Adam werritty

The lobbyist’s web still threatens the reputation of MPs, parliament and politics

Allegations that Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind were involved in the latest ‘cash for access’ scandal is a reminder of the threat that lobbying poses to both the reputation of parliament and politics. In 2011, as Liam Fox was caught up in the Adam Werritty scandal, The Spectator examined how the lobbying industry works and how it threatens to skew our democracy: Old hands in Westminster are confident that they know what lies behind the Liam Fox-Adam Werritty relationship. With a knowing glint in their eye, they lean forward and whisper: ‘He’s a lobbyist.’ They’ve seen it all before, they say. It explains why Werritty thought it was worth spending tens

Uncivil service

Political cultures differ. In Iran, for example, hyperbole is expected in all political conversations. So slogans always call for ‘Death to the US’, and nothing less. In Britain, of course, the use of language is more even-tempered, but other rules apply. Blaming the civil service for failure is considered OK, but charging an individual official, even a Permanent Secretary, for the same is considered off-limits. If a minister were to try it, then he’d be accused of trying to pass the buck on towards defenceless officials. But, as Camilla Cavendish points out in today’s Times (£), failure is often also the fault of senior officials who, despite problems in the

Breaking the silence | 14 December 2011

There’s a great selection of writers named of the cover of our Christmas issue. But one name, however, may stand out: Adam Werritty, who has written an article giving his take on the scandal that brought down Liam Fox earlier this year. We thought CoffeeHousers might care to read the whole thing (naturally, before buying a copy of the issue here), so here it is: When you hire a morning suit for a wedding, you count on being photographed a few times on the day — for photos that will be quickly buried in wedding albums. But by now, half the country will probably have seen pictures of me as

O’Donnell kicks Fox, but not too hard

It isn’t over. That’s the abiding impression after reading Gus O’Donnell’s report into the Liam Fox farrago. I mean, the outgoing Cabinet Secretary basically admits as much in the opening paragraph of the document: “more allegations about Dr Fox’s conduct have arisen,” it observes, “many of which will be the responsibility of others to answer, including the Electoral Commission which regulates political parties and their funding.” It goes on to clarify that, “This report looks into allegations relating to potential breaches of the Ministerial Code”. In other words, this investigation was specific, not far-reaching — and it shows. So what does O’Donnell actually conclude? As expected, he does kick Fox

Gus O’Donnell reports — and Liam Fox responds

Gus O’Donnell’s report into Liam Fox, Adam Werritty and all that has finally been released. You can read all ten pages of it here. We shall have more on it shortly, but, for the time being, here’s Liam Fox’s statement in response: “I am pleased that the report makes clear that the two most serious allegations, namely of any financial gain sought, expected or received by myself and any breach of national security, have no basis. As I said in the House of Commons last week, I accept that it was a mistake to allow the distinctions between government and private roles to become blurred, and I must take my

Overreacting to Werritty

The Werritty case has made everyone who believes that government is controlled by lobbyists and tycoons slaver. The Guardian screams that Ministers held more than 1,500 meetings with corporate representatives in the first 10 months of the coalition, which presumably the newspapers’ readers know to disapprove of. But how many unionists did Labour meet after a year in office — and how many corporations? The party that declared itself “relaxed” about profit-making presumably met one or two profit-makers. Or did Ed Balls, when he was City minister, stay away from the Square Mile? I don’t know the numbers, but I am sure they would reveal that governments from Left and

Liam Fox, the morning after

It is as you’d think: a sea of news coverage and commentary about Liam Fox’s departure. Some of its currents are merciless, such as the Mirror’s front cover. Some are more circumspect, such as an excellent pair of articles by The Spectator’s own Matthew Parris (£) and Charles Moore. But, on the whole, there is a strange absence of finality about this story. A Defence Secretary has resigned – and rightly so, I think – but we still cannot be completely sure why. Maybe it is just the “appearance of impropreity,” as Philip Stephens puts it, that killed this Fox. Or maybe there is something more poisonous waiting to emerge

Fox unlikely to cause trouble for Cameron

As soon as the news about G3’s funding of Adam Werritty emerged, it became clear that Liam Fox was going to have to go. Downing Street had no desire to be seen to be pushing this Thatcherite out of the Cabinet, but its test has always been that Werritty could not have been receiving money from companies with any interest in defence. Once that line was crossed, Fox was always going to have to go. I suspect that the former Defence Secretary will not be a problem for Cameron on the backbenches. Fox values loyalty highly and his friends appreciate how the Prime Minister didn’t push Fox at the first

Fox resigns, Cameron responds

Liam Fox has just resigned as Defence Secretary. Here is his resignation letter to the Prime Minister in full: Dear David, As you know, I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility. As I said in the House of Commons on Monday, I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my Government activities to become blurred. The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days. I am very sorry for this. I have also repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest. I now have to hold myself to my own standard. I have therefore decided, with great

James Forsyth

Few think Fox can survive

I understand, from a Cabinet Office source, that Sue Grey, the civil servant who interviewed Adam Werritty on Tuesday, was completely baffled by Werritty’s explanation of how his funding arrangements work. This is yet another sign that events are beginning to move rapidly against Liam Fox. The Times’ front page story this morning has led to a significant fall away in support for Fox among Tory MPs. There is also considerable nervousness in Tory circles about what tomorrow’s papers are expected to bring. All this makes it increasingly hard to find people who expect the Defence Secretary to survive. Indeed, several people who have been defending Fox in the media

Ministers behaving oddly

It’s a rum deal being a Global Networker. This morning’s Times reports (£) that Adam Werritty has received nearly £200,000 in donations from clients who appear to have employed Werritty to lobby Liam Fox on ideological issues such as Israel, the Special Relationship and Euroscepticism; although why anyone thought it necessary to lobby Fox, who is a resolute neo-Conservative and Atlanticist, on these matters is something of a mystery. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reveals that Fox and Werritty enjoyed a $500-a-head dinner with American military figures in Washington, which the Ministry of Defence has not disclosed (perhaps because no British official attended the dinner). This suggests that Werritty and Fox may

The Fox story rumbles on

It has been a relatively quiet day on the Liam Fox front today. It now seems that the report into this whole affair will not be ready until next week; Adam Werritty has not yet had a second interview with Cabinet Office. For his part, Fox has looked more confident today and by all accounts was impressively calm as he sat on the front bench today. Interestingly, one ministerial ally of Doctor Fox feels that last night’s report by Nick Robinson was more damaging for the defence secretary than most people have realised. His fear is that having people pay Werritty to push a specific agenda, even if it was

Ministers need their Werrittys

I’ve never met Adam Werritty and hadn’t even heard of him before a few weeks ago. I’m also of the belief that financial wrongdoing should not be the only test used to judge Liam Fox’s suitability for ministerial office. And I don’t think the fact that a previous government changed ministers too often is a reason to overlook inappropriate ministerial behaviour. Whether the Defence Secretary, in fact, behaved inappropriately remains to be seen. But the signs are not, at this stage, good – even if the airwaves are now dominated by “Foxies”: the Defence Secretary’s friend and allies. That said, I think the self-styled advisor is getting an unfair wrap,

Werritty’s no Walter Mitty

Those “friends” of Liam Fox who are trashing Adam Werritty to journalists (see here, here and here) are doing the Defence Secretary no favours. The idea that Werritty somehow imposed himself on Fox is simply risible. Fox was under no obligation to invite Werritty to dinner with an American general or to go on skiing holidays with him. Crucially, Fox didn’t move to cut Werritty off even after he found out about the infamous business cards that described Werritty as an adviser to him. On Monday, Fox told the House that he dealt with this issue in June. But this doesn’t seem to have led to any change in Fox’s

James Forsyth

Miliband attacks Cameron on jobs

Ed Miliband chose to ask all six questions on the economy today, making only the quickest of references to the Liam Fox story that the Westminster village is currently obsessing over. Armed with ammunition from the latest unemployment numbers, Miliband did a solid job of pushing Cameron onto the back foot. But there was one moment which will worry Miliband’s supporters: the spontaneous way the government benches fell about when Miliband claimed that Scottish and Southern Energy’s decision to start selling its electricity on the wholesale market was the result of his conference speech. Three Labour backbenchers did ask questions about Liam Fox. Cameron said he would look at publishing

Werritty’s donors

So, who paid for Adam Werritty’s air miles? This is the question going around Westminster this afternoon. James blogged yesterday that No10 has set two tests: was Werritty being paid by defence companies, and did Fox know about it?   From what I understand, the answers to both are “no”. Werritty was not paid by any defence company — or, indeed, any company at all. His funds were provided by individual donors, who do not have even a tangential interest in the defence industry. His job was to network and provide updates about politics in general. His donors are interested in affairs in the Gulf and the Middle East, about energy

Fox in the clear?

Liam Fox demonstrated today why he’ll be staying in Cabinet. He’s a tough, eloquent and effective Commons performer who does not fall to pieces when the going gets tough. George Osborne and Michael Gove were both on the front bench with him. One MP told me he saw Eric Pickles in the corridors, giving Fox a hug that almost killed him. All this reflects well on them: in politics, it’s always worth noting who stands by colleagues, and who scarpers, when it hits the fan. Fox has, finally, made the two steps required to get on top of this scandal: an apology, and full disclosure to stop the drip, drip

James Forsyth

Fox defies the hounds

To the joy of the Tory benches, Liam Fox has just come out swinging in the House of Commons. In his initial statement, Fox apologised to the House for allowing the lines between his personal and professional life to become blurred out of “personal loyalty to a friend.” He then conceded that Werritty had travelled on 18 overseas visits with him since May 2010 and visited the Ministry of Defence 22 times. The presence of George Osborne and Michael Gove on the front bench showed how determined the Cameroons are to indicate support for the defence secretary despite the political differences between him and them. Jim Murphy missed the target