Published on 9 Apr 2014

Maria Miller didn’t jump – she was discreetly pushed

The official version of events is that the prime minister was taken by surprise when a call was put through to him as he left the banquet at Windsor Castle in honour of the president of Ireland.

Maria Miller was calling to say she’d decided she was a massive distraction, should go and he then accepted that.

In fact, there was a personal visit to Maria Miller last night in which someone close to the prime minister told her the game was up.

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“The decision was made yesterday evening to get rid of her,” a government source told me.

When Maria Miller was confronted with that thinking, it was “not something she immediately grasped,” I was told. But by the end of the conversation she was in no doubt.

The Conservative leadership had decided that the damage the Maria Miller saga was doing – dominating coverage and obscuring the message on the economy – had gone far enough.

The press showed no sign of letting up and the Maria Miller fightback by supporters was showing signs of misjudgements that had characterised her self-defence from the beginning.

I was told by one government source that Maria Miller’s PPS’s appearance on Sky News and her text message to Tory backbenchers saying the attacks on Maria Miller were a media witch-hunt were “the final straw.”

This “should never have been said,” another government source said. Michael Gove, on Radio 4 said this morning, “I wouldn’t go there.” It was “the final nail in the coffin,” one government source said. “Mary sealed her fate.”

This all came on top of a fairly grim day of backbench critics putting their heads above the parapets and signalling they were fed up with the flak they were getting from constituents over her expenses.

One government source said: “(Maria Miller) had become quite pompous and cut off … she didn’t see people … it was like a wall around her.”

Casting the whole saga as a trial of strength with the newspapers breaks all the unspoken rules of these sorts of tussles. If you spell that out, you put the prime minister at risk of being cast as the loser. That’s exactly what Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of The Sun, said on Sky News this morning. The PM, he said, saw this as a “battle of strength” between himself and the newspapers and it is clearly a battle “he has lost.”

Maria Miller’s resignation letter says: “It has become clear to me that the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this government is doing to turn our country around.”

It doesn’t say how that became clear. It was made clear and the dark arts of Westminster, back-channels, deniability and careful wording have been used to protect her but more importantly protect the prime minister from the charge that he took up a fight – against the newspapers and many in his own party – and lost it.

UPDATE:
The new Culture Secretary is Sajid Javid, one of the high-fliers long seen as knocking at the Cabinet door. He’s such a rising star that he was one of the guests at the fateful Rupert Murdoch dinner before Christmas.

Nicky Morgan, his replacement at the Treasury, will attend Cabinet to mark her responsibilities as Minister for Women.

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13 reader comments

  1. Julie Bell says:

    As an actual witch, I find this constant reference to ‘witch-hunts’ deeply offensive. My ethical standards are much higher than this – I would never steal. ‘Do what you will, let it harm none.’

  2. Mike says:

    After reading all this about this I released she was a minister for Women and would like to know is there a minister for Men?

  3. C.J. addenuffandleft says:

    These people seem to live in a parallel universe to the rest of us. It started off at 90,000 pounds, was sliced in half to 45,000 pounds, then she say’s that she thinks she owes 5,800 pounds, the committee or whatever it was that was supposed to be sorting it out, accepted her derisory offer!! How in the name of sanity can anyone think that this is right? It was tax payers money that she basically stole, just like that horrible little man David Laws. Now we see his despicable countenance on our television screens again, spouting his rhetoric and opinions on how he thinks the masses should live their lives. They have no conscience whatsoever and could not give a flying fig about the rest of us. They care only about their greedy little lives.

    1. Les Reed says:

      She and many others have thought that they are above us with regard to their actions and subsequent behaviour: how glad I and others are, that she now has her come-uppance. For too long has this sort of thing been allowed to happen, and when found out, to discreetly drift into oblivion. I have asked my MP Stephen Timms, for details of the ten MPs on the committee who let her off with a slap on the wrists, so that I may ask of them who they actually serve – we the public, or corrupt, arrogant colleagues.

  4. gavin o'connell says:

    when i heard the news i shouted loudly for joy. her continued obfuscations made me feel like i was being freshly insulted every day

  5. Glyn Chapman says:

    Maria Miller has resigned and says it’s time to move on. Does she intend to pay her own mortgage costs with this move?

    1. Les Reed says:

      Come on – you don’t really believe that’ll be so?

      She and many others have thought that they are above us with regard to their actions and subsequent behaviour: how glad I and others are, that she now has her come-uppance. For too long has this sort of thing been allowed to happen, and when found out, to discreetly drift into oblivion. I have asked my MP Stephen Timms, for details of the ten MPs on the committee who let her off with a slap on the wrists, so that I may ask of them who they actually serve – we the public, or corrupt, arrogant colleagues.

  6. Douglas says:

    The Prime Minister would do well to appoint Women with a dollop of charm and contriteness when it comes to having to apologise for being a little greedy. The demeanour of an irritated pit bull does not really work.

  7. Whirlwound says:

    If someone waved 17 grand under her nose, she’d chase it off the edge of a cliff.

    Oh wait, that’s exactly what she’s done.

  8. Stuart says:

    I’ve just heard that Maria Miller will get a £17,000+ payoff as a result of her resignation. In the real world, when someone resigns there isn’t a payoff. Even if she is to give the money to charity, this is patently wrong and yet another burden on the taxpayer.

  9. kaleidoscope says:

    The missing element to the story is surely
    stupidity. After the expenses scandal of the last parliament surely anyone with half a pea for a brain would get clear approval in writing from the expenses committee for any mortgage expense claim.
    So I really don’t care about the merits – just the inability of such a senior politician to be so crass.

  10. Elizabeth Parker says:

    Like exams results I think what MPs claim in expenses should be published every few months ,this would show just how greedy they have become ,the hours they work to earn their salaries should also be shown. They do not live in the real world and most of them believe they are better at the job than they really are

  11. Nigel Peacock says:

    Of course she was pushed.

    Anyone who resigns from a job, isn’t given £17,000 severance pay. Severance pay is when you are sacked.

    It makes no difference that she is giving it to charity.

    If she resigned, then she shouldn’t have been given it at all.

    So yes, she has to have been pushed – otherwise, the next investigation should be why £17,000 is being paid.

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