DCSIMG

Cabinet’s rising star might fall from grace

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

Did Culture Secretary Maria Miller break the rules over MPs expenses by allegedly claiming for a second home in which her parents were living? If she did – and she has denied any wrongdoing – then her future must be in doubt.

Did Culture Secretary Maria Miller break the rules over MPs expenses by allegedly claiming for a second home in which her parents were living? If she did – and she has denied any wrongdoing – then her future must be in doubt.

Maria Miller seemed to be cruising along serenely as the new Culture Secretary – but suddenly she has found herself up to her neck in hot water. Now, her future as a Cabinet minister has been questioned.

First of all, she is under investigation for allegedly claiming expenses – the figure of £90,000 has been mentioned – for a second home which is occupied by her parents.

On top of that, one of her special advisers, who got wind that the story was going to be run by the Daily Telegraph, “reminded” the paper that before printing the allegations, it should consider the Culture Secretary’s role in deciding the future of press regulation in the wake of the Leveson report.

If it was authorised by Miller, then she should be booted out of office. And if it was the work of civil servants, acting off their own bat, then they should be sacked.

It was not only a totally improper thing to have been said – if these reports are true – but it also demonstrates naivete on the part of those responsible who imagined that it would not come to light.

Miller denies any wrongdoing over the alleged expenses claim and also says that there was no improper influence put on the Daily Telegraph to prevent publication of the story.

Downing Street also issued a denial that there was anything out of order in what was said to the newspaper.

Even so, Miller’s Christmas break may not be the joyous occasion for which she hoped. She is entitled to be worried that her so far short but spectacular journey to political stardom may quickly be running out of fuel.

All this suggests that it is our politicians and their little helpers who need regulating far more urgently than the press.

It is good news that plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol at 45p a unit are apparently doomed.

It is beginning to look as though it is dead in the water now that some Cabinet ministers – including Liberal Democrats – have denounced the plan as “an unfair tax on the poor” and as “illiberal”.

Quite right, too. It is grossly unfair that the vast majority of sensible and moderate drinkers should be punished because of the misbehaviour of some binge drinkers.

There is, for a start, no hard evidence that increasing the price would 
curtail binge drinkers.

And what business is it of the Government to intervene? As Margaret Thatcher once rightly said: “You can’t buck the market.”

She was spot on.

 

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