Why Liam Fox is dogged by ‘gay’ insinuations
Whatever the facts of his friendship with Werritty, Fox has shown poor judgment - just like William Hague
NOT SINCE last year's saga of William Hague and his special adviser Christopher Myers has the British press - or sections of it, at least - got itself into such a tangle insinuating that a senior public figure might be gay.
Adam Werritty has been 'close friends' with Defence Secretary Liam Fox for about 15 years, we are told. The Tory politician met him when he was a 20-year-old student at Edinburgh University. How and why they met is delightfully unclear.
Fox then appointed Werritty executive director of Atlantic Bridge, the shadowy right-wing charity recently closed down because it turned out not to be charitable at all.
According to reports, in 2002 and 2003 Werritty lived rent-free in Fox's London flat – a taxpayer-funded 'second home'. Other newspaper stories have Fox and Werritty attending karaoke nights together, where Fox used the assumed name 'Barry from Bournemouth'.
The two men were fond of dressing alike, the Mail on Sunday has discovered. The paper even found a behavioural expert to say: "When people are very close and friendly there is often a tendency to start looking alike, even down to the posture they adopt and the way they dress."
And despite their 17-year age difference, Werritty acted as best man when Fox married Jesme Baird in December 2005, a wedding that took place against a background of gossip, innuendo – or 'up yer endo' as they like to say in Fleet Street on these occasions - and political intrigue.
Fox was a 43-year-old bachelor when he announced his engagement to Baird, a fellow doctor who worked at the Roy Castle Lung Foundation.
The timing of the announcement was fascinating to the press. It came a week after Fox, then shadow foreign secretary, appeared in the headlines for entertaining a group of British students in a hotel bedroom in Paris, where they emptied the minibar and one student ended up staying the night on the sofa in Fox's room.
"Why would a 43-year-old man wish to spend several hours getting smashed with a gang more than 20 years his junior?" Patrick Hennessy, political editor of The Sunday Telegraph, asked Liam Fox in an interview published the following weekend.
"I did Question Time from Paris and I was there for three days," Fox responded. "They were a nice bunch of students. They came to the programme, they were in the audience and they were desperately keen to get to talk to a British politician. And they invited me to a barbecue, so I went. Why not?"
The announcement of the engagement to Jesme Baird also came shortly before Fox declared he would be running against David Cameron, David Davies and others for the leadership of the Tory party that December.
Hennessy wrote: "As is the case with many politicians who reach their early 40s as a bachelor, Dr Fox has been dogged by persistent rumours about his sexuality... However, he has put all that to rest by announcing his engagement last week to Jesme Baird."
Except that, for some reason, Fox has not put it to rest. Nor, it might be said - at least until yesterday's apology - has he bothered to try to do so.
When the William Hague saga finally fizzled out last year it was generally agreed that, whatever the truth about his relationship with his young adviser, his decision to allow Myers to sleep in the same hotel room showed a "lack of judgment".
Now they're saying the same about Fox. Why did the Defence Secretary not think to himself - in the light of the trouble Hague had encountered - "Hmmm, maybe young Adam should stop trailing after me, handing out business cards saying he's my adviser..."?
The fact that Fox did nothing about it supports a theory in Westminster that he doesn't really give a toss what people think of him. As James Forsyth wrote in the Mail on Sunday, Fox "prides himself on not playing by the safety-first rules of the 21st Century political game... This conceit may well be his undoing."
When Forsyth asked a political ally of Fox's to explain how the Defence Secretary had got himself into his current pickle, he received the response: "Because he's a reckless bastard with no judgment."
That recklessness is what has allowed Fleet Street to continue to make assumptions about his sexuality. That and the fact that he has plenty of enemies in the Ministry of Defence, as the Mole writes today, who are happy to help keep the rumour alive, even if there is not a shred of real evidence to support it.
The paradox is that, if David Cameron were to find himself in two minds about firing his Defence Secretary later today, Fox might be better off if he were gay.
Cameron is keen for the Tories to be seen as on-side with homosexuals. He told the party conference only last week, in the face of disgust from many party members, that he supports the legalisation of gay marriage. ·
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