in April last year.
‘She hated tattoos so I said: ‘When you’re dead I’m going to get freedom and space tattooed on my hands.’ I spent my entire life winding my mum up. She loved it in return.
‘We were all there — Dad, all of us [when she was dying]. We were lying on the bed. It was sweet. Very emotional. Really sad. Mum was a smart cookie. She knew exactly what she was doing. She said, ‘Could you get me a brandy’ and then . . .’
He doesn’t finish the sentence. He breathes deeply.
‘We all have different ways of dealing with grief in my family. I don’t feel like I said goodbye to her so I feel she’s still knocking about — still giving me advice. She’s like: ‘Draw people out Laurence. Draw people out.’ That’s what she keeps saying to me.’
Laurence Fox is pictured above appearing on BBC Question Time
Laurence was in shock for the first few weeks following his Question Time appearance.
He broke up with his mixed-race girlfriend, photographer Sara McKinnon, because ‘she got a lot of grief from Instagram and didn’t want to be in the public eye’, he says. They got back together temporarily after his ‘very brief’ fling with journalist Madeline Grant.
He is now dating someone who is ‘not white’ or English. He says: ‘I must have a penchant for darker-haired women.’
Apart from his blonde former wife, actress Billie Piper?
‘I don’t know what colour Billie’s hair is now,’ he says. When they married in 2007, Laurence had the wedding date and ‘Mrs Fox’ tattooed on his arm. Today, the inking is covered with an abstract tattooed fox.
‘We got them in Mexico on our honeymoon. You can just make out the 07 now,’ he says, rolling up his sleeve. ‘The make-up designer on Lewis designed this for me to cover up my ex-wife’s. Actually it was so badly made it said ‘Mrs Pox’ almost. She got one as well. I often wonder what’s happened to hers.’
The divorce is ‘not really’ amicable but ‘very manageable’, he says.
‘It’s not particularly friendly. We don’t get on very well because we’re so different. Marry in haste. . .’ He shrugs.
Pictured: Some tweets that Laurence Fox has written. He has certainly picked a big fight, but he’s not in the mood to throw in the towel any time soon
‘We fell in love very quickly but we’re not the same people. Our emails are like, ‘kids fine’, ‘that needs to be dropped off on Tuesday’ and that’s it.’
During his marriage, Laurence saw very little of his family. Now he lives a stone’s throw from his father and siblings in South London.
He turned to them for advice after being approached by Jeremy Hosking about a political role. ‘I didn’t know Jeremy was the brains or the cash until he wrote to me after the meeting,’ says Laurence. ‘He wasn’t dressed very smartly and there were four or five other people in the room who did the talking.
‘They asked what I wanted to do. I said I was thinking of probably doing something in the media to resist this march of monochromatic wokery — maybe start a political movement.
‘Jeremy said: ‘What about starting a political party?’ I spoke to my dad. He said: ‘If you do it that will be the end of your acting career for a while.’
‘I said: ‘I have to do it because I believe in it.’
It’s very difficult when you believe in something. You’ll literally walk through a glass door if you’re passionate about it.’
He reaches for another sweet. Laurence will continue his fight against wokery until the 2024 General Election.
‘Jeremy has funded it for four years [he is said to have pledged £5 million] and I fully intend to go all the way because, if you think it’s bad now, wait until they start saying: ‘You can’t have a Conservative ever in this country’. It’s coming. I believe it’s that dangerous. If I didn’t I’d be sitting on a film set saying, ‘Get me another gin, will you, darling?’
‘I’ve definitely chosen the most difficult battle I can have first, in London, but our private polling shows a third of Londoners are on my side.
‘You should see the number of letters I get saying: ‘I’ve lost my job for not self-censoring and don’t know what to do.’ Or the thousands of messages on Twitter saying: ‘I’m desperate, terrified.’
‘As Jeremy says: ‘You lose, you lose, you lose, you lose — you win.’ What he means is you go into a fight that you might lose but, because each time more people understand what you’re talking about, after a few bloody noses, you win.’
Today he says Hosking, who is the only party donor, is ‘one of the nicest men I’ve met. I phone him up sometimes to say: ‘Is it OK if I spend this money?’ He’s like: ‘It’s your political party. Do whatever you want.’
‘I went to spend a week with him up at his house in the North a couple of weeks ago. He said: ‘Come and have a break [before the mayoral campaign launches]. You’ve worked really hard.’ He . . .’
Laurence stops. Looks aghast. ‘Oh s***, I’ve just admitted that I’ve broken lockdown. No please don’t write it . . . F*** it, I don’t care. I do break lockdown. I don’t think lockdown is the right thing to do.’
Indeed, Laurence marched through Central London at the weekend to protest against the draconian lockdown measures. He believes we need to get out, get back to work and get our capital city up and running again.
‘I still walk with my dad. I ask his advice. He’s very, very hot on how you fight people. He says: ‘Don’t fight them with your truth. Fight them with the truth.’ He also [believes in] ‘love your enemy’. I love him so much. He has a little list of people he’s quite pleased with and, a few months ago, he said, ‘I’ve put you on my list.’ He is proud.’ Laurence looks proud too.
He has certainly picked a big fight, but he’s not in the mood to throw in the towel any time soon.