Liam Fox allies dismiss adviser Adam Werritty as 'Walter Mitty' figure

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Fightback begins but civil servants suggest Defence Secretary's days are numbered

Liam Fox's aides turned on Adam Werritty last night, describing him as a "Walter Mitty figure" who took advantage of the minister's friendship. In a clear attempt to distance the Defence Secretary from Mr Werritty to save his political career, "friends" of Mr Fox said it was "clear that Mr Werritty was masquerading as something he was not".

Mr Fox himself said last night that he was the victim of a "witch-hunt" but further questioned were raised last night amid reports that a wealthy, right-wing group of funders provided the money to pay for Mr Werritty to travel with the minister. At the same time, military commanders and senior civil servants warned that it was becoming untenable for Mr Fox to continue in his job. They also expressed grave concern that the Defence Secretary appeared to have used Mr Werritty as an adviser in formulating policy.

One of the armed forces' highest-ranking officers said: "This can't go on for much longer. We know there are other things which will come out. He is not dealing properly with his in-tray with all that's going on." The aggressive briefings by Mr Fox's advisers echo the briefings given by Downing Street under Tony Blair about David Kelly after he committed suicide. Both made the same reference to "Walter Mitty".

Mr Fox's aides briefed journalists: "It is clear Werritty was masquerading as something he was not. He was hanging around and popping up in places trying to be part of a group. This guy is clearly a Walter Mitty figure." And a senior Whitehall official responded: "He is prepared to take advice from a Walter Mitty figure rather than us. There are 40,000 jobs going in defence and we have this circus going on."

Mr Werritty was indirectly paid by wealthy backers who raised funds which enabled him to act as Mr Fox's adviser, according to a BBC report citing – anonymously – one of the donors.

Such an arrangement is thought likely to be in breach of the ministerial code if Mr Fox knew of it because it bypassed the civil service, but it was last night unconfirmed. Among the group was, according to one report, Michael Lewis, who donated to Dr Fox's 2005 campaign for the Tory leadership.

Mr Lewis, 52, a South Africa-born tycoon was, until four years ago, deputy chairman of the British Israel Communications Research Council (Bicom). After leaving Bicom as deputy chairman, Mr Lewis continued to donate to Bicom, which has admitted paying for Mr Werritty to attend a conference in Israel in 2009.

He was flown at Bicom expense to Herzliya in February 2009, where he watched Dr Fox give a speech on European-Israeli relations. Bicom's former director of communications Lee Petar set up a lobbying firm called Tetra Strategy, which introduced Mr Werritty to the venture capitalist Harvey Boulter – a move which led to a controversial meeting between Dr Fox and Mr Boulter in Dubai this year without MoD officials present.

Mr Lewis, who runs the blue-chip fashion retailer Foschini, donated £5,000 to Liam Fox's leadership campaign, £10,000 to the Tory Party and £13,822 to Atlantic Bridge, a charity run by Mr Werritty and established by Dr Fox to further links between America and Britain.

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, is due to report on his findings into the pair's relationship "within days" – and Whitehall sources said his inquiry would be much more wide-ranging than initially anticipated. Downing Street has also decided the report must be published in some form, making it more difficult to save Mr Fox should Sir Gus imply he has breached the ministerial code.

Major-General Julian Thompson, a former commander the Royal Marines, said yesterday: "The worry is, even if Mr Fox is not sacked, he will be damaged and not in a position to carry out the robust defence of the forces needed at these times."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz