The Liam Fox/Adam Werritty scandal drags on. And on. And on. Left Foot Forward’s Alex Hern covers the latest developments in the Fox hunt.
The revelations around Liam Fox’s improper links with his lobbyist friend Adam Werritty continue to pile up.
In what is becoming the norm with this scandal, the people hitting hardest seem to be those on the right.
Firstly, the Telegraph splashes with the fact that the release by the Ministry of Defence of the meetings between Fox and Werritty was missing at least one event that occurred in Washington, at the US branch of the two’s charity Atlantic Bridge:
The head of the organisation disclosed last night that Mr Werritty ate “at one of the top tables” at last year’s event where he is thought to have networked with senior US defence figures. Amanda Bowman, chief executive of the American Atlantic Bridge organisation, said: “Adam was with him [Dr Fox]. He showed up that night because he was travelling with Liam.
“He was Liam’s most trusted friend, and was at one of the top tables talking to other guests.”
[…]Earlier this week, the MoD twice assured The Daily Telegraph that Mr Werritty had not been in Washington during the visit. In Parliament earlier this week, Dr Fox told MPs that he had told his permanent secretary of “all” his overseas trips since the general election.
“There were a wide range of visits, and they included overseas visits that were family holidays and so on. I included them all for the sake of completeness,” he said.
The subsequent list released by Mrs Brennan said that “all Secretary of State overseas travel is listed”.
However, last night a spokesman for Dr Fox admitted that the list was not complete as it did not include details of the Washington dinner.
The Times, meanwhile, has dug up the details of the firms which back Werritty, which include (£):
A corporate intelligence company with a close interest in Sri Lanka, a property investor who lobbies for Israel and a venture capitalist keen on strong ties with Washington.
The Daily Mail has an exclusive look at a second lobbyist who claims to be an ‘advisor’ to Fox.
American defence consultant John Falk:
…has described himself on websites as ‘an adviser to Dr Liam Fox MP, the Conservative Party shadow defence minister in the development of the Atlantic Bridge network’, a charity set up by Dr Fox to promote the ‘special relationship’ between the U.S. and the UK. […]
Mr Falk is managing director of Kestral-USA, the Washington DC branch of Pakistan-based Kestral Holdings which specialises in military logistics and private security.
The company has contracts with Blackwater, the infamous American private security firm with deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Blackwater, now known as Xe, has been the subject of a congressional investigation in the U.S. as a result of its allegedly violent behaviour.
Mr Falk has worked for a string of firms that have lobbied U.S. government officials on subjects including defence.
Between 2006 and 2009 his clients alone paid $900,000 (£570,000) for his expertise, according to official records.
He says on Kestral-USA’s website that he ‘advises companies in the military, homeland security and advanced technology sectors in the realm of strategic partnering and federal business development’.
In an email to the Daily Mail last night, after he had apparently been contacted by Dr Fox’s aides, Mr Falk said: ‘A brief note to clear up a misunderstanding – I do not serve Dr Fox as an adviser nor have I served Dr Fox in any official capacity.’
Dr Fox last night refused to answer detailed questions about his relationship with Mr Falk but a spokesman said: ‘John Falk has never been an adviser to Liam Fox MP.’
As the revelations pile up, it is more and more clear that Fox has acted in a deeply unprofessional way. With his continued presence in government looking more and more uncertain, the biggest question now is how he’s managed to cling on for so long.
Paul Goodman at Conservative Home has three theories:
The first is that [David Cameron] dislikes reshuffling his own team, let alone one in which the Liberal Democrats are involved.
The second is he believes governments look and are weak if they allow the media to dictate terms – especially since an enquiry into Fox’s affairs is under way.
The third, and most telling, is that he doesn’t want to see a right-wing rival loose on the backbenches. If the Defence Secretary has to go (which I hope he won’t), the Prime Minister would rather he went weakened first – by the press coverage that may carry on running until the inquiry reports.
Accurate or not, the Fox hunt is not going to stop anytime soon, and when the cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell reports back, as he is expected to do on Monday, it seems unlikely the news will be good for our vulpine friend.
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• How long can slippery Fox cling on? – Shamik Das, October 11th 2011
• Fox’s sliminess shows how much we need lobbying regulation – Tamasin Cave, October 10th 2011
• Grayling dragged into Fox/Werritty scandal – are Osborne, Gove and Hague next? – Shamik Das, October 10th 2011
• Weak Cameron will struggle to fire Fox – Daniel Elton, October 10th 2011
• Fox’s Sri Lankan jolly under scrutiny – Elliott Fox, March 23rd 2010