Werritty "paid to act as Fox's adviser" by wealthy donors

New allegations could be particularly damaging if found to be true.

How many days on the front pages does it take before a politician's career is over? Liam Fox has been weathering the storm so far, but allegations made today will be particularly damaging, if they are proved true.

The BBC is reporting that an anonymous "wealthy backer" of the Defence Secretary has admitted that he and several others raised money to pay for Adam Werritty to act as Fox's adviser.

According to the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, this person said that the group of donors shared Fox's ideological perspective. The source claimed that although the group did not have specific defence interests, they paid Werritty because he could be trusted to encourage support for Eurosceptic, pro-American and pro-Israeli policies -- unlike civil servants.

To an extent, this account conforms to that given by Werritty; that his 18 trips abroad were funded by ideologically sympathetic philanthropists. The Guardian reports that Werritty has admitted to the inquiry that he may have "unintentionally misled" some business associates about his relationship with Fox, allowing them to think he was an official aide.

So, it appears that this group of wealthy backers existed and funded Werritty. The key question is how much Fox knew. If the donors were explicitly paying Werritty to act as Fox's adviser, as the BBC's report implies, it will be increasingly difficult for Fox to continue to deny all knowledge of impropriety.

Having an adviser paid for by undeclared donors is almost certainly a breach of the ministerial code and so if this allegation is found to be true, it would be difficult for Fox to continue in his role.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Gerald Kaufman dies aged 86

Before becoming an MP, Kaufman's varied career included a stint as the NS' theatre critic.

Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and former theatre critic at the New Statesman, has died.

Kaufman, who served as the MP for Manchester Gorton continuously from 1970, had a varied career before entering Parliament, working for the Fabian Society in addition to his flourishing career in journalism and as a satirist, writing for That Was The Week That Was and as a leader writer on the Mirror. In 1965, he exchanged the press for politics, working as a press officer and an aide to Harold Wilson before he was elected to parliament in 1970.

Upon Labour’s return to office in 1974, he served as a junior minister until the party’s defeat in 1979, and on the opposition frontbenches until 1992, reaching the position of shadow foreign secretary. In 1999, he was chair of the Man Booker Prize, which that year was won by JM Coetzee’s Disgrace.

His death opens up a by-election in Manchester Gorton, which Labour is expected to win. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.