October 12, 2011 8:50 pm

Not economical with the Werritté

By Robert Shrimsley

The British political establishment is enjoying one of its increasingly frequent political scandals that could yet claim the scalp of one of the most senior figures in the coalition government.

Dr Liam Fox, the defence secretary, passionate Atlanticist and devoted disciple of Lady Thatcher, has enjoyed near untouchable status in government as the unstated leader of the conservative right in David Cameron’s cabinet. But now he faces questions that seem to be proving rather hard to answer about ongoing links with a former flatmate, who was best man at his wedding. Adam Werritty styled himself as an adviser to the defence secretary although he had neither a declared official role nor security clearance. Innuendo abounds, but what is clear is that Mr Werritty acted as middle-man on a least one business meeting, enjoyed almost open access to the Ministry of Defence and regularly popped up on Dr Fox’s overseas visits. Inquiries continue but while we await the outcome the FT can offer these glimpses from a forthcoming fly-on-the-wall documentary Foxhole: A Year in Defence.

The scene is a hotel in Dubai. The defence secretary has just landed for a stopover on his way back from an overseas trip.

“Nice to get to the hotel? Oh look, it’s Adam Werritty. I didn’t expect to see him here.”

“Extraordinary, minister.”

The Nato defence ministers are meeting in Brussels. Dr Fox is approached by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general.

“Good to see you Liam. Just one question before we start. That man sitting over there, is he with you?”

“Oh yes, that’s Adam Werritty, he’s a friend of mine.”

“Is he cleared for this meeting?”

“No, but he’s not here on an official basis.”

“I see. Well, the problem is that he’s sitting in the Norwegian defence secretary’s chair.”

“Perhaps, but only in a private capacity.”

Dr Fox arrives in Colombo for a meeting with the Sri Lankan premier.

“Oh, what a surprise. I had no idea you knew Adam Werritty.”

Tampa, Florida. Dr Fox is in town for meetings at US Central Command.

“Secretary of State, the meetings in CentCom are obviously very sensitive and I don’t think Mr Werritty can join us.”

“Oh, is Adam Werritty in town?”

“It appears so, minister.”

“What a coincidence. Well, of course, he can’t come to these meetings. He’s obviously here in a private capacity. Now what’s the plan for dinner tonight.

“You are meeting General Allen in a local steakhouse.”

Later in the steakhouse.

“Adam, fancy seeing you here. Why don’t you join us.”

Banx cartoon

It is mid-April and the defence secretary is at his office at the MoD talking to his permanent secretary.

“You’ll never guess who has just popped round... Oh, you did guess.”

“I must be psychic, minister; spooky. Incidentally, it appears that Mr Werritty is handing out business cards, describing himself as your “advisor”.”

“Is he? Let me see. Oh no, that’s advisor with an O, that’s completely different.”

“So, he’s an adviser with an O?”

“Yes, totally different.”

“Minister, people are puzzled by what he does, who he is, who pays for him, why he keeps turning up on your foreign trips.”

“He is, or is not, an unofficial adviser with an O, who is not directly attached to my office but has worked for me in the past and possibly the present and who’s income is entirely transparent, above board and not dependent on any transactional behaviour but cannot be disclosed for reasons of national security. Frankly, I struggle to see the issue here.”

Back in his constituency, Dr Fox is standing in at the surgery for the local GP.

“Hello, er, Mrs Wilkins. Now what seems to be the problem? Your back is hurting you. Okay, would you just slip your top off. What? Oh, pay no attention to Adam; he’s here in a private capacity.”

Downing Street: Dr Fox has been called in to explain to the prime minister his links to Mr Werritty.

“I say, Liam I have to get some answers to these questions.”

“Of course, prime minister.”

“But I think my first question is who is that man sitting at the other end of the cabinet table?”

“Oh, that’s Adam Werritty. He asked if he could have a look round.”

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