Coffee House

Why Maria Miller should not have resigned

10 April 2014

Maria Miller’s forced resignation is a disgrace. No iniquity was proved against her. Over her expenses, I suspect her motive was innocent: she was trying to work out childcare with her parents in a way compatible with the weird rules, rather than plotting larceny. The parliamentary committee probably understood the circumstances fairly. The press anger was confected because of our (justified) dislike of the post-Leveson Royal Charter. We keep complaining that MPs are ‘marking their own homework’, forgetting that this is exactly what we have done ourselves — incredibly indulgently — for all these years, whenever people have complained about our behaviour.

Besides, it is constitutionally wrong for MPs not to mark their own homework. We elect them. If we insist on an unelected body ruling their affairs, we are undermining the authority we have conferred on them. The best system is that MPs should mark their own homework but 100 per cent in public. Then they preserve the power of representative democracy and we can work out what we think of them.

This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes in this week’s Spectator.

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  • Fraz Glencross

    She stole 40 odd grand reduced, shamefully, to 5 grand by a group of mp’s all looking out for her and each other. In any other walk of like, except possibly banking, she would be sacked, prosecuted and likely jailed. I work for the government and if i got caught fiddling my expenses to the tune of a fiver i would lose my job. How you can think she possibly didnt have to resign is mind boggling. I have to assume you are a complete and utter f*ck wit.

  • Turdson Minor

    You may be quite right Mr Moore, however British politics is now so debased (I have long since given up voting) that the only real political sport these days is to savour the destruction of individuals such as Miller, who play the system against the rest of us.

  • amicus

    I agree that Mrs Miller has been unfairly treated.

  • transponder

    This article would make more sense in a country that did not a) prosecute people for defending themselves and their own homes and b) sue them for singing Kung Fu Fighting as innocent entertainment. When you have stopped doing the above, please get back to me.

    In the meantime, I’m living the good life in the Sunshine State.

  • Troy Malinn

    Dear All, being new to this particular blog my only observation from reading the varied & interesting comments is that no-one appears to know or agree on the facts? Sure there are lots of opinions but no agreement on the key issues; certainly not enough for the public to make a reasonable assessment of what their MP has or has not done, and which rules (she) has or has not contravened etc. Maybe next time we have an expenses scandal we can cut straight to the chase and begin formal proceedings against those charged; get them in front of a tribunal. Perhaps that way we will get to the truth quickly, thereby also ensuring for the future that our MPs keep on the straight and narrow, where we can see them & they can see us! Yours, TM (not a Tory by the way…!)

  • MajorFrustration

    The trouble is that whilst in most peoples eyes she got away with it – albeit to the extent of £5800 – we all know that if it had been us we would be banged up and no special pleadings. So why should Dave – in his letter- like to see her back in Government – in the future? Yet another judgment error by the PM – keep going like this Dave and you will be out of a job before mid 2015

  • HookesLaw

    Nigel Evans has been found not guilty. Presumably the press will now mount a campaign for him to resign. The press must be consistent.

  • Frank

    Jackie Smith, Patrick Mercer, David Laws, Mike Hancock, Tim Yeo, Maria Miller, Eric Joyce and Nigel Evans, such ornaments in the political firmament (plus all the ones whose names escape me). I am being nice as I could add bonking Boris, Sally Bercow, etc, etc.
    Given the frequency with which these people pop out of the woodwork, it is probably worth a proper academic study, eg does Parliament only attract certain types of people.

    • JamesdelaMare

      These days it attracts people who want to take a short cut to fame, status and profit in their careers who have perhaps only one or two parliamentary terms in which to do it. Those who come up from nowhere and won’t want to spend a whole working life to achieve it. Criminals do the same thing. They don’t want to wait so they take a short cut to riches, gambling that it won’t go wrong.

  • Tony_E

    The press are fighting back against those involved in the pernicious ‘hacked off in Miliband’s office I’m the wee small hours’ deal.

    Not a surprise.

  • perdix

    If you really would like some facts on the matter, read this…..

  • Mike Purves

    She might have scraped through on a very generous interpretation of the ‘rules’, but har attitude to gaming the system to maximise her cash take does throw a light on her character and moral judgement, which falls far short of what we should expect from a Cabinet Minister. The ‘second home’ was clearly a complete fiction, and the flipping back to avoid CGT transparently dishonest.

  • swatnan

    She was just proving to be a liabilty and an albatross around Daves neck, rgardless of whether she’d done wrong or not. She had to go. No doubt the witch hunt by Press and Media forced her from Office. If she hadn’t upset the Tories over Gay and Marrigae and Leveson, she could have ridden the storm.

  • JoeDM

    Moore seems almost as much out of touch on this than Cameron !!!!

  • Colin56

    Dear God, Mr Moore, what planet have you been on in the past few days? I often admire a contrarian with sensible and engaging arguments to put forward; but your position is completely indefensible. Miller was caught out, as was the so-called [Low] ‘Standards Committee’. It took the woman a week for this to sink in. Even then her resignation correspondence is qualified by weasel words and the hope – apparently endorsed by the PM – that she might return one day. News of her eventual resignation was greeted by a collective sigh of relief from the nation and the fervent hope that we can now all move on to more substantial matters. What part of that don’t you get?

    • JamesdelaMare

      One wonders how much longer Mr Moore is considered a credible writer for the DT and this magazine. He seems insufficiently objective these days. All that suppression of comments when Mrs Thatcher died while Mr Moore was lauding her memory as her erstwhile biographer was enough to set alarm bells ringing. And now this amazing article to excuse Miller MP.

  • Mynydd

    Maria Miller’s forced resignation is a disgrace, quite right, it should have not got that far, she should have been ‘fired’ immediately the results of the investigation were known. Oh for a Prime Minister with the bottle to do the right thing.

  • dado_trunking

    That’s right, she ought to have stayed in her post to prove a point.

    We now find Parliamentary Recall discussed, as suggested by Goldsmith, which would not address this issue as the delinquent would remain in his/her seat until the end of the cycle.

    What we need is forceful reassurance that (a) MM repays all that’s owed, (b) the role ofthe standards committee is fully and independently investigated by others and (c) that MPs will no longer draw main parts of their income from capital gains subsidised by the taxpayer.

    Why is the Spectator not on to THAT?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …because they’re doctrinaire socialists just like you?

  • Maria Miller Is Innocent

    Nice one Chucky lots of chuckles in your blog.. Just wish I had thought about the child care aspect it may have just been the tipping point in my arguments..

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Mr Moore should get his facts right:
    1. Miller was not exonerated. The independent commissioner was controversially overruled on the issue of her mortgage claims. The whole House had the power to hear the case in public but chose not to.
    2. The commissioner also found that she had not provided evidence to support her claims (usually a basic requirement in any expenses system); she claimed to have ‘lost’ her diary, as did her association.
    3. Even if the above does not imply guilt (although it’s certainly a reasonable assumption), she was guilty of disrespect both to the commissioner and to the House
    4. By far her worst sin was threatening the press
    5. She compounded this by spinning about a witch hunt, the implication being that she was wrongly accused ‘of the main charge’ which of course she wasn’t and by which phrase she also effectively confessed to being guilty.
    6. No Conservative will mourn Miller as she’s never been recognisable as such, more as somebody who simply wanted to be a minister and didn’t care about which colours she hid behind.

    • HookesLaw

      No you are wrong and need to get your own facts right.
      The independent commissioner and the chair of the committee issued a joint statemnt to clear up ‘misconceptions’ about the sums involved. The commissioner agreed with the £5,800 figure.
      ‘Amid criticism that the committee had watered down a crucial
      recommendation from the watchdog, Sir Kevin Barron, the committee
      chairman, and Hudson released a joint statement on Friday to correct
      “misconceptions” in the reporting of the inquiry into Miller. They said
      the amount was reduced because the standards committee, chaired by
      Barron, had received more information about Miller’s mortgage after
      Hudson had concluded her work.’
      (The Guardian)
      Plus the lay members were content.

      Its a shame when your prejudices and ignorance are exposed but I am sure you will now withdraw your tirade to demonstrate how fair and objective you are.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Blah blah blah… her head has been mounted on a spike. Get used to it. There’s much more to come, including your hero Call Me Dave, soon enough.

      • ScaryBiscuits

        That’ll be the same Sir Kevin that regularly over-claims himself, I presume? The same Hudson who’s been told she won’t get reappointed if she doesn’t do what she’s told? The same Miller who inexplicably didn’t provide the ‘evidence’ in the first place despite having 16 months? The same lay members who were not content but actually expressed ‘no opinion’ (see your own Guardian article)?
        And all of this was conducted in secret. As I said, it was controversial.

  • HookesLaw

    Ho ho – the editor kept your views safely out of the way over the last week didn’t he. when will you realise you are working for a lackey?

    • Barakzai

      Probably at the same time that you realise that Cameron is . . . oh, never mind, you’re tin-eared.

    • WatTylersGhost

      Hey Hooker, Where have you been for the past few days? Not much to say about another Camerluvy biting the dust?

      • HookesLaw

        I think you will find I was an early very early commentator on the subject.
        I believe I commented on the self serving nature of the press pack.

        So ha blinking ha you are wrong again Mr loony toon.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          No, you were a cowardly socialist weasel, just like your boy Dave, hiding from Farage in those debates.

    • southerner

      Well she only resigned yesterday. How is he going to write about a resignation before it happened?
      You and the rest of the Camerluvvy socialists have been very quiet……

      • HookesLaw

        I did not talk about the resignation. I talked about his views which were plainly as we now see opposed to her having to resign as per the fake whipped up self serving frenzy of Mr Nelson and his juvenile acolytes.
        Mr Nelson made every effort to put up everyone to thicken the plot. Mr Moore was conspicuous by his absence.

        I am not a socialist nor is Cameron. We are both tories and I for one am proud of it.
        What you are is a nasty bigoted extreme right wing nutjob loony toon. Someone to be despised and reviled.

        • southerner

          You can call yourself and Cameron what you like. What you both demonstrably are not are conservatives.

          • HookesLaw

            I am a proud conservative and have been for 50 years and more. So was MacMillan so was Whitelaw.
            You are a crass ignorant bigot.

            • southerner

              Someone has hacked your account then and been posting left wing Europhile nonsense. Maybe it’s that new virus they’ve been talking about.

            • JamesdelaMare

              Been a “proud conservative” for 50 years or more? Right back to Macmillan, wind of change, 300,000 houses a year and Suez – and you’ve not yet understood the collapse of this country and its standards, its trade, its military, its morality, its independence, under successive Conservative governments to dent your pride? You still hope for more of the same, perhaps? Well, loyalty may be admirable sometimes, but loyalty to incompetence, mismanagement and destruction is less than admirable in most people’s eyes.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              No, you are the furthest thing from conservative that could be imagined.

              You are a pure socialist nutter, lad.

  • Pootles

    It is quite exasperating that so many of the media/politico class seem not to grasp the reality of the world outside their bubble. If I had claimed some £40,000 expenses from my employer that I was not entitled to, I would now be sitting in a prison cell. And quite rightly. And yet the Millers of this world, and their well-heeled friends, still think that sort of behaviour is defensible. Any idea why most people are totally disillusioned with our political system, Mr Moore?

    • HookesLaw

      She did not claim 40k she was not entitled to.

      • Pootles

        So why did the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner give that as a figure to be repaid?

        • Alexsandr

          thats the big mystery on all this. why the difference?
          and why does she need a second home anyway? its not as if Basingstoke is near Thurso.

          • Pootles

            Indeed. My departmental boss lives in London, but commutes to the Midlands. He pays his own railfare and has a room in another colleague’s house for when he stays over, which, again, is not something he can claim on expenses.

            • realfish

              What’s that got to do with it? If your boss is happy to put up with that, that’s his business. Most organisations that value their staff will reimburse expenses necessarily incurred, including overnight stays if required. That your particular organisation doesn’t, has nothing to do with the Miller case.

              And in answer to your earlier question. The answer is in the report; i.e. the amount of overpayment was recalculated when further evidence was provided to show that the lower amount £5,800 was the actual size of the overclaim.

              In fairness, though, it is understandable that you won’t have seen that explained, our friends in the BBC et al have been a little economical with providing facts that don’t fit their agenda.

              • Pootles

                The point is that commuting from Basingstoke doesn’t, in my opinion, qualify one for a free house (which might, or might not, depending on pecuniary advantage, be one’s first, or second home). Most of us pay expenses out of our wages, and don’t expect our wages to be pocket money, while our employers pay for crockery, soft furnishings, bigger mortgages etc etc.

                • realfish

                  You might be right, but the rules, as they were, permitted this. And remember, Miller DID seek advice from the Commons authorities before she claimed and they OK’d the designation of the Wimbledon property as the second home.

                  I’ll pass on the second point – not sure what it is you are saying.

                • Pootles

                  But we’re still left with the fact that she claimed what she was not entitled to, which is why she has to pay £s back. And, if I did that with my expenses, I would be very, very surprised if my employers siad, ‘oh that’s ok, just say “sorry” and give us it back, or some of it, anyway, and we’ll just “move on”‘.

                • realfish

                  Yes. That’s something you suggested up above, and something that Miliband stupidly expressed in his partisan ramblings at QT yesterday.

                  Sadly, I have dealt with many disciplinary cases over the years where I have had to dismiss thieves (having in recent years had to get them to participate in the disciplinary process from their prison cell, as you say (as a consequence of Labour’s ‘gold plating’ of EU Regulation – I digress).

                  Never, though, after accepting that a genuine error has been made, has my organisation sacked anyone – the repayment of an overclaim has always been the remedy – together with an assurance that they will take greater care in future (and if necessary a clarification or rewriting of rules / procedures on our part).

                  For Miliband to say, ‘anyone else would have been sacked’, just goes to confirm that he knows ‘eff all about the way business works (and that he’s an idiot).

                • Pootles

                  Well, then, there are clearly different standards in different places, and, I suppose, for different people/status/grades. Perhaps Miller’s losing of her diary, and her minimal co-operation with inquiries, impacts on one’s sense of there having been a ‘genuine error’. And, perhaps, the elecorate might expect (hope ?) for the best from our elected representatives.

                • HookesLaw

                  Well then you are cleary shot down in flames. Another ignorant buffoon.
                  In their joint statement to clear up ‘misconceptions’ Barron and Hudson said
                  ‘this case dealt with complex matters relating to the rules as they were nearly a decade ago’
                  ‘The Committee’s report sets out in detail why it made no criticisms of Mrs Miller for her error in designation, noting that at the time when Mrs Miller made the designation, it would have appeared that the number of nights spent in the home was the primary test.’
                  ‘Committee’s report sets out why it rejected Mrs Miller’s claims that the Commissioner had misread the rules, but nonetheless considered that the “strict interpretation of the rules as they stood in 2005” was, to use the Commissioner’s description of the rule change, “too harsh”.’
                  ‘It should be noted that after the Commissioner had concluded her inquiry the Committee was able to secure further information from Mrs Miller on which to base its conclusions.’

                • Pootles

                  ‘A strict interpretation of the rules’ is what anyone expects as likely when it comes to rules. Why are you so offensive? Didn’t your mummy love you ? Are you all alone?

                • rtj1211

                  I agree, business includes people telling colleagues to claim falsely for whiplash after being hit in the rear by an incompetent driver, when no whiplash occurred. When this minor inconvenience was raised, the answer was; ‘Everyone does it!’

                  Actually, everyone does NOT do it, as I refused to. I didn’t make a song and dance about it, I just hunkered on down and realised that my colleagues were crooks. Driving a few extra miles to up the petrol expenses on a company car, you know the sort of thing. All fairly petty but the badge of a confirmed swindle.

                  When the Directors of the company are engaged in this sort of thing, it’s a fair bet that covering anything else up takes place, because otherwise you might get the sort of ‘Night of the Long Knives’ washing of dirty linen in public, and that would never do, would it????

              • Frank

                Sorry but that is wrong. Miller claimed that her main house was in Basingstoke. That got shot down by the Commissioner who looked at the utility bills to determine where the highest usage occurred. The Commissioner also concluded that Miller was only entitled (to the extent that she was entitled) to claim mortgage interest relief on the original mortgage, not the vast amount added to the mortgage and presumably used by the Millers for some investment purpose. You may be happy to subsidise Miller’s investment portfolio, I am not. The difference in the amount of mortgage interest being covered accounts for the £40K demanded by the Commissioner.

                • rtj1211

                  Well said and I do hope Charles Moore restrains from his faux moralising in future. Eton clearly didn’t teach him right and wrong so it’s high time he kept his mealy mouth shut.

              • HookesLaw

                So has The Spectator. Its all a big press witch hunt.
                Its not too different from the case of the funny looking professor who as part of a murder case was hounded by the press because he was a landlord and well … funny looking.

          • lily of the valley

            It isn’t a mystery. It is all to do with her original mortgage and how she upped it over the years from the original purchase price. She was just wrong on every level and you can read it in the reports. They want to protect their own.

            • Aberrant_Apostrophe

              She also upped it twice without informing the Expenses Office, which was contrary to the rules. If she couldn’t even handle her own expenses, how on Earth could she run a large Government Department?

        • HookesLaw

          There is no big mystery and if you were more alert instead of being thick and ignorant you will know that the commissioner and the committee chairman gave a joint statement where they agreed to the figure of £5800.
          Like you I very much doubt that the press have the brains and interest in finding the facts.

          • Pootles

            Not quite why you are such an offensive type. It really doesn’t help, and it certainly doesn’t win anyone over. Further, it undermines democratic discourse. And democracy is rather fragile.

      • WatTylersGhost

        Ah, you are back Hooker, not much to say then about your mate Maria these past few days.

      • lily of the valley

        And a fan of Maria, too. What a laugh. You are going down!

      • Tom M

        I do believe she upped her mortgage, when she had no financial need to do this, the interest of course to be paid by the taxpayer. And she wouldn’t say what she did with the loaned money.
        The inference being that she re-mortgaged to give herself some ready cash to invest in something or other whilst the taxpayer picked up the tab.
        If this inference was wide of the mark then all she had to do was to explain why she re-mortgaged the property.
        If there was a genuine reason for this then presumably everybody would have went back to sleep. But she didn’t do that did she?
        It should be quite straightforward. If an MP makes money on some housing scam at the taxpayer’s expense then he should be sacked.

        • HookesLaw

          She may have upped her mortgage but there is in any case a limit on what you can or could claim on expenses towards a mortgage and I believe – based on what I recall of the reporting at the time – she did not claim for that increased mortgage.

          If you are upset because she was narky then fair enough. I think the complaint began when a Labour MP complained because she had the nerve to be looking after her aged parents. Maybe this had something to do with it. But the committee said she made a mistake and they only asked her to apologise to the House for her alleged rudeness to them. Big Deal.

          • JamesdelaMare

            HL- Surely the point was that she was not looking after aged parents? They arrived from Wales or somewhere miles away to look after her children – so it was reported – which enabled her to buy a house on public money in London when she was already renting a barn conversion near Basingstoke as her constituency home. The whole thing was a scam to take advantage of an opportunity (offered to MPs by utterly flawed rules) to acquire an expensive London house at public expense, which she has now seemingly sold and with the proceeds has bought another £1.5million barn conversion for herself near Basingstoke, and not near Westminster. I think your (and Mr Moore’s) sympathy for her predicament is misplaced.

      • ButcombeMan

        Back to basics.

        The public plainly think her several Basingstoke rentals, were not really her main home, as Alan Johnson .effectively said on “This Week”, yesterday.

        It looks very much as though she, like so many others, was “gaming the system”.

        The public intuitively believe that, even though her peers choose not to. It was always unlikely that without selling up and “moving to the country”, as she has now apparently done, she could truly claim not to be living in Wimbledon, in her home of many years.

        Gaming the system is fraud. I have little time for her tears of self pity or her whining about a campaign.

        If all those who “flipped” irregularly had been dealt with as if it was fraud, ie properly investigated, collars felt and charged where possible, we would not have a nest of vipers, sorry, parliament.

        If her claims were absolutely genuine and she had /really/ moved her family lock, stock and barrel, she would have had no need would she, to resist, a perfectly reasonable many will think, investigation.

        Even if her claim was absolutely genuine which I personally think very unlikely, she apparently broke the rules on her parents.

        A mess, but a mess of MMs own making.

        Charles Moore is wrong.

    • amicus

      It was not forty thousand.

  • WatTylersGhost

    Resigned or sacked? Sacked or resigned?
    It makes no odds, the good people of Basingstoke will send her down the road as soon as they get the chance. De-selected within a month is my bet.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      Not if the local association’s chairman has anything to do with it, apparently. He’s like Charles – totally out of touch. I reckon UKIP stand a good chance of nicking B’stoke in 2015, even higher if she gets deselected.

  • tom jones

    If somebody claimed the wrong benefits and then got found out, they’d be in big trouble. MPs need to set an example and Miller is one of many who has failed.

  • John Sillens

    Mr Moore, how do you manage to be wrong about every subject you write about?

    • Michael Kingscott
    • telemachus

      Absolutely to the contrary
      I am no fan of anyone who got so cosy with Herself
      But it is a breath of fresh air to find a Speccie talking sense on this
      Particularly a DT insider confessing that this was post Leveson piqué and bullying
      I have said this thread on thread for the last 3 weeks
      Why Osbornemade her resign yesterday when it is the end of term today goodness knows
      Why Cameron was so wet as to let her goodness knows
      A sign of his weak character

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