A behind-the-scenes campaign of "smear tactics" has been waged against the senior police officer leading Scotland Yard's cash for honours investigation, it was claimed today.
John Yates was formally promoted by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) yesterday, stepping up from his role as Deputy Assistant Commissioner to become the force's fifth Assistant Commissioner.
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There are now only two officers above him in the Met and Mr Yates is widely seen as a potential future Commissioner - possibly when Sir Ian Blair retires.
One leading MPA member called on Sir Ian to give a public show of support for Mr Yates today amid claims of a "whispering campaign" against him - allegedly emanating from Westminster.
The MPA's chairman also expressed his concern about attempts to undermine Mr Yates, describing him as a man of "great integrity" who deserved support during the honours investigation.
At the authority's monthly meeting today, Conservative MPA member Richard Barnes asked Sir Ian: "Would you assure him (Mr Yates) of the support of this authority?
"I have certainly become aware of smear tactics and an 'anti-John Yates' campaign being run by various individuals.
"While he would no doubt dismiss these as irrelevant to what he is doing, they do have an impact on the individual - no matter how strong they are.
"Would you convey your own support for what he is doing on that sensitive and difficult case?"
Sir Ian said he could not comment directly on the cash for honours investigation, but added of Mr Yates: "Of course he needs support and he will get support, as all senior officers and all junior officers in the force will do."
Len Duvall, chair of the MPA, was more forthright, describing Mr Yates' appointment as "important" for the future.
He said of the cash for honours case: "No one is above the law. There has been a valid complaint made. The police need to investigate that."
Mr Duvall said Mr Yates had shown "great integrity" in conducting the investigation and stressed that police officers "need to be able to do their job" free of political interference.
Referring to the claims of a whispering campaign against Mr Yates, he added: "I have been somewhat exercised by some of the stuff I have seen in the press which I do not think is worthy of John Yates."
Mr Yates, who has held the title Temporary Assistant Commissioner for a few months, has been in the spotlight for his role in the honours inquiry, which has become the dominant political issue of recent months.
There have been reports that Downing Street and Labour Party officials are being investigated over alleged attempts to hamper his inquiry. Counter reports have suggested that No 10 blames the police for damaging leaks during the nine-month investigation.
Last week, Tony Blair became the first serving British prime minister to be questioned in connection with a criminal inquiry when he was interviewed by police investigating allegations that peerages were offered in return for financial support.
Mr Yates is not thought to have been present at the interview.
His starting salary in his new role will be £163,908.
The cash for honours inquiry is almost complete and a file is due to be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service early in the New Year. [link to www.thisislondon.co.uk]