Coffee House

Court of public opinion hands down awkward judgement on Miller case

7 April 2014

5:32 PM

7 April 2014

5:32 PM

There are always all sorts of bizarre petitions calling on politicians to do this, that and the other. By and large, politicians tend to ignore them.

But the petition calling for Maria Miller to pay back £45,000 in expenses claims or resign has managed to garner 70,131 signatures since it was set up on 4 April. Again, politicians could ignore this. It’s just a bit more difficult to do so when it was David Cameron himself who said that his chief whip should use a ‘smell test’ to see whether the expenses claims were justifiable in the court of public opinion, as well as to the letter of the rules. Thus the court of public opinion should carry a bit more weight. As James said earlier, some MPs have been surprised and dismayed by the way this court is currently passing judgement. But the current stance of the Tory leadership is to ignore something it once professed to abide by.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • sfin

    In my 28 years in the army (recently retired) one searched ones soul before filling in an expense claim form (usually for travel or accommodation) and I knew of plenty of cases where the individual soldier didn’t bother for fear of getting his sums wrong.

    The reasons for this were clear. The penalty for ‘misappropriation of public funds’ ran along the lines of:

    Stripped of rank (regardless of seniority)
    Stripped of all pension benefits accrued – regardless of time served.
    An invitation to spend a period (normally 6 months) in the Military Correction Centre (prison to the uninitiated) Colchester.
    Dishonourable discharge from the service.

    When I remember some of the horror stories of soldiers nearing the end of their careers and losing everything for trifling sums, it makes my blood boil reading about those with their snouts in the public trough at Westminster.

  • itdoesntaddup

    Perhaps they could hold a recall ballot in Basingstoke? Or is that why Zac Goldsmith’s idea got shelved?

  • SilentHunter

    The petition to get Maria Miller to resign and / or pay back the £45K she owes the taxpayer is now at 122,971.

  • SilentHunter

    I see that the petition has now topped the 100,000 signatures mark.

    Hopefully, things will now get “interesting” for Mr Cameron.

  • realfish

    But a court, even if it is the ‘Court of Public Opinion’, should reach its judgements on the basis of the evidence.

    Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case with Miller. Yes, she has to be accountable for the things that she got wrong, but she also is entitled to be judged fairly – and much of the rabid ignorant comment, not only on here but from politicians (some from her own party), do not pass that particular ‘sniff test’ either.

    Crucify Miller by all means, but do it for the right reasons. On the substantive issue of her expenses and her expense arrangements, she has done no worse (and a lot less worse) than many other MPs.

    Miller has become a lightning rod for a failed system (and for anything else that the media wish to get their own back for?). To make her carry the can for all that happened in 2009 and for every other MP’s transgressions is unjust. The comment and frenzy of the past few days has been ugly and demeans the press (particularly the DT) and the massed ranks of the keyboard warriors on this and other sites.

    The cant and hypocrisy of the ‘holier than thou’ commentators stinks and is beyond parody. According to them, Miller has fallen below the standards that they can’t be arsed to apply to themselves. God save us from the ignorant fact-twisting mob that knows nothing about the laws of natural justice.

    Get the pitchforks ready.

    • SilentHunter

      So . . . your defence of this appalling expenses cheat has gone from . . . “She’s definitely NOT GUILTY and there’s no crime to answer for” . . . to . . . “awww c’mon guys, give her a break”.

      How vacuous is that? LOL

  • Alexsandr

    I still dont understand why MPs expenses cant be done on the same basis as any other employed person. Millions of companies pay expenses to employees incurred in connection with their work without all this fuss. No-one has explained to me why MP’s expenses are any different.

    • saffrin

      Do you claim for chewing gum?
      MP’s do, that is the difference. MP’s can’t be trusted, we all know that yet we have a situation where we allow them to police themselves.
      There is nothing we can do about it but vote them out of office, lock, stock and barrel.
      Reject them all.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Rumour has it that McLoughlin has had to purchase a gas mask (on expenses of course) because this stinks so much!

  • Kitty MLB

    I do not usually take that much notice of the kangaroo court
    of public opinion which usually contains a huge amount
    of caterwauling lefies flapping their fins together and making
    the loudest noise. But quite honestly Cameron should
    just sack the wretched wench. Who does he think he
    is, her personal protector against the big bad press,
    or the Prime Minister. Really, I despair of the chap,
    I really do.

    • telemachus

      The more the DT bays
      The safer she is

      • SilentHunter


        Oops! :o)

  • saffrin

    Cameron is in a quandary. How can he sack Maria Miller for something he himself and every other parliamentarian has been doing for decades?

  • In2minds

    Perhaps Patrick McLoughlin should use a smell test to see if the costs of HS2 are justifiable?

  • Jambo25

    Isn’t there an anti Maria Miller petition calling for her expulsion from the Commons.

    • SilentHunter

      Yes . . . in the best tradition of panto, I’m tempted to shout . . . “It’s behind you”!

      But actually . . . it’s a few comments “up from here”. ;o)

  • SilentHunter

    “…the petition calling for Maria Miller to pay back £45,000 in expenses claims or resign has managed to garner 70,131 signatures since it was set up…”

    It now has 81,726 supporters!

    Let’s make it 100,000 . . . and then there will have to be a debate about it in parliament . . . according to Honest Dave and his “new way of doing politics”.

    • Alexsandr


      • SilentHunter


        There was one on here earlier . . . leave it with me Alexsandr . . . I will get back to you soon. ;o)

      • SilentHunter
        • Alexsandr

          thanks -signed it.

          • SilentHunter

            It worked, didn’t it! :o)

      • SilentHunter

        You might also wish to “annoy” Call me Dave; here is the link to the Downing Street email address.

    • monty61

      I almost signed then saw it was put up by some self-aggrandising Labour Party type. Pot calling the kettle black.

      • SilentHunter

        Yes; Labour are equally guilty of sleaze, but that doesn’t stop me using any means possible to register my contempt for Tory sleaze.

        Evil must be countered! >:0)

      • Wessex Man

        swallow the tea and distaste and do it quickly!

  • Agrippina

    If you don’t know who to claim expenses within your company’s rules you would be out. If she didn’t know when the interest rates fell and remortgaged (twice) that her expenses were wrong, she has no business making laws, try an easier job you can understand.

    She certainly doesn’t have the skills, training or respect to push through any reforms of the press, if any are needed.

  • swatnan

    Its’ll be a pity if she goes now because ‘Culture’ has never had so high a profile as now. ‘More funding for the Arts’ I say. Lets have free tickets to the NT and free tickets to the RFH and Albert Hall concerts.

    • SilentHunter

      Yes . . . let’s just ignore the scandal, corruption and sleaze in Parliament.

      Oooooo! Look!!! . . . something shiny!

    • Colin56

      It’ll be great if she goes now because then the whole DCMS charade can shut up shop with considerable saving to the public purse. There’s no need for a separate department to do what a small unit within say education could easily deliver. ‘Culture’ is a laughing stock, its profile never so low and its justification for public funds never so tenuous.

      • swatnan

        … spoken like a true palestine! Arts improve the mind.

        • SilentHunter

          It’s “Palestinian”, you Philistine.

          Although, Arts do improve the mind.
          I take it you haven’t had much exposure to the Arts?

    • Surlautobus

      Was she merely doing her job as the Culture Pajundrum, questioning our notions of authenticity; subverting accepted norms of cultural and historical appropriation; freeing our perceptions from normative linear and contextualised constructs?
      #Save Miller for the Arts

  • @PhilKean1

    What baffles me is that £45,000 deducted from £1.2 million is still a great return.

    • SilentHunter

      Yes, but you know how greedy these politicians are.

      They learned it from their paymasters . . . all of them complete “bankers”.

      • @PhilKean1

        The political elites whose word must not be challenged. Their motto being : do as I say, and not as I do.

        I think the EU are the paymasters to quite a lot of them.

        • saffrin

          And not just parliamentarians either. Anyone that supports the European Union is on the payroll or been heavily influenced by those that are.

        • telemachus

          I see
          So Maria screwed up at the behest of Barroso

          No her expense fiddling was all her own doing because like the others she thought no one was looking

          No her

        • Kitty MLB

          The plague of modern politics,Phil.
          They are all living in their ivory tower,
          and clueless to reality.And unfortunately
          thinking of politics as a ‘career opportunity’
          And the next job…elsewhere.

    • HookesLaw

      She bought the house on 1995 and only became an mp in 2005. What is your problem with a state of housing affairs that the entire country is involved in?
      She owned the house for nearly 20 years and it only figured in public accounts for 4.
      What a sad inadequate you are.

      • southerner

        There’s only one sad ‘un on here trying to defend the indefensible.

      • Dai Station

        She did not have to buy the house because she became an MP, so why should the taxpayer suddenly pay the mortgage, let alone a newly inflated mortgage? Her constituency is 45 minutes by train from Waterloo i.e. the sort of commute done by thousands every day, so why did she have to start renting somewhere down there rather than travel down for constituency surgeries and events, with an occasional overnight hotel stay that could have been claimed if necessary.

        • ButcombeMan


          And who is she trying to kid that her family home changed and we must perforce pay her (astonishingly enhanced) mortgage.

          I say /her/. mortgage, but it must have been her husbands or joint. Her income was too low.

          The whole suggestion is absolutely ridiculous.

          She has taken the public for mugs.

          Cameron is wrong to support her.

          • Agrippina

            Her husband the solicitor, who prob drafted that apology and made her practice it, so that it sounded ‘bold and bullish’ to appear strong, instead of arrogant.

            No doubt he assisted in the response to the commissioner’s enquiries.

            Commissioner’s findings are that she owes over £90k that is what she should repay. Why did she increase the mortgage twice thus increasing the costs to us taxpayers?

      • Wessex Man

        Dear old Hooky, never change,we happliy receive all that are turned off by stiff necked Tories like you, who twist and turn and cover up.

        • Kitty MLB

          Not too sure what a stiff necked Tory is but
          Hope I’m not one, sounds painful.See Hooky
          is attacking Phil again, one of my old comrades
          from elsewhere who I always rescued.
          Comes to something when that is necessary.

      • Kitty MLB

        Phil is not a sad inadequate, he is a decent
        chap and traditional Conservative.He is also
        Entitled to his opinion.

      • Lady Magdalene

        So why did she re-mortgage it twice at OUR expense.
        She effectively raised two huge loans and transferred the costs to taxpayers. Why did she need to raise two huge loans on a house she already owned? What was the money used for? I suspect “enriching herself” is the answer.