HOUNDING OF A DECENT WOMAN; Elizabeth Filkin: Revealed Corruption and Deception

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Oborne

IN a provocative and important new book, the Mail's politicalcommentator Peter Oborne paints a devastating portrait of Britain's new rulingclassan arrogant, out-of-touch alliance of MPs and other insiders who ruthlesslypursue their own interests, ignoring the public good. Yesterday, in our firstexclusive extract, he argued that the rise of this new class has brought greedand corruption in its wake. Today, he reveals how it unites to crush anyone whoexposes its wrongdoings ...

ELIZABETH FILKIN was well aware she had been making powerful enemies. But sheonly realised how dangerous they were when she received a visit from the formerLabour chief whip Lord Cocks.

Cocks, who cultivated an air of menace and took pleasure in his reputation as aprofessional thug, invited himself into her office. He had known Filkin formany years. 'I've been sent to see you,' he snarled on arrival.

'Who sent you?' asked Filkin.

'I can't tell. I'm here to tell you that you have been upsetting a large numberof powerful people.' Lord Cocks refused to inform her who they were. But hescarcely needed to. .

scarcely needed to.

In her capacity as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Mrs Filkin's jobwas to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by some of the most powerfulpeople in Britain.

She had already badly upset 10 Downing Street by ruling that Tony Blair'sfavourite Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson had misled the Britannia BuildingSociety by failing to declare on a mortgage application form that he hadreceived a huge loan from his government colleague Geoffrey Robinson.

Now she was carrying out an investigation into another Cabinet ministerJohn Reid.

Filkin had sensational proof that Reid had abused taxpayers' money by usingparliamentary researchers (one of them his own son) to work full-time on LabourParty business. She also possessed damning evidence that the future HomeSecretary had pressured witnesses to her inquiry.

In addition, she had launched scores of inquiries into sleaze or corruption byministers and MPs of all political parties. They revealed a shocking pattern ofarrogance, corruption, greed, bullying and deception.

No wonder Cocks and his friends wanted her silencedbut Filkin stood firm. She told Lord Cocks that she had a job to do, and wasgoing to get on with it without fear or favour.

Cocks indicated his displeasure.

'Well, Elizabeth,' he grunted, 'I've always thought very highly of you.

I have to warn you that this may turn out badly for you.' He added: 'You arejeopardising your seat in the House of Lords, and they just won't put up withit.' The warning proved uncannily accurate. In the months that followedElizabeth Filkin fell victim to a vicious smear campaign and ended up losingher job. The details of this wretched affair, which shames British democracy,can only be told today.

In a move sanctioned by Downing Street, Labour MPs and ministers pressuredElizabeth Filkin into backing down. First, she was approached directly by MPsurging her to soften her style.

Peter Mandelson provided one example of this. According to Mrs Filkin,Mandelson first used 'smarm and charm' in order to evade criticism during hisinvestigation.

When that failed, Mandelson used menace instead. Mrs Filkin records that he'went cold and hinted that it wouldn't be good for me if the finding went badlyfor him. In several phone calls he gave me the impression that all would not bewell from my point of view if I did not do what he wanted'.

When neither charm nor menace succeeded, Mrs Filkin's ministerial enemies wentbehind her back with a venomous whispering campaign.

Pro-Government journalists were taken aside and encouraged 'to take a look' atFilkin. One political reporter was informed by Labour MPs that she was a 'madalcoholic'.

A number of journalists, encouraged by their contacts in the Government, turnedviciously on Mrs Filkin in print. …