Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, had been due to have a stress-free day today, officiating at a ceremony in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, as the keel of the next British nuclear submarine is lowered into the cradle where the rest of the vessel will be constructed.
The ceremony is supposed to bring good luck, but given Mr Fox's luck, future crews may be thankful he was not there.
The Defence Secretary's troubles come from the strange, shadowy world of a mysterious consultant named Adam Werritty, a man who lives a jet-setting life while appearing to have little visible means of support. Mr Werritty is not in politics, nor is he precisely in business, though he has been a director of several registered companies. He operates in the no-man's-land where politicians and businessmen meet.
Last night it was reported that a group of wealthy backers funded Mr Werrity's trips, only adding to the intrigue of the circles in which he mixes.
He is the son of a distinguished academic, Alan Werritty, but his entire career appears to have been built on one valuable contact he made while he was a student at Edinburgh University.
Mr Fox, Scottish by birth, was the Opposition spokesman on Scottish devolution, and Mr Werritty, his junior by 17 years, was studying public policy. They found that they shared the same broad ideas on foreign policy. When Mr Werritty graduated, he moved to London to work for the private healthcare company, PPP. Between 2002 and 2003, he lived in a spare room in Mr Fox's flat in Southwark, south London. In 2002, aged 24, he was listed as a director and later company secretary of a small firm called UK Health. In February 2005, he took on another directorship, in a company called UK Health Group Ltd. While Mr Werritty was running these companies, Mr Fox was Shadow Health Secretary. In 2005 – the year Mr Werrity was best man at Mr Fox's wedding – David Cameron drew up a new Shadow Cabinet, with Mr Fox taking the defence brief. Very soon, Mr Werritty began taking a professional interest in defence matters.
In 2006, he became a director of a group called Security Futures, which no longer exists. In February 2007, he became sole director of a firm called Danscotia Consulting, which had a net worth of £3,727 in 2010.
All of these firms appear to have tiny turnovers, unlike the well-funded Atlantic Bridge, founded by Liam Fox, of which Mr Werritty became UK executive director in 2007. This was registered as a charity in the UK and as a tax exempt, not-for-profit organisation in the US, but in 2010, an investigation by the Charity Commission ruled that Atlantic Bridge was not simply an educational charity, but a group fighting for a political cause.
Mr Werritty was paid £90,000 for the three years he was running Atlantic Bridge, after which he lost his most visible source of income, which did not stop him living a globe-trotter's life. One possible source of new funds for Mr Werritty's lifestyle could be number of rich right-wing benefactors – who are known to be close to Mr Fox.
These include Michael Lewis, who donated to Dr Fox's 2005 campaign for the Tory leadership and paid for Mr Werritty to attend at least one conference in the Middle East.
Mr Werritty's career may also been advanced by the hedge fund manager, and Tory Party donor Michael Hintze. Mr Hintze, who is worth £550m, has given £1.5m to the Tories since 2005, arranged a transatlantic flight from Washington for both Mr Fox and Mr Werritty in May. Sources say that Mr Lewis and Mr Hintze share many of Dr Fox's political objectives – though it is not know if either has ever directly paid Mr Werritty.
Yesterday, Mr Fox's people were claiming that Mr Werritty is a fantasist who abused his friendship with the Defence Secretary.
There is indeed something fantastic about his life story, but the jet-setting and the meetings with powerful politicians were real enough. As the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell investigates the story, he will want to know who paid.Reuse content