In yesterday’s paper we reported that Maria Miller’s “apology” to Parliament lasted 31 seconds. In fact it was 32 seconds. Our political staff are being kitted out with the timing technology used to measure Formula One lap splits, lest any other MPs should accidentally accumulate wealth – we all know how easy that is to do – and feel it necessary to show the obstruction and lack of contrition displayed by Ms Miller.
Let’s be clear: this was no duck house or moat cleaning fiddle. The Culture Secretary will not be slipping her ankle into a Brixton Rolex. But after over-claiming money on her mortgage she refused to pay it back until she was made to – and her determination to resist the investigation is now detailed in more than 100 pages of correspondence released by the standards committee.
Ms Miller’s dismissive tone and obstruction of the investigation into her financial probity insult the public and challenge her fitness for office. Her refusal to accept she made a mistake has damaged her in the eyes of reasonable people – and further damaged faith in all of our politicians, at a time when we might hope they take extra care. The Prime Minister’s response to all this is to tell critics that “we should leave it there”. Move on.
Yesterday, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph, Tony Gallagher, said that when newspaper reporters began investigating the claims in winter 2012, Downing Street’s director of communications, Craig Oliver, phoned him to warn that Ms Miller was “looking at Leveson” and drawing up plans for press regulation. “Utterly false”, Mr Oliver insists.
Believe who you will.