Tory MPs now feel it’s acceptable to pile in on the Maria Miller row and offer their views. Mark Field has just told the World at One that her apology to the Commons was regarded as ‘unacceptably perfunctory’.
Zac Goldsmith said he was ‘surprised’ that she hadn’t resigned.
Matthew Offord told the Commons that voters on the doorstep were exercised about the issue:
‘But knocking on doors my constituency this weekend, people did raise the expenses issue with me and they believe that nothing has changed.’
What happens next? As I wrote earlier, someone needs to be bold enough to raise this with the Prime Minister at tomorrow’s 1922 Committee meeting. But given MPs are already taking to the airwaves to distance themselves from Miller and to criticise her handling of the row, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find that backbencher. Chances are they will be from the 2010 intake.
The row will become dangerous if it moves from open criticism of Miller’s apology and her decision to stay in post (the PM’s spokesman continued to use a curious phrase, ‘the matter has simply not arisen’, in place of the word ‘no’ when asked today whether Miller had offered her resignation) to criticism of David Cameron’s handling of the matter. Currently MPs are focused on that ‘unacceptably perfunctory’ apology, rather than Cameron’s ‘warm support’ for his minister. If that changes, which it could do if he mis-judges the mood at the 1922 Committee meeting tomorrow, then this will become less about the danger to Miller and more about damage to the Prime Minister at a time when he’s just managing to get some of his most prominent critics back on board.