Leading female Tory MP survives deselection bid

One of the Conservatives' leading female MPs survived a deselection attempt by her constituency party after criticism of her conduct over expenses.

Eleanor Laing, the Shadow Justice Secretary, faced widespread criticism for not paying £180,000 capital gains tax on the sale of two Westminster flats that she had designated as her second home. Yesterday members of the Epping Forest Conservative Association, in Essex, overwhelmingly backed Ms Laing with 83 per cent voting in her favour.

Following the meeting Ms Laing, who has been an MP for 12 years, denied claims that the vote had been a whitewash. She described the meeting as "very difficult," adding: "I've been scrutinised. I have been questioned and I have answered all the questions and my critics accept that."

Ms Laing's situation was called to account by David Cameron in May after the Daily Telegraph revealed she had avoided a £180,000 bill on profit from selling the property – two adjacent flats in Westminster on which she was said to have claimed more than £80,000 in allowances. She sold the flats last year for £1.8m, making at least a £1m profit, the newspaper said.

Ms Laing agreed to voluntarily repay £25,000 despite a clean bill of health in Sir Thomas Legg's latest expense audit.