Friends and colleagues of Liam Fox have lashed out against a round of fresh allegations linking the defence secretary to innuendos that he is gay or a "promiscuous homosexual."
According to a report in The Sun newspaper, Tory chiefs covered up a key detail of an early-hours burglary at Fox's London flat on the night he was burgled, while his wife was away in Hong Kong during the general election campaign last year. They insisted the defence secretary was alone. The Sun claimed a "younger man" was staying at his London Bridge apartment, described as a "friend from out of town."
Fox's aides denied that it was Adam Werritty, 34, the defence consultant at the centre of the storm over the pair's joint trips.
Asked on Radio 4's "Today" programme about rumours that Fox was "a promiscuous homosexual," fellow Cabinet minister Chris Grayling, the employment secretary, said: "If you look around the Westminster village you will find all kinds of wild gossip about all kinds of individuals in all parties. That doesn't mean they are not good at their jobs. I have known Liam for many years. I know him and his wife, and they have always struck me as being a happily married couple. The reality is that the gossip is certainly circulating.
"I think we have got past the point in politics, though, where we needed to worry about people's private lives. The question is, is somebody doing an important, capable job."
Other reports have also cast doubt on Fox's story that his close friend Werritty was operating in a "private capacity" when they both went to Dubai earlier in the year, after hotel records seen by The Guardian reveal that Werritty booked himself into the five-star Shangri-La Hotel describing his position as: "Office of Dr Liam Fox" and naming the company as "Atlantic Bridge" - the defence secretary's pro-American right-wing charity.
Hotel staff also say that is was "normal, but not guaranteed" that the charity would pay for "all or part of the bill."
Sri Lanka meetings
The meetings with Sri Lankan politicians have also come under scrutiny when it was revealed that they to assumed that Werrity was there as an official adviser, when he travelled in advance of Fox's arrival.
Ravi Karunanayake, an opposition MP in Colombo, said: "I simply thought he was an assistant or an official or something similar."
In his statement to the Commons on Monday Fox had said: "Mr Werritty is a personal friend of Mrs Kadirgamar, [for whom he gave a lecture], and helped with the arrangements. It was a personal, not a ministerial, commitment."
At today's PMQ's Opposition Leader Ed Miliband is likely to ask the prime minister, David Cameron, why these new allegations have not been dealt with by Sir Philip Mawer, the government's independent adviser of ministerial interests. Yesterday, the shadow deputy leader, Harriet Harman told the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg: "He has always lectured us on high standards in public office, but while the defence secretary, by his own admission, has fallen short of those standards, the government have failed to refer him to ... Mawer.
"Does that not show that they are prepared to sacrifice high standards in public office to protect the secretary of state?"
Miliband is likely to continue on this line.