While the adverse comment being passed on Culture Secretary Maria Miller crosses the political divide this morning, with the Mail On Sunday and Observer both suggesting that Tory voters want her to go, and that she is in line to be demoted or even fired in an upcoming cabinet reshuffle, the MP for Basingstoke needs all the support she can get.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
Sadly, there was precious little of that support on view this morning, with even cabinet colleague Iain Duncan Cough being rather lukewarm on The Andy Marr Show (tm). Wasn’t there any support for Ms Miller out there? Well, yes there was, but only of the kind that is highly likely to move her ever closer to the exit door, because it came from former Tory MP Louise Mensch.
Now representing the distant seat of Manhattan Upmarket, Ms Mensch lost no time in going in to bat for the beleaguered Minister. “Maria did practically nothing wrong and Telegraph misrepresented; doorstepped her disabled Dad” she told, submerging a valid point – the doorstepping of an elderly relative – under the implicit admission that Ms Miller had indeed done something wrong.
Former England rugby stalwart Brian Moore was unimpressed with the “Practically nothing wrong” concept. “Practically nothing wrong – apart from fiddle her expenses, obstruct the enquiry and have her PR make veiled threats” he corrected. The obstruction aspect is another minus point for the Minister.
Moore then deployed what Bill McLaren used to call a “crunching tackle” as he pulled Ms Mensch up sharpish with “you write for a News [International] paper who doorstep people all the time – including me twice”. That’s another point well made: the Murdoch press tend not to be fussed who gets on the wrong end of their less than totally ethical behaviour.
But Ms Mensch was having nothing of it. The saintly Maria had done nothing deliberately, she asserted: “a very minor amount of money spread over many years and claimed in error”. So not only is £45,000 “very minor”, but A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. And “It’s the behaviour of the Independent Standards Commissioner that was wrong in the extreme”. Yes, let’s shoot the messenger.
In the meantime, the MoS has got hold of a former Miller campaign organiser to tell that he was so appalled by her behaviour during the 2005 General Election campaign that he voted for her Labour opponent. So it looks as though Ms Mensch has once again put herself firmly on the losing side.
Just how much of this success can the former Corby and East Northants MP manage before Rupe decides to get himself a more credible pundit?