Maria Miller: One down. More to go?

 
Peter Spence
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The resignation of Maria Miller has come at last, and timing is everything.

Those in Downing Street must have thought that facing a barrage from the opposition at Prime Minister's Questions today was too much to face.

Some will try to frame the former Culture secretary as a victim of public outrages over trifling sums of money. The sums involved - in the tens of thousands - are tiny in comparison to annual government spending closer to £700bn.

Yet Alastair Campbell's 11 Day Rule holds true - that no politician will last more than that time under media pressure. Miller hung on for just seven. Speaking on Radio 4's Today program, the education secretary, Michael Gove, said that "the political class as a whole needs to reflect on the events over the next few days."

Miller's betrayal is one of principle, and another example of the do what I say, not what I do, culture of those who inhabit Westminster's halls. Somehow, the issue of compensation needs resolving. But if it is too low, that in no way justifies bending the rules, put in place to ensure that those on lower incomes aren't excluded from politics.

During the entire affair, Miller seems to have been confused on the reasons for public outrage against her. Members of her own staff have suggested that a media witch hunt was the result of her role in press regulation, but while Leveson is an issue that hacks might get angry about, it was expenses that stoked public anger.

There will be those thankful on both sides of the house. If Miller had survived until noon today, then there was a real risk that the expenses debate would be reignited more fully, and that heads could roll on both benches if records were to be re-examined. A non-apology (neither Cameron nor Miller admitted any wrongdoing in their letters), and Cameron's suggestion that Miller will "return to serving" on the front benches has not resolved the issue.

Miller's wrongdoing was in her role as an MP, not as a minister, and she has not resigned her seat. As we head into PMQs, momentum on the issue is unlikely to evaporate entirely. If it doesn't - then we could see another purge of those who play fast and loose with the rules from the halls of public office.

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