There was only one topic of discussion at the launch of Nadine Dorries’s novel Four Streets last night – will Maria Miller survive? The conversation was particularly pointed because Ed Vaizey and Helen Grant — Miller’s now former colleagues at the Department of Culture Media and Sport — were both present. They at least tried not to gossip.

Vaizey was invited to speak by Dorries in his ‘capacity as a Culture Minister and a friend’. He gave a comedy turn; lavishing Nadine with praise for her ‘brilliant, brilliant book which I have not yet read.’ He continued:

‘I asked Nadine for a copy and she said you can buy it off Amazon — it costs the equivalent of about 18 and a half pints of milk, not that you would know, posh boy.’

Vaizey (Old Pauline, Oxon, Cameroon) continued on this theme:

‘She takes her place in the litany of great Tory writers: Kwarsi Kwateng, Jesse Norman, Rory Stewart; though she is the only one who didn’t go to Eton.’

The friendship bit done and dusted, Culture Minister Vaizey went off on a tangent and began to quote Roger McGough. The bard of Liverpool’s oeuvre is not something that many Tory MPs have in their armoury; but that’s merely the tip of Vaizey’s cultural range.

In another time, a departmental number two who was not only on top of but also clearly loved their brief would have been rewarded with a promotion, should the secretary of state’s position become free. A top job at the British Museum is soon to become vacant; Mr S can think of no better candidate — and certainly none who is more amenable to the Tory leadership — than Ed Vaizey.

Tags: British Museum, Conservative, Culture, Ed Vaizey, Eton, Maria miller, Nadine Dorries, Poetry