Ex-MoD man says 'ineffectiveness' tag could cling to department, post-Liam Fox

A former Ministry of Defence director of news has suggested that the Liam Fox affair could lead the department to be viewed as 'ineffective'.

Defence secretary: Liam Fox resigned on Friday
Defence secretary: Liam Fox resigned on Friday

Defence secretary Liam Fox resigned on Friday, after a week of revelations about his relationship with adviser and friend Adam Werritty.

Police and the Electoral Commission have been asked to probe allegations that the former defence secretary and Werritty committed offences by misleading donors and failing to declare funding. Meanwhile, the Government has signalled that it will look at wider problems with the lobbying system in the wake of the scandal.

James Clark, who was director of news and press secretary to the secretary of state at the MoD from 2002 to 2007, said that while accusations of impropriety should not stick to the MoD, it may continue to be viewed as ineffective.

‘Civil servants should have stopped this, or at least drawn a line in the sand and invited the secretary of state to ignore their advice and walk over it,’ said Clark, who is now a director at Cardew Group.

‘I suspect there has been an element here of the suspicion of the civil service, which many ministers share, and an associated determination to have "independent" advice. Ironically, it's the civil service which could have saved him.’

Clark added that defence was a more politicised area than ever before, and that the department would continue to come under attack from ex-MoD opposition politicians and commentators such as Tom Watson, Michael Dugher and Matt Cavanagh, who will ‘keep up the pressure’ on the ministerial team.

It also emerged over the weekend that Chime Communications chairman Lord Bell was present when an employee of one of his clients passed bank account details to a national newspaper that revealed a potential conflict of interest in the way Werritty was funded.

Lord Bell works for CQS, and was present along with CQS founder Michael Hintze, when bank statements were handed over to prove that neither he nor his boss had bankrolled Werritty.

Lord Bell declined to comment to PRWeek other than to state: ‘My role is simply to advise the client.’

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