Filkin told to reapply for job after 'whispering campaign'

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Elizabeth Filkin, the parliamentary watchdog, has been snubbed by the House of Commons and told she has to reapply for her own job.

Mrs Filkin, who has been the subject of a whispering campaign by MPs and ministers, has not had her contract renewed when it expires in February. The post of Standards Commissioner will be advertised nationally and she will have to be interviewed with other candidates if she wishes to continue in the role.

Backbench MPs reacted angrily, called the decision by the House of Commons "vindictive". Peter Bottomley, a Tory member of the Standards and Privileges Select Committee, accused the political "establishment" of sanctioning a "whispering campaign" against Mrs Filkin because she had robustly investigated Labour MPs. He said her office had been starved of resources because her investigations had proved embarrassing.

"She is impartial, fair and professional," he said. "This is not a partisan issue. The whispering campaign, if not organised from those around Tony Blair, was not stopped by people around Tony Blair."

The Standards Commissioner was the recent target of an attack by the former House of Commons speaker, Betty Boothroyd, who said many MPs see her as a "witch hunter."

Since her appointment in 1998, Mrs Filkin has made many enemies in the Commons who believe her investigations are too assiduous. She has investigated Labour figures including the former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson, John Reid, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Keith Vaz, a former Europe minister.

Keith Vaz resigned after the watchdog published a highly critical report into his business affairs which accused him of failing to cooperate with the official inquiry.

The commissioner declined to comment on whether she would reapply for her job but few at Westminster believed she would submit herself to the "embarrassing" process.