The IoS Interview: Elizabeth Filkin - `Witch' Puts Away Her Broomstick ; Elizabeth Filkin, Ousted MPs' Standards Watchdog
Dillon, Jo, The Independent (London, England)
1940: Born 24 November
1961: Graduates from Birmingham University with social sciences degree
1975: Lecturer in social studies at Liverpool University
1983: Chief executive of Citizens' Advice Bureaux
1993: Adjudicator for Inland Revenue, Customs & Excise and Contributions Agency
1999-2002 Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
After 40 years of public service, Elizabeth Filkin cleared her desk at the House of Commons on Thursday and said: "I shall have to go down the Jobcentre now."
For three years she has been Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, the MPs' sleaze watchdog. The victim of a "whispering campaign" - or as she now puts it a "shouting campaign" - designed to undermine both her and her office, Mrs Filkin realised it was time to go when she was invited to reapply for her own job last year. Now she has not only lost that job, but has no new post to take up.
Maybe the press she received has something to do with it. She was dubbed an "awful witch" by her critics, and slated for her stance in opposition to some of the best-known politicians. But she insists she was being fair. It was just a pity that people in high places - the Speaker, Michael Martin, and Prime Minister Tony Blair among them - backed off from confronting some of the issues surrounding her investigations.
And it was those investigations that put her on a collision course with some of the most protected MPs. Her first case was an investigation into the rights and wrongs of the pounds 373,000 home loan that cost Peter Mandelson, then the secretary of state for trade and industry, his first Cabinet post, and led to Geoffrey Robinson's resignation as paymaster-general. In her last week in the job, Keith Vaz, the former Europe Minister, was suspended from the House of Commons. He denied he had failed to co-operate with the tenacious sleaze-buster, who was repeatedly asked to look into his business dealings.
But rather than thank her for her part in cleaning up their act, some MPs, their friends, civil servants and spin doctors waged a behind-the- scenes campaign to undermine Mrs Filkin. "I thought it [the campaign] was a fact of life and that senior people knew about that, and would not let that bother them. I thought they wouldn't get involved. I certainly didn't think they would let people being investigated run to them and say dreadful stories about `that witch'. It's a great pity. I certainly didn't want to be put in the position of having to re-apply for my own job. It was quite unfair. Of course, I was sad about that."
Mrs Filkin maintains she never complained to Mr Martin about her treatment, only pointed out the existence of a "whispering campaign". As for his request to her to name names, it was a "rabbit hole" she would not go down. But her remarks were not defeatist. "It's enhanced the office of commissioner, not damaged it. …