Employment minister Chris Grayling was dragged down into the increasingly murky depths of the Liam Fox/Adam Werritty scandal today, reports Shamik Das.
Employment minister Chris Grayling was dragged down into the increasingly murky depths of the Liam Fox/Adam Werritty scandal today.
Grilled on the Daily Politics this lunchtime by Jo Coburn and shadow defence minister Kevan Jones over his links to Werritty, Grayling repeatedly avoided answering questions about his role in Atlantic Bridge – an organisation which funds Werritty to the tune of £90,000 a year.
Grayling, who ran Fox’s failed leadership campaign in 2005, was on the advisory council of Atlantic Bridge, alongside George Osborne, Michael Gove, William Hague, and, of course, Dr Fox.
Atlantic Bridge, long under investigation by the Charity Commission, was dissolved last week after criticism by the commission.
When asked to explain his role in Atlantic Bridge, Grayling says:
“I had little involvement in Atlantic Bridge, I was merely one of a number of politicians on its advisory board, but I mean it wasn’t a formal entitity, but look, let’s be clear, Adam was an employee of the Atlantic Bridge, there’s no question about that, the Atlantic Bridge has now been wound up, Adam Werritty is now an independent businessman…”
Upon further probing, Grayling admits:
“Of course I was aware that he was employed by the Atlantic Bridge.”
“I’ve had very little dealing with Adam over the years, I’ve probably met him once or twice over five or ten years – when, for example we were running Liam Fox’s leadership campaign he wasn’t in and around the campaign…”
And on the question of whether it was acceptable Werritty met with the Sri Lankan President on behalf of Liam Fox, Grayling slips up big time:
CG: “Well, my understanding is they both went to a lecture given by the Sri Lankan President.”
KJ: “No, not true.”
JC: “No. We’ve got the pictures, and we’ve seen it, the video footage shows. Do you think it’s acceptable?”
CG: “They met him at that event.”
KJ: “He [Werritty] arranged the meeting.”
JC: “Should he arrange, should friends arrange meetings for a defence secretary?”
CG: “Well, Liam of course had a long involvement with Sri Lanka going back to the days when…”
JC: “You’re dodging the questions here, Christopher Grayling…”
He is later quizzed on his hypocrisy regarding breaches of the ministerial code, having himself called for David Blunkett to be censured six years ago – yet failing to demand similar action against his mate.
Listen to Grayling’s grilling (we join it with Coburn asking Jones if he’s happy with the employment minister’s answers):
It is more than two years since Left Foot Forward first reported on the questions surrounding Atlantic Bridge, questions that remain, and threaten to engulf not just the defence secretary, but several of his Cabinet colleagues as well.
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• Weak Cameron will struggle to fire Fox – Daniel Elton, October 10th 2011
• Grayling’s tabloid pandering gone mad – Ben Mitchell, August 29th 2011
• Another balls-up by Calamity Chris! – Shamik Das, August 12th 2010
• Cameron slams Grayling on B&B remarks – Will Straw, April 20th 2010
• Out of hiding, Calamity Grayling is wrong on drugs & reoffending – Claire French, April 9th 2010
• Weak link Grayling: Wrong on the facts, wrong on the stats – Shamik Das, February 3rd 2010
• Gray days for Grayling – Shamik Das, October 9th 2009
• Grayling’s revisionism on Wire comparisons – Will Straw, October 6th 2009
• Grayling depicts Wire fiction as fact – Tom Tàbori, August 25th 2009