The whole Liam Fox/Adam Werritty situation is one I’ve left alone up to now as far as blogging is concerned.
This is partly because it’s a fast-moving situation and I wanted to see how it unfolded; and partly because I’m technically a political adviser in Parliament.
It’s one of those odd jobs that’s difficult to describe. I do give advice to my employer, a member of the House of Lords and not a member of the Commons. And it is on the politics of a given bill or debate or issue in the news, among other things.
And I could apply for business cards saying as much. But as I barely get access to the canteen menus let alone lobbyists, I don’t bother. And if I did bother, I’m not too sure I’d choose ‘political adviser’ to put on it. It’s just too close to ‘Special Adviser’, a specifically defined role with a Code of Conduct from the Cabinet Office.
And that, of course, was Adam Werritty’s motive in calling himself a ‘political adviser’. Just enough smoke and mirrors to ignore the fact that he wasn’t employed using the civil service rules nor did he have to follow the code of conduct.
There’s lots you can read about the various twists and turns of this story and it would certainly seem that the Secretary of State for Defence would be well advised to resign – if he was getting his political advice from a half-decent, honest adviser with no ulterior motives.
The little thought that keeps popping back into my brain is about money. I’m not obsessed with it or anything, don’t get me wrong! It’s the sums of this story that keep niggling away at me.
Adam Werritty is on the record as the sole employee of Atlantic Bride, an organisation set up by Liam Fox to improve links between the Conservative Party and the centre-right in the USA – The Republicans and the Tea Party. You can read more about that organisation here but the point is that Werritty is recorded in their books as earning only £20,000 over a four-year period.
At the same time, we now know that Werritty travelled with Fox overseas at least 18 times since May 2010. They visited Hong Kong, Singapore, and Washington DC twice each and Dubai five times as well as other trips.
Werritty is known to have travelled business class on some of these trips, but even if he had gone economy class on all of them, at today’s prices that would cost £25,000. Business class would be £77,000. The Guardian has said he flew first class. So that’s 33% more expensive.
Two nights in a Hilton on each trip would cost £7,200. On top of that there are meals, local travel, entertaining, and so on. A conservative estimate would put his spend in 18 months at around £90,000.
Now the thought that this keeps raising in my mind is this: Given the large disparity between his income and his expenditure, should this be a matter for HMRC?
Is Adam Werritty in trouble with the taxman? Or is someone else funding his lifestyle? Either way, David Cameron would be wise to wash his hands of the affair by sacking Fox.