Matthew Norman: Who are we to demonise a man who inspires such loyalty?

If Liam Fox became a manager at McDonald's, Adam Werritty would pop up asking, 'Fries with that?'

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I wish I had a friend like Adam Werritty. I do have friends, as it happens, and I am devoted to them as I hope they are fond of me. We phone and email and text, and meet up now and then to natter about children, X-Factor, the horrors of rampaging middle age or whatever. We console each other through the bad times and share the joy in the... but perhaps, having friends yourselves, you need no tuition on the rites of friendship.

Anyway, had you asked me a few days ago, I'd have told you that my friends were one of the best things in my life, and that I wouldn't change them for the world. Then along came Adam Werritty to redefine the nature of friendship, or at least raise the friendship bar to an unreachable zenith, and now I want to sack the bleeding lot of them.

This is why I resent Dr Liam Fox, who at the time of writing remains Defence Secretary, though this is ridiculously unfair. Is he to be demonised for being the kind of chap who inspires a level of devotion that beggars belief? When loyalty, the platinum of human resources, is among the scarcest and most precious commodities known to humanity?

I saw Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy the other night, and it shouldn't be an outrageous spoiler to report that there wasn't much loyalty about in the early 1970s Cold War world. John Hurt's Control couldn't trust a soul except Gary Oldman's George Smiley, and he wasn't sure he could trust him. When they weren't handing state secrets to the Soviets, close friends within "the Circus" were knocking off each other's wives. Even when those close friends were also lovers, they were betraying each other at every turn.

Before we go on, I'd like to make it clear that there is no suggestion that Dr Fox and Mr Werritty were ever lovers themselves. That is what I would like to do. Alas, that very suggestion is bubbling implicitly away beneath the coverage of this curious tale as the sub-text that dare not speak its name. But it seems prissy to the point of cowardice to avoid acknowledging that when adult males share premises, as these two did before the Fox wedding at which Werritty was best man, tongues will wag.

I refer you to the episode of the medical drama House, in which Hugh Laurie's diagnostician moves in with his oncologist friend James Wilson. When the thrice divorced Wilson is shocked to discover that everyone else in the block assumes he and the equally hetero House are lovers, the latter is less so. "We're grown men who moved in together," he wearily mutters. "We're two tigers away from an act in Vegas."

Siegfried and Roy made a fortune from the White Siberians in their circus (before one tore a chunk out of Roy's neck), while former residents of Siberia enriched themselves by selling info to John Le Carré's Circus. Thankfully, however, there is no evidence that Adam Werritty made so much as a bean from his travelling circus. And what travelling there was.

On 18 occasions, we are told, he paid his own way to be at his friend's side in foreign parts. Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Florida, Bahrain, Qatar, Washington, Israel, Singapore, Sri Lanka ... almost wherever the good doctor cropped up on Government business, Adam magically materialised at his side. Sometimes he went to official meetings, at others he tagged along for the craic when the Defence Secretary dined with senior US army personnel or whomever. Never once, we are told, did he turn a profit from what Liam – in impressively precise legalistic language for a non-lawyer – referred to in the Commons as "transactional behaviour".

It is Adam's ungodly gift for self-sacrifice, in terms of time as well as money, that raises the depressing comparison with the efforts of my own friends. I too have been on Dubai soil – and even if it was only for a few hours waiting for a connecting flight, would it have killed one of them to show up at the airport to advise me on the duty-free shopping, or how to price the shoulder-held, ground-to-air missile launchers I was trying to flog to that Saudi geezer in the shades?

In Edwardian days, Adam's role was known as "paid companion", with the only crucial difference between him and the impoverished gentlewomen shackled to the imperious old trout in early Agatha Christie being that, back then, Foxy would have covered his costs for the cruises and trips to Graeco-Roman ruins. In this latter day mystery, it seems that Adam paid for all the long-haul flights and hotel rooms from his own pocket without thought of recompense.

If being an unpaid companion meant enduring tedious meetings about defence-related contracts – contracts believed, in some circumstances, to carry finder's fees for middle men running into the millions – so be it. There was nothing he wouldn't put up with to support his friend.

Had his career as conjoined twin begun when Foxy went to the MoD last year, it might look suspicious. But it began years ago when Foxy's stint shadowing health coincided with him launching a health consultancy firm. Not that such trivia as job specifications are relevant to the friendship. If Liam became a manager at McDonald's, Adam would appear in the paper hat asking, "Fries with that?". Were Liam – tired of being grudgingly tolerated by a PM nervous of offending the Tory right by sacking him from the Cabinet – to plump for the life of a Bedouin nomad, he couldn't cross ten grains of sand before Adam trotted over the nearest dune with several months' worth of fat stored in the humps on his back.

Echo and Narcissus, Butch And Sundance, Holmes and Watson, Swann & Edgar... the honours board of immortally bonded males boasts a timeless new double act this week, and it sickens the heart to watch the media scouring Liam's story for holes like so many George Smileys hunting down a Soviet mole. Be he rich man, poor man or even beggar man, Adam Werritty is no more a tinker than a soldier or sailor ... but who needs to be one of those these days to mooch into the MoD when a calling card purchased from a motorway service station machine opens the right doors?

The Cold War, with its dodgy figures lurking in reflections from opaque mirrors and trading on cheaply manufactured false personae, ended long ago.

That was then, in a distant age when national defence was all about enmity. Who that loves peace can complain when it now offers us nothing more sinister than the Platonic ideal of friendship?

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