Susie Rushton: The unspoken bond between best man and groom

Notebook: Liam Fox didn't just choose the wrong adviser; he chose the wrong best man

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I wonder if, in the final analysis, when the whole story of Liam Fox and his friend Adam Werritty is unspooled, we will conclude that the Defence Secretary didn't only choose the wrong adviser. He chose the wrong best man at his wedding.

However many mates you have, it's not easy to select from one's social circle a friend who is hilariously funny and party-loving, yet just responsible enough not to lose the rings, screw up the stag do and make a public idiot of both himself and the groom on the day of the wedding.

That's why so many men now sit on the fence and split the job between two friends instead. The role brings with it plenty of scope for disaster and unfortunately Hugh Grant's hapless best man in the opening scenes of Four Weddings and a Funeral – having overslept, he arrives late for the wedding, without rings – isn't so far removed from reality.

My favourite piece of advice on choosing a best man is posted on the wedding website confetti.co.uk, which counsels, "avoid asking someone who is too busy, unreliable, notoriously difficult, or who has had a previous romantic relationship with the bride."

But the other, less obvious, quality needed for a best man is a kind of equality with the groom. Groom and best man isn't the same power dynamic as father and son, or teacher and student (although, there will be some happy exceptions to this rule). So, to the casual observer, one very much more powerful groom and a younger best man in thrall to the former makes a slightly strange arrangement.



Getting the balance of power right is why famous grooms so often choose a close relative as a best man – a brother or cousin is one of the few people who treats them equally. On Sunday, Paul McCartney married for the third time, with his brother Mike as best man. (Mike's a safe bet: he was chosen for the Beatle's previous two marriages, too.) In April, Prince William did the same thing when he picked Prince Harry as his wing man – trust in a relative presumably winning out over any hope of a tasteful after-dinner speech.

By the time of Liam Fox's wedding to fellow doctor Jesme Baird in 2005, he and Werritty had known each other for about five years, having met when the younger man was studying in Edinburgh. At the wedding, Werritty dutifully made a speech that gently ribbed the groom. Referring to the stag do, he joked that "Barry from Bournemouth" hadn't been able to attend – a reference to an identity that Liam Fox apparently used in karaoke sessions. Pretty tame, by the standards of some of the best-man speeches I've had to listen to over the years.



Fox and Werritty look very smart, and very happy, in the photographs that have been reprinted across the media this weekend. So, on the face of it, Werritty did his best-man duties well. But the age difference – and the imbalance of power that suggests – is noticeable, and unconventional.

Did Fox regard his younger friend as a livelier, wittier version of himself, somebody who could charm and engage his guests – and later, his professional contacts at home and abroad? There's a lingering unspoken bond between men who agree to take up best-man duties for each other – so did Werritty's status as Fox's "closest friend" somehow trump all other considerations that the politician might have had? With consequences he would come to regret?

This is what reality's like, Stella

Stella English, who won 2010's series of The Apprentice, has quit the £100,000-a-year job working for Sir Alan Sugar that was her prize. Stella was the mother-of-two from a London estate who had left school with no qualifications and yet had clawed her way up to a highly paid job at a Japanese bank. She gambled it all on reality TV, but it seemed to pay off when, in the final, she beat posh-boy Chris and went off to collect her Sugar Inc security pass.

So what went wrong? Exactly what you might guess: on joining one of Sugar's companies, she was disappointed to discover that she wouldn't be "working closely" with him at all, but was separated by layers of pesky middle management. English claims that the big man told her the main reason she'd kept her job at all was to protect his and the show's reputation.

You'd think that somebody with her nous might realise that reality-TV success isn't the same as real success. It might be a springboard to even flashier things (think of Leona Lewis), but it probably won't be (BB winner and celebrity scorned woman, Imogen Thomas).

Stella's is a cautionary tale familiar to every pop wannabe who fell silent after triumphing on X Factor, or amateur cook whose career sank like a bad soufflé after Masterchef gold, or those extras in programmes like The Only Way is Essex and Made In Chelsea: the only people who gain from reality telly are the shadowy figures who own the show formats, and the strutting, big-shot presenters. For real success, try life away from the cameras.

s.rushton@independent.co.uk

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