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Liam Fox: torn

Did Australian angst rock princess Natalie Imbruglia personally broker BAE Systems’ $15.8m contract to upgrade the Chilean army’s howitzer capacity? I only ask because the lucky girl lists Liam Fox among her former squeezes, and as we know, the defence secretary can be extremely accommodating to the commercial interests of old friends.

As a special adviser to Dr Fox myself – well, that’s what it says on my business cards, anyway – I should stress here that no concrete charges of misconduct have at this point been made against him.

Nevertheless, his obvious closeness to defence consultant Adam Werritty does create what Fox called at the weekend ‘an impression of wrongdoing’. Moreover, hard evidence seems to contradict some of Fox’s earlier statements in this affair.

As senior politician at the Ministry of Defence, Fox has one of the most sensitive jobs in government. His brief takes in not only the armed services, but responsibility to act as a super salesman for the arms trade, the one remaining high tech manufacturing sector in which a substantially deindustrialised Britain still claims world leadership in export terms.

In many cases, this entails pimping weaponry to regimes that use what they buy both for internal repression and external aggression. Arms consultants – people like Werritty – make often not inconsiderable livings by ensuring they get a slice of the pie.

For obvious reasons, I am reluctant to use the expression ‘smoking gun’ in any story that involves the MoD. But if it is proven either that Werritty secured financial advantage from hanging around Whitehall with his former flatmate, or that Fox has been less than truthful in answering questions, then it is quite clear that Fox should go.

He may not quite be naked on the floor, and I apologise right now to readers who find that image disturbing. But to paraphrase Ms Imbruglia’s 1997 anthem to all those with conflicted personal lives, he’s wide awake and he should see the perfect sky is torn.

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