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Monday, April 07, 2014 

Miller time.

Ah, Maria Miller.  Every so often a politician does something that just sums up the way an increasing number of people think their elected representatives operate.  Before doubt was thrown on almost the entire altercation, we had Plebgate, which seemed to show the contempt and arrogance of the political class to everyone they saw as below them.  Now we have Maria Miller, with her 34 second non-apology.  You have to presume that Miller simply didn't think the media would pay attention, normally a reasonable assumption considering the current lack of "action" in parliament, and how only the broadsheets bother to so much as have a daily politics blog dealing with Westminster, if that.

Except, err, Miller is the goddamn culture secretary, in charge of the hated royal charter on the regulation of the press.  It doesn't matter that the majority of the old media has completely ignored the charter and instead got on with setting up yet another "independent" regulator, did she really not think the Telegraph at least would take an interest?  As it turns out, her "statement" wasn't so much the equivalent of a red rag to a bull as Miller covering herself from head to toe in crimson body paint, whispering in the animal's ear that its mother was of easy virtue and then for good measure grabbing hold of its ball sack and yanking, hard.

After all, in the I don't give two figs for your rules stakes, no one can quite match Nadine Dorries, who managed to "apologise" to the Commons in even less time than it took Miller after her decision to go and eat dingo anus to increase her bank balance.  It's just no one took any notice, and well, Dorries is Dorries.  Miller is a mere amateur compared, but then no one would trust Dorries with an office of state, unless the office in question was the one for Narnia.

Some of the coverage has then been over-the-top and in contradiction of the findings by the parliamentary standards commissioner, precisely you suspect because of the Leveson/press charter situation.  The reason the amount Miller was ordered to pay back was wrote down from £45,000 to £5,300 is she produced documentation proving she hadn't overclaimed by the amount first estimated by the commissioner.  Indeed, it seems she probably overclaimed by less than the amount she's paid back, and the commissioner herself is happy with the £5,300 arrived at.  Also nonsense is the Telegraph claiming Miller's adviser Jo Hindley threatened the paper with Leveson if they kept up their investigation. As the Telegraph's own transcript of the conversation shows, and hamfisted as it was, Hindley was complaining more about the Torygraph intruding on Miller's father when he had just had an operation than really laying out something serious, and the journalist takes it that way rather than as something more menacing.

This isn't to let Miller off the hook by any means.  When compared though say to David Laws, who did claim over £40,000 he wasn't entitled to and was welcomed back into the cabinet with open arms, while other MPs went to prison for less egregious breaches of the rules, it's almost small time.  It's more that Miller has almost no discernible talents whatsoever, beyond being loyal to Dave and helping him combat the allegation he has a problem with those of the non-male gender.  The Tory backbenches have moved so far to the right it's getting increasingly difficult to find anyone who's ready for elevation to something approaching a position of influence who won't then embarrass the leadership or speak out of turn.  Miller knows absolutely nothing about the arts except she knows what she likes, as demonstrated by her speech urging the chattering classes to sell Britain to the world, which is precisely what Cameron wants in a culture secretary.  Replacing her would be a pain, and besides, sacking her when he didn't sack Jeremy Hunt for trying his darnedest to get the News Corp takeover of Sky past Ofcom would look really bad.

One suspects then Miller will survive, if only because as bad as it is, it could still be worse.  Treating people like idiots, threatening an independent investigator for daring to do their job and wrongly claiming an amount that would get those on benefits into very serious trouble with the law isn't good for the public perception of politics and politicians, it's true, but giving another scalp to the Cameron disliking if still Tory press just can't be countenanced, especially over expenses which have now been thoroughly reformed.  Us proles can but dream of such leniency.

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