Former Tory agent in health job 'non-political'

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THE FORMER Conservative election agent appointed by the Government to a pounds 19,000-a-year health service post claimed yesterday that she was 'non-political', writes Jonathan Foster.

Rosemary Murphy was the Tory agent in charge of the campaign to hold Wallasey, Merseyside, at the last general election. The seat had returned the Foreign Office minister, Lynda (now Baroness) Chalker since 1974, but was taken for Labour by Angela Eagle.

Mrs Murphy has been appointed to chair Wirral health authority, with an annual budget of about pounds 120m. More than 70 Labour MPs signed a Commons motion deploring the decision as 'another example of Conservative sleaze as every inch of public life is packed with Conservative Party supporters'.

Ms Eagle has asked Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, to withdraw her offer of the job to Mrs Murphy. 'It is outrageous that the health authority . . . will be chaired by a non-elected Conservative supporter.'

The health authority said Mrs Murphy had never belonged to a political party. 'She says she's non- political,' a spokesman said. She had spent six years as chairwoman of the Wirral community health council and applied to be Lynda Chalker's paid election agent. 'The job was advertised. It should not bar her appointment.'