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Tuesday, October 18, 2011 

More blurring of the lines.

To call Gus O'Donnell's report into the allegations against Liam Fox (its actual title no less) a slight document is to put it very kindly. At all of ten pages and around 2,700 words it's shorter than some of my more extravagant posts on here, which it has to be said probably says more about me than it does about the cabinet secretary. It does those raise the question of just why it took him more than a week to produce it, and also why it was repeatedly delayed today; it certainly wasn't for proof-reading, as wags have had it, as it contains at least a couple of errors often found on the average quickly thrashed out blog entry. Whether it was, as Craig Murray suggests, down to No 10 demanding certain paragraphs or comments be excised we'll most likely never know.

Those 10 pages do however contain damning criticism of our dear friend Foxy and in turn his dear friend Werritty, albeit delivered in the finest mandarinese. As Fox himself was quick to trumpet, it does clear him of personally profiting from this friendship with Werritty, but then no one was seriously suggesting that this was a matter of immediate personal enrichment with Werritty as his fence. Fox in his statement also pointed to how O'Donnell decided there was no breach of national security, but he strangely overlooked how his disclosure of future foreign visits to his best mate "posed a degree of security risk" not only to Fox himself but also to the accompanying party of diplomats and civil servants. Still, they don't matter much, it was only a degree of risk, and Fox has accepted such disclosures were "not appropriate".

If O'Donnell's report was somewhat nobbled by Downing Street, then he at least deserves praise for the sheer manner of the skewering of Fox. He adopts the "blurring of the lines" half-apology first used by Fox himself and twists it into him repeatedly, you suspect with abundant glee at the absurdity of the formulation, as he and everyone else knows that this was no "blurring of the lines" on the Fox's behalf; it was entirely deliberate. Fox and up until now the Conservative party as a whole have tried to play this as a simple, relatively uninteresting affair involving a minister allowing his slightly clingy friend to tag along with him on meetings, ignoring completely that someone had to be paying for Werritty to gallivant around the world pretending to be an official adviser.

We already knew that Fox had directly solicited a donation from Jon Moulton for Werritty's company Pargav, which it seems was set-up to replace the Atlantic Bridge, Fox's forced to disband neo-con charity. O'Donnell reveals the other donors are names involved from the beginning, some of them also being contributors to Conservative party funds. Three have pro-Israel connections, although it's possible to stretch this too far: one of those named, Mick Davis, last year had the temerity to suggest that the current Israeli government "lacked a strategy on the peace process". Leaving aside that it's very clear that it does have a strategy on it, which is to make a Palestinian state impossible through constant delay, claiming not to have a partner and settlement building, he hardly strikes as having an Israel first mindset like Melanie Phillips.

They do however obviously want to know what their money is paying for. Giving money directly to the Tories is one thing; why fund Fox's pal unless he's doing something that civil servants either can't or won, with presumably end results. This is what O'Donnell is hinting at when he writes