How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

You fire her.

But that hasn’t happened. Why not?  Well, because she enjoys the “Prime Minister’s confidence” is why. After all, if you follow his reasoning, what she did is little more than an oversight. We should stop harping on about it and “…leave it there,” he said.

Well, no. An oversight is forgetting to pay your newspaper bill at the newsagent one . It’s not claiming a second home allowance for a house you don’t live in,  then massively over-claiming allowances for the property for several years. It is also not being evasive and contemptuous of any attempts for the Parliamentary authorities to properly investigate her conduct. But, in the end, as one might expect, the Commons Standards Committee, accepted that she acted in good faith and forced her into the towering indignity of a peremptory “apology” in the House last week. It strikes me that, had this been a housing benefit case, the sanctions would not have been so gentle.  This was not an oversight: it was fraud. And it should be treated as such.

And now, The Daily Telegraph publishes a recording of a conversation between Miller’s aide and a reporter where a subtly veiled Leveson-based threat is deployed.  I’m not sure how much Miller might have known about this, but it still has the whiff of old-school patricianism.  But that’s alright, because the Department of Culture is  responsible for  press regulation. Nothing to see here. In amongst this, of course, her parents haven’t been particularly well-treated, it must be said.

Before we get too indignant, though, consider the Department of Culture is involved in the Leveson process, and that the Telegraph is one of the principal opponents of any new regulatory framework. Miller’s behaviour stinks to high heaven, but the Telegraph’s motives are less than snow-driven.  She should not be a cabinet minister, but it shouldn’t be used a s stick to beat attempts at reforming the the behaviour of the press.

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