Conservatives In Crisis: The fashion model turned judge heading Tory ethics investigation

THE WOMAN heading the Tory Party's investigation into Lord Archer could have doubled as a character in one of his novels. Elizabeth Appleby QC, chairwoman of the ethics and integrity committee, was a fashion model before becoming a barrister in 1965.

Ms Appleby, 57, who has two children, is a deputy High Court judge and heads the Gray's Inn Chambers where Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Booth, works. She led the two-year inquiry into mismanagement at the Labour-run Lambeth Council, in south London, which concluded there had been fraud and corruption costing the taxpayer some pounds 50m.

Alongside Ms Appleby will be Archie Hamilton, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee of MPs, Robin Hodgson, who chairs the party's voluntary wing, the National Conservative Convention, and Nicholas Padfield QC. The committee will meet for the first time within 10 days. It has the power to discipline, suspend or expel members found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute, and can advise on candidate selection. It provides its services free.

The accused person is allowed legal representation in presenting a defence to the committee. Those who feel they have been unfairly dealt with can take their case to Lord Mayhew of Twysden, the former attorney general and secretary of state for Northern Ireland, who acts as final arbiter.

The committee, set up on the day Mr Hague became Tory leader in an attempt to avoid the deluge of sleaze allegations that helped to undo John Major's "back to basics" programme, has not been asked to act until now. This year, the former Tory MP Sir Timothy Kitson formally requested that the committee investigate Lord Archer. But he was turned down by the party hierarchy. He said: "I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall."

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