Liam Fox and wife Jesme (right) with former prime minister Baroness Thatcher at his 50th birthday party in London. Photograph: John Stillwell/Press Association
Courtesy of Jamie Doward @ The Guardian:
Twenty US business leaders assembled in Pittsburgh in October 2006 to pay court to the coming man of British politics. They could have been forgiven for thinking Liam Fox, with his neatly parted hair and clipped Scottish accent, resembled the GP he had once been, rather than a potential Tory leader.
But, although few of the business leaders knew much about the shadow defence secretary, they were familiar with his charity, the Atlantic Bridge. This was the organisation whose patron, Lady Thatcher, was lionised in the US for her support of the free market and American military airbases on British soil. It was the organisation whose members in 2004 were ushered into the White House to be briefed by Karl Rove, George W Bush’s special counsel. And it was the organisation whose cocktail parties in the Carlton Club in London and Charlie Palmer’s steakhouse in Washington were high points of the transatlantic social calendar.
Shortly after addressing the business leaders at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Club – “the finest city club in the country”– Fox explained that the Atlantic Bridge promoted the special relationship between the UK and the US by creating “a network of individual people who can know one another”. He declared: “We are trying to bring people together who have common interests and to recognise that in an ever more globalised economy, we will all be called upon to defend those common interests.”
Last week those interests came back to haunt not just Fox, whose fall on Friday rocked David Cameron’s coalition government, but also many Tory members of the cabinet, whose extensive links to the Atlantic Bridge are now under scrutiny. The irony is that it took a furore around Fox’s friendship with a relatively minor player in the saga – a lobbyist, Adam Werritty – to make these links apparent.
Admittedly, senior Tory cabinet ministers had been scrambling to distance themselves from the Atlantic Bridge long before the scandal brought Fox down. The organisation’s website – and that of its sister charity across the Atlantic – has been dismantled. But old caches of the site reveal that, while shadow ministers, George Osborne, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and William Hague were all on its advisory council alongside Fox, its UK chairman. All four stood down as awkward questions over its political activities, which contravened charity laws, resulted in the organisation being wound up. Continue reading