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13 October 2011

Werritty “paid to act as Fox’s adviser“ by wealthy donors

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

By Samira Shackle

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.

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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.