Coffee House

The twists and turns of the Miller tale

4 April 2014

From tonight’s Evening Blend – a free round-up and analysis of the day’s political events from the Coffee House team. Subscribe here.

‘I think that we should leave it there,’ said David Cameron when asked by reporters today about Maria Miller. Of course, the press won’t leave it there as many suspect that there is something about this that doesn’t quite meet the ‘smell test’ that a leader of a party in opposition once set out. Why has the Prime Minister been quite so warm and supportive towards a minister who failed to co-operate with the investigation into her expenses? Why was she allowed to make such a recalcitrant apology? Former chair of the Commons committee on standards in public life Sir Alistair Graham has told ITV news that ‘Cabinet ministers have to show strong leadership on ethical issues and she hasn’t shown any.’

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The Prime Minister also claimed that independent members of the Commons standards committee rather than MPs had the casting vote over whether to censure Miller. But the Commons rules state that only the MPs on the committee can vote on its findings. Expect this to be picked over in some detail in tomorrow’s papers, who don’t seem to like what they can smell. Craig Oliver’s intervention in the middle of today’s Daily Politics – the spin doctor emailed the show to say ‘Tony is talking rubbish about me, and you can use that’ as former Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher was talking about Oliver’s role in the story – is also likely to feature.

One other question worth mulling is why other MPs and Labour closed ranks over this. It is hard to find anyone other than John Mann and Peter Hain who will make any negative comment publicly. While the press is outraged about the way MPs and Number 10 have handled, MPs are privately outraged that their greatest scab, the expenses scandal, is being picked at once again.

As for Labour, it has only sent out an official response today via Chi Onwurah arguing that that David Cameron’s ‘weakness and double standards on the issue of Maria Miller’s expenses are totally unacceptable and completely out of touch’. Labour is warning that ‘we must have the very highest standards in public office’ and ‘there can be no going back to the bad old days of expenses’. But why did it take 24 hours to come up with that response? It will be interesting to see whether Ed Miliband is drawn into responding. This could be the perfect opportunity for him to use his PMQs line that the PM stands up for the wrong people. But any intervention he makes from now on will be rather late to the party and less effective for it.

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Show comments
  • Monkey_Bach

    If you read this Maria, God bless you. Thank you for being you.

    • Wessex Man

      Yes, I can see in my minds eye, yet more Tory membership cards being disposed of!

  • kyalami

    She’ll be gone within a week.

    • Wessex Man

      I bet you are wrong, Call me Dave is a stubborn little piece of work when comes to sticking up for cronies rather that looking after the interests of the Country!

      • kyalami

        You may be right, but I hope not and expect not. When someone causes so many day-to-day bad headlines as she is doing, there gets to be a point when defenestration is the only option.

  • Raddiy

    The damage in the public’s mind is is done, whatever weasel words are now used in damage limitation, it is all far, far too late. You don’t have to wear a stripey top and a black mask anymore for the public to see you for what you are, and the all seeing eye of the new media will eventually succeed in cleansing the stables of these parisites. The minute the establishment tried to protect this lying, blackmailing thief, was the moment when all credibility from David Cameron down was lost.

    They seem unable to understand that the days of hiding this sort of stuff to protect themselves has gone. Well done to the Telegraph for exposing this trougher, and well done to Nigel Farage for being the only political leader so far that has stood up and said she should be kicked out.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Of course Cameron is protecting her. They are fellow alumni.

  • SilentHunter

    It’s interesting to note that the normally tribally supportive Conservative Home blog comments section, are almost universal in their condemnation of Maria Miller’s behaviour and they too are calling for her resignation.

    Hmmmm? I think Mr Cameron might regret his rather hasty support for this woman.

  • SilentHunter

    I’m afraid that Labour have no moral high ground to pontificate about other parties fraudulent expenses claims . . . they were equally mired in sleaze and still are; it’s unsurprising that Mr Sarwar (ex Scottish Labour MP) who has gone back to Pakistan to follow a political path there (a suitably remunerated one, one suspects), has managed to “insert” his son into his old seat without a single blush at the claim of nepotism.

    I see no difference in this behaviour or Maria Miller’s behaviour . . . both are equally corrupt, self-serving and ultimately bad for any vestige of democracy we can still lay claim to in this country’s political life.

    It’s a sorry state of affairs and contributes to the falling numbers of people bothering to turn out to vote.
    Why should we; when the only choice is Coke or Pepsi.

    Coke or Pepsi just rot your teeth . . . these politicians “rot” our democracy.

  • davidhill

    How a minister can stay in office when she purportedly made £1.5 million on a property where she claimed £90,000 of taxpayer’s funds and was made to pay back a measly £5,800, smacks at cronyism and a law for politicians and a law for the people. With the parliamentary committee (no matter whether they were independent members or not) exonerating her, things haven’t really changed now have they Mr. Cameron? I am not a misogynist either Prime Minister making these comments, just someone who unlike politicians, knows what’s right and what is wrong (my working-class parents brought me up that way and clearly others who should know better, do not).

    Indeed the establishment has never really changed their mind-set and it is no wonder that democracy has died a death in reality in the UK when one considers the people are now just mere pawns in the political game of self-interest and personal fortune at the expense of the British people.

    Dr. David Hill
    World Innovation Foundation

  • Alexsandr

    Can someone explain why this isnt fraud and why are the police not investigating. As in ALL the expenses frauds.
    (I hear someone has written to the met asking them to investigate)

    • Tom Tom

      Cameron is laying his ethical standards on the table for voters to assess

    • realfish

      Because it was judged not to be fraud.

    • ButcombeMan

      It could well have been fraud, see my post on the law under Fraser Nelson’s blog.

      Fact is though, a criminal investigation may well have been absolutely compromised by the cack handed way the initial investigation was done.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    This is at least the second time Ms Hardman has inserted the “why did it take [Labour] 24 hours to come up with that response?”

    Where I’m sitting, the answer’s obvious. Why get down and dirty when the massed phalanx of journos, across the spectrum, are doing the business for them? Would The Times have used that front-page headline if the subject was a Labourite intervention? Would Ms Hardman be so keen were it all made partisan?

  • toco10

    Labour is the Party which had four or perhaps even five MPs jailed for criminal acts concerning expenses.Perhaps the odious Mann and Hain have very short memories.

    • Tom Tom

      I don’t think John Mann is odious, I know him perhaps better than you, and I think Maria Miller is a wonderful example of Malfeasance in Public Office. I think she should be treated as any other Benefit Claimant cheating the taxpayer

  • In2minds

    I wonder what Andrew Mitchell thinks of this?

    • swatnan

      If she is forced to resign, Mitchell will take her place. Is that what everyone wants? Maybe best to let her stay. Surely the Media have better things to do than hound a Minidter who made a genuine mistake? Apparently not. They’re all gunning for her.

      • Alexsandr

        its one rule for them, another rule for everyone else. If we make a mistake in our tax return or some benefit claim we get done for fraud. These people are supposed to be intelligent, so why are they incapable of making accurate claims. One must assume malfeasance.

        • swatnan

          Who says MPs are intelligent than you or I? They have the same failings as everyone else. But the point about ‘one rule for them and another for us’ is a fair one.

      • ButcombeMan

        If I was a member of her Basingstoke constituency association I would be asking for her deselection.

        I am absolutely appalled at Cameron supporting her.

      • SilentHunter

        A genuine mistake ?

        W H A T ?

        A “genuine mistake” that just happened to span a 4 year period and netted her £1.2 million . . . at taxpayers expense?

        Let me guess . . . you’re a Tory voter in Basingstoke. LOL

        • realfish

          ‘A “genuine mistake” that just happened to span a 4 year period and netted her £1.2 million . . . at taxpayers expense?

          Do feel free to make things up, or be economical with the facts…or perhaps you have made a mistake of some sort in your analysis of the situation.

      • Raddiy

        Genuine mistake my a*se.. The expenses scandal was pre-meditated theft that nearly every MP took part in. Some MP’s were hung out to dry as sacrificial lambs, but the friends of the leaderships were protected and allowed to get away with it.

        If this was anybody outside of the midden that is Westminster, the police would be prosecuting her. Defend your corner by all means, but defending what would be criminality in any other area of life is pathetic .

  • Terence Hale

    Oh dear Oh dear, to the tower with her.

  • ButcombeMan

    A Mandy Rice Davis response from Cameron.

    Not good enough Prime Minister.

    • telemachus

      “This is an issue of trust in Parliament and in MPs. Years of expenses scandals have eroded a great deal of faith in politicians, and David Cameron capitalised on this sentiment before he became Prime Minister by vowing to “clean up expenses” using his “smell test” – not just punishing MPs who break the rules, but those who broke the spirit of the rules. Every day that Maria Miller remains in her post sends the message that this was nothing more than empty rhetoric, and that the Government has no real intention to clean up politics.”

      • SilentHunter

        “…the Government has no real intention to clean up politics…”

        I doubt they ever had that as one of their intentions.

        And I seriously doubt whether Labour’s pledge to “maybe” rescind the Gagging Law has any more credence.

        • telemachus

          So now we have heard the spad threatening the Telegraph with Leveson
          Maria Miller is now a lame duck and should go
          We are clearly back to Hamilton sleaze that eventually did for the last Tory Government
          Or perhaps something more sinister
          Rather honest deluded Farage than this bunch

          • SilentHunter

            Indeed, it does seem that the sleaze and corruption of the last parliament has resurfaced yet again.

            I also agree that there IS something more sinister about it this time around . . . witness, the Gagging Law and the fact that Maria Millers “special advisor” Joanna Hindley actually threatened a journalist for “doing her job” with suggestions about Leveson and having had “editor’s meetings”.

            She said to the journalist . . . “So I’m just going flag up that connection for you to think about”

            What will they say next?

            “If you publish anything the government doesn’t like; then people can always . . . disappear . . . I’m just going to flag that up for you to think about”

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