In a clear act of cowardice, the Conservative Party has moved to scapegoat Ursula Brennan, permanent under secretary at the Ministry of Defence, in order to protect the prime minister from scrutiny in the wake of Dr Liam Fox’s resignation. But I can now reveal that David Cameron’s office has been fully aware of Dr Fox’s involvement with the Atlantic Bridge since at least January 2010.
Earlier this week Sir George Young, the leader of the Commons, claimed that Ursula Brennan had been aware of concerns about Dr Fox’s behaviour in the summer but ‘did not take further action’ and went on to tell MPs: ‘It should have been escalated to the cabinet secretary who would then have notified the prime minister. Had that happened in this case, this probably would have been addressed at a much earlier stage.’ This was a cowardly act by Young, who knows Brennan cannot defend herself.
If it is the case that Ursula Brennan should have rung the alarm bell over Liam Fox’s activities in the summer, then it must also be the case that David Cameron’s own office should have taken action in January 2010, when I wrote to the then leader of the opposition. I made Cameron aware of the three concurrent investigations that I had triggered into Atlantic Bridge; with the Charity Commission, HM Revenue and Customs and, in the USA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
With no less than four members of the cabinet closely associated with the Atlantic Bridge — George Osborne, William Hague, Michael Gove and Fox — Downing Street could and should have been keeping a close eye on developments. It is hard to believe the prime minister was not aware that Fox’s charity had been ordered to cease its unlawful activities and Cameron should have known that it had had to be bailed out by Michael Hintze after the HMRC investigation led to Atlantic Bridge being presented with a tax bill it could not pay.
Had Cameron made himself fully aware of Atlantic Bridge activities in January 2010, his office would inevitably have come across its executive director, Adam Werritty. They would also have become aware of Atlantic Bridge Inc. and through that links to ALEC. In short, Fox’s shadow foreign policy network would have been uncovered; assuming, of course, that Cameron does not secretly endorse neoconservatism himself.
But with so many of the then shadow cabinet members – five including then shadow home secretary Chris Grayling – Cameron was simply not strong enough to take Fox on just a few months before an election. Even in disgrace Fox enjoys such wide and open support that the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts has counselled that their defiance may be ill-judged with Fox’s resignation speech sounding like an Oscar acceptance.
Even if Cameron has the will, this secret society of US style neocons and Tea Party fanatics is too powerful to take on and is as big a problem for Britain’s Conservatives as the Tea Party Movement has become for America’s Republicans.
Posts on the Atlantic Bridge are collected here.