Politicians tainted, says Tory in Betsy inquiry

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Politicians are "associated with sleaze and appear to be self-serving", the woman at the centre of allegations against Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday.

Vanessa Gearson, the former head of the Conservative leader's office, made the remarks as she gave evidence to the inquiry into suggestions that his wife did not do enough work to justify her pay as his secretary.

In a newspaper interview Ms Gearson, a deputy director of Conservative Central Office, said: "It's a crying shame politicians are now viewed with distrust. We've seen massive voter apathy. Politicians are associated with sleaze and seen to be self-serving. I don't believe that serves us or the democratic process."

Ms Gearson, 36, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham, made a thinly veiled warning to party managers not to remove her from the key Tory target seat. She told the Gloucestershire Echo: "I've placed myself in a sensitive position. It was something I did not do lightly. But I felt strongly that the position I'd taken was a just one and that I should stand up for the principles that I believe in."

Local Conservatives have rallied round Ms Gearson, insisting she has their full support. But she suggested that she had reached an accommodation with the Tory leader. "Iain has admitted that I was right to raise the matter and that I had no part in any plots or allegations."

Ms Gearson was the author of a leaked e-mail which sparked the furore after it warned of the dangers of a Crick-style investigation into payments to Mrs Duncan Smith from public funds. Yesterday she presented a 20-page statement outlining her role in the affair to Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, before meeting him to give evidence in person.