Diary: Foxy's defence – the meeting was pure coincidence – has the ring of verity


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The Independent Online

Even at this 11th hour and 59th minute, is it too late to save Dr Liam Fox? With the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell due to report to the PM today on Foxy's friendship with Adam Werritty, pray God someone instantly alerts Sir Gus to this rebuttal of the damaging charge that, in Mr Werritty's company, he met with the American director of a private equity firm with commercial links to the Ministry of Defence. The good doctor insists this pow-wow in a Dubai restaurant came about purely by chance – and before cynics sneer and sneerers sin, there is a compelling precedent for such a defence.

In 2005, the Man Utd central defender Rio Ferdinand was seen dining with the then Chelsea boss Peter Kenyon in a London restaurant. It struck the naked eye like "tapping up", and Sir Alex Ferguson was far from gruntled. However, in denying any intent to sign Rio, Chelsea explained that "this was a meeting purely by chance in a public place" ... and to confirm how often such coincidences occur, the two had a second absolutely random meeting elsewhere in town that night.

Rio never did move to Stamford Bridge, which proves the point. Sir Gus must know that this is a very small world, laced with chance meetings in distant emirates between defence secretaries, their defence contract middle-man mates, and people angling for MoD business. Now let's put all this nonsense behind us, and not another word.

* All right, just a few. Foxy is known for dropping names. Now Natalie Imbruglia, with whom he once claimed to share one of those very rare restaurant dates that happen by prior arrangement, may not be the star she was in her "Torn" days (or, as The Sweet put it in their prescient 1970s hit "Fox On The Run", "But the names you drop are second hand"). Even so, despite telling the plain truth in every regard, the poor lamb remains stuck in what only a punning imbecile would call a not-a-lie imbroglio. Nothing's fine, his career is virtually torn, and he may soon be shamed and lying naked on the floor without so much as a red box to cover his modesty. Give him a morale-boosting call, eh, Nat? Just for old times.

* For all Foxy's dashing past with Aussie pop sirens, there is a patently mischievous tone to coverage of his relationship with Mr Werritty. Take The Mail on Sunday, which ran an item headlined "17 years apart – but they dress like twins". In truth, the pictorial evidence does raise suspicion. In one shot both are in suits and ties, which is telling in itself, but the clinching snap was captioned "Like Brothers". What are the odds against two chaps – one the groom, the other his best man – attending the same wedding clad in identical morning suits? It's a miracle.

* Sincere condolences to Alan Sugar on the death of a dear friend and one-time rival. "Gutted: stebe jobs died," tweeted Alan on Wednesday. "We started our computer biz at same time and were arch competitors tru 80s. Great visionary. Hadley missed. RiP". Hats off to his platform-shoed little lordship for putting so much care and effort into this endlessly touching eulogy, swiftly removed before a rather better spelt tweet was sent out.

* If Stebe's passing provoked a finer tribute, it came from a satirical powerhouse. "Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies," The Onion headlined its report. "'We haven't just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we've literally lost the only person in this country who actually ... knew what the hell was going on,' a statement from President Obama read." Hadley missed indeed.

* The debate about a presidential non-contender's weight induces a novelty from The Washington Post's E J Dionne, a stout fellow who regards Chris Christie's obesity as irrelevant to his fitness for high office. "But if you knew me, you might cite Margaret Thatcher," Dionne concludes, "who is widely quoted as having said, in a completely different context: 'He would say that, wouldn't he?'" This is the first recorded instance of a revered political pundit confusing Mrs T with Mandy Rice Davies, one lady who very much was for turning (tricks). Go E J!