Coffee House

Curious lack of support for Miller in Cabinet

8 April 2014

1:53 PM

8 April 2014

1:53 PM

Senior 1922 Committee members are quite surprised by the suggestion that tomorrow’s end-of-term meeting with the Prime Minister represents the deadline for the Maria Miller problem to be resolved. But while you won’t find a Tory backbencher who thinks the impact on the public of this story is negligible – one tells me that ‘whatever happens now, we are losers’ – there’s an interesting attitude among Miller’s own Cabinet colleagues. They had long suspected that she was vulnerable in any forthcoming reshuffle anyway, with one describing her as ‘a bit quiet’ in meetings and another suspecting that she was ‘damaged goods’ after Leveson and with the media after her anyway. The naivety of the threat to the Telegraph by her adviser is something Cabinet ministers remark on, too, with one saying ‘I’ve long realised that that kind of thing doesn’t work anyway and I have no idea what the plan was there’. One senior Tory says:

‘She rose quickly and without really making a name. A few of us didn’t think she’d earned her spurs before getting into Cabinet.’

Since her non-apology apology, there has been a strange lack of enthusiasm for Miller among her Cabinet colleagues. Even those who I’ve spoken to who think she should stay aren’t exactly trembling at the thought of her leaving the government. They seem to lack much respect for her. One Cabinet colleague observes that it’s a lesson in making and keeping friends on the way up, which suggests that Miller hasn’t managed to do this herself. Other ministers who did survive their own rows, like Jeremy Hunt, had strong friendships across government and a PPS who was very active indeed (in a rather unsubtle way at times) in garnering further support. If Miller does leave in the reshuffle, it doesn’t look as though many of those she works with will be particularly gutted.


But what some senior ministers with long careers have observed is that this is going beyond a row about expenses and is becoming about David Cameron’s own character and what one Conservative describes as ‘his lack of a commitment to a meritocracy’. The ‘Mark Miller‘ theory that she’d be gone by now were she a man does prevail among Tory MPs, but what also prevails is that she’s a gonner in the reshuffle. James suggested yesterday that shunting her to the Wales Office would insult the Welsh – and it would also upset Tory MPs sitting in Welsh marginal seats who would worry that this insult to the Welsh would lead to them bleeding votes in a tough battle.

As for tomorrow’s 1922 Committee meeting, now being billed as a crunch point in the row, the issue will inevitably be raised in the private meeting between chair Graham Brady, his officers and David Cameron. Brady has received many representations from MPs concerned about the impact on marginal seats and the distraction that this row is creating from the successful Budget. But the question is who will bring it up in the full meeting that takes place afterwards? Most MPs have had some woe with expenses: it will be a brave backbencher, probably from the 2010 intake, who confronts the PM with the Miller row.

P.S. The matter was not raised at this morning’s Cabinet, the PM’s official spokesman told us today. He also declined to say whether or not the Prime Minister had spoken to Miller since her apology on Thursday – although yesterday he said ‘not to my recollection’ when asked the same question.

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Show comments
  • Lady Magdalene

    Cameron has demonstrated that his determination to ensure that Conservative MPs were squeaky clean when it comes to expenses – much trumpeted in 2009 – was just spin.
    His arrogance and complete disregard for the electorate and taxpayers has been prominently on display. And his judgement of character and individuals has been shown, once again, to be highly defective.
    He destroying the Conservative Party …. and his backbench MPs are just letting him do it.

  • Fergus McKenzie

    re; Cameron’s attitude – either political naivety or more evidence that he knows he is gone next year one way or another and is now just focusing on p****ng people off for the sake of it – sulky teenager style

    • Kitty MLB

      What have you gone and done. Dear Mr Fergus McKenzie( Fergus is a nice name, you could have left the letter F, at least, as well as a title) Cameron
      is a naïve fool easily manipulated by the wrong people and generally makes the wrong choices. He thinks this is a battle against the press and himself.
      But if he is not here next year then that will mean the political vulture
      Miliband is Prime Minister by default and none of us want that. Kitty.

  • Kitty MLB

    I cannot decide between David and Goliath of David the gallant Knight
    defending a damsel in distress . Either way its a total needless mess and ridiculous.
    Almost like a Yes Minister scene. Just stop making this into a drama.
    And do the right thing. Its not about Miller making ” friends ” or not..
    its about someone doing the honourable duty.

  • ButcombeMan

    Absolutely correct. It is now all about Cameron. He made it so. Very great mistake. He has taken on a battle he cannot win. If he keeps her, he and the party lose votes. If she now goes, he loses face. Not very smart at all.

    I repeat what I just posted on another entry, sums it up for me and most of those I speak to:

    “The whole system had become corrupt, even before she joined it. Many
    of those who “flipped” houses were no doubt “gaming the system”, but
    make no mistake, many of them, even possibly most of them, were doing it
    absolutely dishonestly.

    Some have been prosecuted, not enough to satisfy the public but the system of control on the whole system was also at fault and to a degree, complicit.

    MM joined the system by becoming MP for Basingstoke, a not much more than a 50 minute car ride, most of the time, from her home in Wimbledon and around 45 minutes on the regular non stop service from Waterloo. It was also an easy train
    journey from Wimbledon Station.

    Given her long standing family residence in Wimbledon it was always unlikely that a selection of rented properties near Basingstoke would ever satisfy an even cursory examination of her claim to have moved her main home.

    What is truly a main residence turns on facts, amount of time, schooling of
    children, family members moving (and including co resident parents
    helping with childcare), use of utilities and even (maybe) where the
    family is registered with a Doctor etc etc.

    When the Telegraph blew the scandal in 2009, she had choices, several choices.

    She apparently stopped claiming-very wise.

    She then had choices about how she co-operated with those enjoined and empowered, to look into her claims. She appears to have been very uncooperative and resentful-very UNWISE.

    One can only guess at why she was so uncooperative.

    A possible reading (and the one I hold) is that she had a guilty mind and
    genuinely feared prosecution. Her responses were silly and not the way
    one expects a Cabinet Minister to behave, but if she feared prosecution
    (and possibly still does), they are the legalistic responses a lawyer
    might have encouraged.

    She is married to a lawyer. Lawyers think in straight lines, common sense rarely comes into it which is why they make such poor negotiators.

    Her failure to cooperate ensures that no one, colleagues or public, can possibly thing well of her. There are no mitigating factors to take account of. She has forfeited any goodwill.

    Cameron is wrong to support her, he is damaging the party, the government and parliament.

    The debate is now about HIS behaviour, he has caused that.

    He is gifting votes to UKIP. It will cause the loss of seats and it will
    create an impression he pays no attention whatsoever to public opinion
    and is just not interested in properly cleansing the parliamentary

    It is very difficult to believe he is listening to Lynton Crosby”

    • Agrippina

      Dave the not very good PR man, is just not terribly good at working issues through. He is a short time away from the local and EU elections and a GE next year, and he believes by hanging onto this useless trougher he is being smart or clever just shows how dense he really is.

      Keep her I say, it is easy to recruit for UKIP.

    • telemachus

      In the grand scheme of things her crime is minor and old
      We are about to have a recess
      He cannot let Speccie and the DT win
      I think he has made it

      • ButcombeMan

        Well you, from your perspective, want the vote drift to UKIP that will obviously result. So you would say that.

        I do not think he has made it, nor has she. It would be a very bad day for our democracy if Cameron wins this.

        Cameron is very good indeed at fighting unnecessary battles because he fails to think through the full consequences. We saw it before with Coulson.

        • telemachus

          I detest Cameron
          But he must win
          The DT cannot be allowed to win

      • Kitty MLB

        Telemachus does this place take a break when they go into recess,
        just wondering.

        • telemachus

          This place feeds off active politics
          I get a sense that both this and the DT are ready to move on
          The Colonel is bored

          • Kitty MLB

            How can you tell if the colonel is bored. do you study
            the chap that well Telemachus. Maybe you have worn him
            down- but I don’t think so.

            • telemachus

              I do hope so

              • Kitty MLB

                Yes, I know what devious plotting you are up to.
                it will not work- Conservatives are made of hardy stuff.

                • telemachus

                  So hardy that they all stick together as we see on post after post

                • Kitty MLB

                  Come Come, Telemachus. Its rather like all
                  you Lefties sticking together. Strenght in
                  numbers to defeat the enemy and all that.
                  I am sure you have never felt unjustly treated,

                • Frank

                  Telemachus. We are all bored senseless by the sight of this gormless woman, but it will not go away.
                  ButcombeMan is dead right, it is now all about Cameron protecting a trougher (he thinks this shows loyalty, but since we all can see that she is a trougher, it just comes across as weak). He is supposed to be the boss and the champion of the conservative brand and yet he puts keeping her in Cabinet above protecting the brand. It is no surprise that all the little MPs are worried about their prospects in the General Election.
                  Cameron doesn’t get it, just as he doesn’t get it that for any attempt at renegotiation with the EU to be taken seriously, he needs to serve Notice to quit. This tells everyone he is serious and not just going through a charade. As it is, he comes across as a drip.

                • telemachus

                  Yes Cameron is a weak toad
                  But we must not let the DT claim they have his head
                  Who next
                  Ed Balls and Yvette?
                  Where will it end
                  Let there be a line under this