Nigel Farage was down in Basingstoke last night to twist the knife into Maria Miller. His “big announcement” wasn’t really very big or even that much of an announcement – turns out he wanted to tell us that Miller’s constituents should have the right to recall her. Beforehand Jon Snow had the chance to ask some awkward questions about UKIP’s own expenses. There’s plenty of material to work with on this issue but Snow didn’t really land a blow…
Gary Gibbon points out that Miller was pushed after her PPS’s multi-vehicle pile up on Sky News. MacLeod went to pieces when confronted with her text message, revealed exclusively by Guido, citing a Leveson witch-hunt:
“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.”
The wheels were off by the time discipline had collapsed and anger led to leaking.
George Osborne must be furious that because of Maria Miller no one is talking about the IMF’s forecast that Britain will be the fastest growing leading economy this year. They have today announced their prediction that UK growth will reach 2.9%, the fastest in the G7, and then 2.5% in 2015. Also endorsing Osborne’s strategy for future growth:
“the government’s efforts to raise capital spending while staying within the medium-term fiscal envelope should help bolster recovery and long-term growth”
Yet because of one Cabinet minister grabbing all the headlines, this will go unnoticed by the vast majority of the public. As ConHome’s Mark Wallace points out:
“Ministers need to be able to get on with communicating the central messages that have the potential to deliver victory in 2015. If their interviews are constantly sidetracked into the question of Miller’s expenses, or their arguments are undermined by the presence in the cabinet of someone who demonstrably didn’t deliver the best value for the taxpayer, that becomes a serious problem.”
If Number 10 let this go on into recess it’ll be the only talking point on the doorstep for weeks…
UPDATE: Interestingly, Guido understands the IMF are refusing to let Olivier Blanchard, their chief economist who famously warned Osborne was “playing with fire“, be interviewed by Sky News. Surely they aren’t worried about him putting his foot in it again…
That “source close to Maria Miller” is undertaking another round of her own particular brand of crisis management. The new suggestion is that Mary MacLeod – PPS to the Culture Secretary – was acting on her own back when she texted MPs asking them to support her boss while citing Leveson and appeared in a crash interview with Kay Burley on Sky News:
MacLeod was confronted on air with Guido’s text scoop and resorted to smears and innuendo about Miller’s kids, and claimed that Miller had been cleared on all counts. Which is just a blatant misspeak.
“She wasn’t acting under instruction” says Special Adviser Jo Hindley, adding mystically “lots of MPs have gone on the telly to support Maria”. Guido must have missed that.
Are we seriously expected to believe that MacLeod went out to bat via text and telly on a whim? Hindley has not replied when asked if her, or Maria, had spoken to MacLeod today.
Guido is just going flag up that he thinks this is BS.
Great stuff from Sky’s Sophy Ridge, who has spent the day standing outside Number 10 shouting at Cabinet ministers. Miller’s face…
John Mann has used his urgent question to not unreasonably request that all recordings of Standards Committee meetings are made public. How did the Committee come to the decision to give Miller such soft censure? Which members of the troughers’ union fought her corner? Shining the light on the processes of the Standards Committee is the very least that can be done to improve transparency. Worth noting that Leader of the House Andrew Lansley warns there could be more pre-2010 expenses scandals still to come…
Zac Goldsmith, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Peter Bone are also using Miller to raise the issue of recall once again. Which begs the question what do Basingstoke residents think of the claim by Miller’s former constituency campaign manager Phil Heath: “whenever we had a meeting there was no family so that was definitely her second home.”