Welcome to GB…I’m GB!

By DAVID WOODING

DAVID Cameron’s glamorous aide Gabby Bertin turned strike-buster today as she helped man Britain’s borders at Heathrow.

Political hacks feared she had joined the walk-out by civil servants when she failed to take her usual seat in the Commons gallery for PM’s questions.

But it later emerged his Press Secretary was among the army of volunteers checking passports and running immigration controls at the country’s top airport.

Gabby Bertin with Mr Cameron.

Dark-haired Gabby, 32, a popular figure in Westminster, would no doubt grant a welcoming smile to those arriving in the UK for the first time.
But journalists can vouch she is also a tough cookie who would have no truck with anyone who steps out of line.

During her single shift, she had cause to quiz one arriving passenger over her travel documents.

A colleague revealed: “She pressed this woman quite closely because she felt her passport didn’t pass the Bertin test.”

Gabby Bertin – affectionately known as “Berters” in the lobby – joined Tory campaign HQ straight from university and has worked for Mr Cameron since his leadership campaign in 2005.

She has worked for David Cameron since his leadership campaign in 2005 and has since been described as one of the most powerful women in Whitehall.

Number 10 confirmed “a handful” of staff working directly for the PM were among 125,000 civil servants who joined the strike over pensions.

Low risk

Mr Cameron asked members of his policy unit to do their bit to keep Britain’s gateway open during the 24-hour stoppage.

Later there were reports that Gabby had been spotted manning a passport control desk at Terminal One. She was given two days’ training in border security last week and learned how to check passports of passengers arriving on “low risk” flights.

Mr Cameron told the Commons the signs were that contingency measures were minimising the impact of the strike and branded the action a “damp squib”.

Passengers arriving told how they expected long queues but waltzed through the airport in minutes.
It’s not clear how senior a role Gabby was given but she’s renowned for her calm efficiency. Downing Street said it was unlikely she would accept a shift payment even if she was offered it.

Gabby’s used to working in the top-flight – and is definitely here for the long haul.

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Liam Fox faces lengthy Cabinet exile after damning report

By DAVID WOODING

LIAM Fox’s hopes of a swift Cabinet comeback have been dealt a heavy blow by an official report into his relationship with his Best Man.

A top-level probe delivered a damning verdict on his conduct – finding him guilty of multiple breaches of the ministerial code.

Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell’s inquiry found Dr Fox ignored warnings from senior officials about his friendship with ex-flatmate Adam Werritty.

He concludes the minister put his own security at risk – and that of senior military aides – by giving his chum access to his diary.

Ignored warnings: Liam Fox

Dr Fox, 50, quit on Friday after admitting a “blurring” of lines between his professional life and personal loyalty to a friend.

Mr Werritty posed as an unofficial adviser, handing out businesss cards and accompanying the minister on 18 overseas trips in 16 months, despite having no MoD clearance.

But today’s report failed to quell demands for answers to a welter of questions about 34-year-old Mr Werritty’s role.

In his report Sir Gus said: “Dr Fox’s actions clearly constitute a breach of the ministerial code which Dr Fox has already acknowledged.

“This was a failure of judgment on his part for which he has taken the ultimate responsibility in resigning office.”

Sir Gus clears him of making any money out of the friendship or putting national security at risk but ruled:

–         Dr Fox’s behaviour fell short of the standards of conduct required by the ministerial code.

–         His close links with Mr Werritty, particularly the use of business cards, gave the false impression he represented the British government.

–         The minister had kept MoD officials at bay for two pre-arranged meetings attended by his pal.

He recommended tightening of the rules governing links between ministers and civil servants.

Dr Fox, who will make a Commons statement tomorrow, said: “I am pleased that the report makes clear that the two most serious allegations, namely of any financial gain sought, expected or received by myself and any breach of national security, have no basis.”

But it is unlikely that falling on his sword will kill off the controversy, with Labour still demanding further disclosures.

Murky

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the report only “scratches the surface” of the potential breaches.

He declared: “A ten-page report into 18 months of wrongdoing is a superficial and narrow way for the government to deal with such a deep problem.

“This is a murky business and it has not yet been resolved. Liam Fox apologized in the House of Commons last week, but we still do not know the full truth.”

In the past, talented ministers have returned to government after serving a period of penance on the back benches.

With this row likely to run and run,  Dr Fox could be forced to wait quite some time.

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