Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Maria Miller, web crusader and saviour of British sport

Some politicians say nothing in an interesting way. Miller says nothing in an irritating way

Donald Macintyre
Thursday 20 June 2013 20:24

Are Maria Miller’s lunges for fame and fortune beginning to look a little desperate? “What a week it has been for British sport!” she exclaimed to MPs. England’s one-day team had “romped home” against South Africa, Andy Murray had won at Queen’s and “Basingstoke’s own” Justin Rose had won the US Open (the Hampshire town already basks in being the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary’s constituency). This would have been all right – except that the question she’d been asked was “if she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities”.

This week, a Miller lieutenant pointed out that she was the only mum in the Cabinet, implying this made her uniquely qualified to protect children from internet abuse, not to mention (presumably) leading the Conservative Party. Was she now claiming credit for the country’s sporting triumphs? Which would be fine, provided she takes the blame for its failures, including those of the England football team, controversially described by Tory backbencher David Mowat as a “valuable national asset”.

Some politicians say nothing in an interesting way. Ms Miller often says nothing in an irritating way. Pressed by her Labour predecessor Ben Bradshaw to show she was not “in the pocket of Google” and implement a three-year-old law on copyright theft, she said the law required “a great deal of working through,” was a “huge priority” and “ we are working closely to ensure that copyright support is put in place as soon as possible”. When was “soon”? What did “closely” mean? And with whom? We were in the dark.

There was light relief, however, after Labour’s Kerry McCarthy asked about musicians and actors forced to work for next to nothing. Tory backbencher Sir Tony Baldry quoted T S Eliot on the walk-on parts needed “to swell a progress, start a scene or two – to be deferential, or glad to be of use”. He was obviously lamenting the thankless task of loyal Government MPs, himself included. “Not everyone can be Hamlet,” agreed Miller’s deputy Ed Vaizey. Who, come to think of it, would be perfect as Horatio. As Women’s minister, Ms Miller was there to hear the first question on Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson. Judiciously not naming the couple, Labour’s Sandra Osborne asked: “What kind of message does it send if an alleged perpetrator can receive a caution despite extensive corroborative evidence… Or is it a question of... one law for the rich and famous and another for everybody else?”

No, said the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Jeremy Browne, sharing her concern at low conviction-rates for domestic violence – and avoiding the gruesomely equivocal train-wreck of an answer his party leader had given earlier on “Call Clegg”.

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