Fetch the blindfold: Liam Fox awaits his fate
Defence Secretary has made matters worse with his grovelling apology
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the Mole's article was posted Prime Minister David Cameron declared this morning that Liam Fox should be given more time to answer questions about his working relationship with Adam Werritty. The PM said "rushing" the investigation into whether Fox broke the ministerial code would lead to "trial by the media". The BBC reports that Cameron will not make a decision on Fox's future until he sees a full MoD report on October 21.
CABINET Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell holds Liam Fox's fate in his hands this morning as he delivers a report to David Cameron on whether his relationship with his former flatmate Adam Werritty broke ministerial rules. The odds are against the Defence Secretary surviving.
O'Donnell is brutally honest, and if there is any doubt about the honesty of Fox's answers in the report by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Ursula Brennan, he will not hold back in his report to the PM.
Fox's grovelling apology yesterday evening only served to make his position worse. He admitted his self-styled 'adviser' Adam Werritty has financial interests in the defence industry and his frequent contacts with him could have given an impression of 'wrongdoing'.
But the root of Fox's problem is that Fox is not liked. His junior defence minister, Gerald Howarth - a right-winger like Fox - complained that the left wing were out to get him. But Fox's enemies are inside the Ministry of Defence, and include both civil servants and generals.
Fox was made a hate figure as a result of his mad review of the armed forces, which resulted in Britain looking ridiculous - he scrapped Ark Royal and the Harrier jump jets that flew from it while they were needed in Libya.
That was after the leaked letter to David Cameron saying the defence review was "looking less and less defensible". It looked at the time like Fox was fighting his corner, but the leak was calculated to infuriate Cameron, which it did. There is also considerable anger at the MoD that he ordered the redundancies of thousands of servicemen and women while they were engaged in active combat.
There are more allegations in The Guardian and The Times this morning that Werritty was seen by defence lobbyists as the man to approach to get to Fox. Despite the cuts, they were queueing up to sell Fox more kit.
Fox is due to face MPs at Defence Question Time in the Commons this afternoon, and unless he is fired first, it promises to be a miserable mauling.
There are plenty of questions raised by his close friendship with Werritty who is 17 years his junior: What was the nature of their relationship? Were payments made for access? Why did Fox give Werritty access to the MoD without Werritty being either on the pay roll or security-cleared?
Harvey Boulter, chief executive of the Porton Group, confirmed that Werritty was involved in setting up a meeting with Fox about secret voice encryption technology at the five-star Shangri-La hotel in Dubai. Boulter is furious that he disclosed commercially sensitive information to Werritty without realising he was not security-cleared, and he blames Fox.
In making his apology yesterday, Fox appeared to accept a potential breach of the ministerial code, which states that ministers must not only ensure no conflict arises between their public duties and private interests, but also that none "could reasonably be perceived to arise".
Don't expect to see Sir Gus marching along Downing Street with the bit of paper that will decide whether Fox faces the firing squad. The Cabinet Secretary will go through the secret door that links the Cabinet Office with Number Ten after walking along the Tudor Passage once used by Henry VIII, who was keen on executions. Fetch the blindfold! ·
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