Maria Miller aide condemns media 'witch-hunt'

Mary Macleod: "We can't just let the media do whatever they want"

Related Stories

Culture Secretary Maria Miller's parliamentary aide has criticised coverage of the row over her boss's expenses claims as "wrong".

Conservative MP Mary Macleod said there was a "witch-hunt" because some newspapers were angry about Mrs Miller's reforms to press regulation.

But Labour MP Chris Bryant said there was "no point" criticising journalists.

The culture secretary was forced to apologise to MPs for her handling of an inquiry into her expenses.

Start Quote

[David Cameron] has got serious questions to answer about Maria Miller's failure to co-operate with the initial inquiry”

End Quote Ed Miliband Labour leader

The independent parliamentary commissioner for standards, whose job it was to investigate Mrs Miller's expenses, found that she had overclaimed by £45,000.

Although the Commons Standards Committee, which is the ultimate arbiter, disagreed and decided that she had overclaimed by £5,800, it also criticised her "attitude" to the inquiry, accusing her of supplying the commissioner with "incomplete documentation and fragmentary information".

Mrs Miller was cleared of funding a home for her parents at taxpayers' expense, the central charge against her.

Ms Macleod, who is Mrs Miller's parliamentary private secretary, told the BBC: "I do think this is a witch-hunt by the media who are angry about [the Leveson inquiry on press standards] and equal marriage, and they're taking it out on Maria."

Rally round

She could not see why the papers ran the story day after day when allegations had been dismissed, she said.

"We can't just let the media do whatever they want and hound someone where allegations have been dismissed. That's wrong in my book," she added.

Ms Macleod said these were her opinions and Mrs Miller had not mentioned Lord Justice Leveson's proposals to overhaul press regulation to her in the context of the recent coverage of her expenses.

She also confirmed she had sent Conservative colleagues a text message urging them to rally round,

Maria Miller attends cabinet Maria Miller attended cabinet on Tuesday morning

But Labour's Chris Bryant said "there was no point in railing against it (the media) on this particular issue".

"The truth is that the parliamentary system of self-regulation and semi-self-regulation has been on trial in the court of public opinion for a considerable period, and for most of our constituents it has been found wanting."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mrs Miller and David Cameron had "some very serious questions to answer".

Ed Miliband: ''We have seen Maria Miller treat Parliament with contempt''

Mr Miliband, who has stopped short of calling for Mrs Miller's resignation, said a rethink on how expenses complaints are investigated was long overdue.

"He [Mr Cameron] has got serious questions to answer about Maria Miller's failure to co-operate with the initial inquiry," he told party activists in Birmingham.

"He's got serious questions to answer about her failure to provide more than a perfunctory apology to the House of Commons.

"I think the ball is in his court. He's got to answer those questions about her status in the government."

'Distracting'

And in an "urgent question" in the House of Commons, Labour MP John Mann - whose formal complaint originally prompted the investigation into Mrs Miller's expenses in December 2012 - said there was "virtual unanimity" among the public that MPs should not regulate their own expenses conduct.

The Labour MP who chairs the standards committee, Kevin Barron, said it had already decided to look at its own procedures and would decide how to go about it in the coming weeks.

Start Quote

There are much more important things than the career prospects of one individual”

End Quote Robert Syms Conservative MP

Conservative MP Robert Syms said the row over Mrs Miller's expenses was "distracting" from the Conservatives' local election campaign and "nobody is bigger than the overall message of the party".

Mr Syms told BBC Radio Solent he had had lots of emails from people who feel "very frustrated" about the "saga".

"As practical politicians we've got to convey our arguments. When these things come along they detract from it. There are much more important things than the career prospects of one individual," he said.

Conservative colleague Zac Goldsmith said he was "surprised" that Mrs Miller had not stood down.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said many Conservative MPs were irritated by the tone and brevity of Mrs Miller's apology and, most of all, a distraction weeks before the local and European Parliament elections.

Mr Cameron has said he is open to the idea of further reform of the way MPs' expenses and conduct are monitored but he has continued to defend Mrs Miller.

'Completely irrational'

A Downing Street source said it was for the prime minister to choose his cabinet,

Others who back Mrs Miller believe her roles in overseeing proposals for same-sex marriage have made her a target for newspapers and some fellow MPs.

But the campaign group Conservative Grassroots said Mr Cameron's support for Mrs Miller was "completely irrational".

A poll it commissioned found that 74% of voters and 69% of Tory supporters thought the prime minister should have sacked Mrs Miller.

The row over the culture secretary's expenses dates back to December 2012, when the Telegraph reported she had claimed £90,718 in expenses towards mortgage payments on a house in Wimbledon, south-west London, that the MP shared with her parents.

The standards committee comprises five Conservative MPs, four Labour MPs, one Lib Dem MP as well as three members of the public - who are not allowed to vote.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK Politics stories

RSS

Politics Live

  1.  
    08:23: Green conference Eleanor Garnier Political correspondent

    Our correspondent says the Green Party has seen a huge surge in membership over the last year and even had to change venue to fit in all the activists it expects to turn up.

    But leader Natalie Bennett is under some pressure after a poor interview performance last month and our reporter says Ms Bennett "really does need to bounce back."

    There is unprecedented opportunity at this conference, but also unprecedented scrutiny, she concludes.

     
  2.  
    08:19: UKIP 'will reduce immigration' BBC Radio 4 Today
    Mark Reckless MP

    UKIP MP Mark Reckless is on Today defending the party's immigration policy. Asked why the party don't have a target for immigration, Mr Reckless said: "What we are going to do is control the quarter of a million people who come from the EU last year."

    He went on to set out policies including tighter border controls and a points-based system and said: "What that will do will hugely reduce that number of people coming to this country."

     
  3.  
    @FrankRGardner Frank Gardner

    tweets: We'll be discussing the UK Govt's controversial 'Prevent' strategy to counter extremism at 0830 on @BBCr4today

     
  4.  
    08:08: UK 'needs own Abraham Lincoln' The Guardian

    Over on the Guardian, Martin Kettle argues the UK needs its own Abraham Lincoln. If Britain proves to be "a house divided against itself" in coming years, especially with the rise of nationalism, "it will also require someone to fill Lincoln-sized shoes if the house is to continue to stand, both within these islands and in the union with Europe", he says. But he's not confident David Cameron or Ed Miliband have shown they can match the former US president's oratory skills. You can read his piece here.

     
  5.  
    08:04: Chuka: Selfies "keep it real"
    Chuka Umunna MP

    In an interview with House magazine, Chuka Umunna has praised the selfie. He said: "The thing about selfies is so often you do these posed, formal shots whereas when you are doing a group shot like that, it's a little bit more relaxed, you keep it real. Certainly with young people, it just relaxes the whole thing. And that is what my constituents say: keep it real."

    The Shadow Business Secretary also told House that he finds it awkward being praised for his looks: "I feel a little bit awkward, if I'm honest about it". He added: "It amuses my family, my friends take the piss out of me royally about it."

     
  6.  
    07:53: Bennett interview 'a serious failure' Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News
    Natalie Bennett

    The stumbling performance by Green leader Natalie Bennett in a radio interview last month was a "serious failure" that showed she had failed to prepare and left her colleagues "taken aback", according to the Green leader on Liverpool City Council John Coyne.

    He told the BBC it wouldn't happen again as Ms Bennett would in future rehearse her performance in mock interviews.

    Mr Coyne said: "It's a failure that she was underprepared we know why that happened and we know it will be fixed for the future."

    The criticism comes as Greens meet in Liverpool for their spring conference, gathering in the Liverpool Riverside constituency - which they are targeting at the general election - and where Mr Coyne is a sitting councillor.

    Mr Coyne is chair of the Green Councillors Association and was the first Green on Liverpool council after defecting from the Liberal Democrats.

    He said: "It was a serious failure and we thought it might be damaging to us but one thing that perhaps is saving us from that is people who are attracted to the Green Party tend to have a more generous disposition anyway."

    Asked about the reaction of Greens to a performance he described as "excruciating" he said: "We were taken aback but again in the Green Party we are compassionate and it certainly helped to indicate that we have someone who's a human being."

    Bennett apologised to members after the interview.

     
  7.  
    07:47: Globalisation driving immigration

    Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani digests today's immigration story on his blog. He writes: "The old way of thinking about immigration and how it affects the UK needs to be tossed into the dustbin."

    He adds: "Today's migrants - particularly those from Eastern Europe - may be found in all manner of locations because of the effects of globalisation and the single market."

    Research from Oxford University shows immigration has increased the population of England by half a million in the past three years.

     
  8.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC correspondent

    tweets: Green leader Natalie Bennett will do mock interviews in future to prepare, Liverpool councillor tells me before Liverpool conference

     
  9.  
    07:41: John Major on SNP The Daily Telegraph
    John Major

    Sir John Major has also been giving his views on the rise of the SNP in Scotland. The former Tory prime minister, writing in this morning's Telegraph, says Ed Miliband should rule out a coalition with the nationalists. He says "the SNP would enter into any agreement with Labour with one overriding aim: to break up the United Kingdom". You can read the Telegraph's news story here and Sir John's piece here.

     
  10.  
    @Number10gov UK Prime Minister

    tweets: PM: To everyone in the UK, India and around the world celebrating the festival of colour and arrival of spring, I wish you a happy #Holi!

     
  11.  
    07:30: John Humphrys in Watford BBC Radio 4 Today

    In the latest of Today's 100 seats in 100 days series, John Humphrys has visited Watford to explore what effect marketing has on voter choices. You can listen to his package here.

     
  12.  
    07:23: Plaid to demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland
    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

    Plaid Cymru say they will demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any post-election Westminster coalition talks.

    At the party's spring conference in Caernarfon, party leader Leanne Wood will urge the "Westminster parties" to promise Wales an extra £1.2bn a year.

    More on this.

     
  13.  
    07:16: Labour's video mocking PM on debates You Tube

    Paul Waugh from Politics Home has tweeted a video from Labour contrasting David Cameron's positive and negative stances to TV debates.

     
  14.  
    07:06: PM's debates decision shows "aristocratic contempt" The Guardian
    David Cameron MP

    John Harris takes up Nick Clegg MP's "Downton Abbey" characterisation of David Cameron's decision on the debates in his column in today's Guardian.

    Harris writes of the PM: "Once he styled himself as a leader who was open and up for a challenge; now he looks more than ever like a cold power politician with a tinge of aristocratic contempt for rules and rituals that need only apply to others."

    Clegg told LBC radio yesterday: "I can't get over the lofty pomposity of the Conservatives. It's as if they think they are ordering a drink in the drawing room of Downton Abbey, telling everybody else what they should do."

     
  15.  
    07:00: SNP influence 'desirable' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ewan Crawford, a former SNP special adviser, says the trouble for Labour is they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservatives during the referendum. At the time, they said there would be no threat to public services and promised "strength and security", Mr Crawford argues, but now they say the Tories would be a disaster. Mr Crawford says the SNP would push Labour to do what Labour actually wants to do. And SNP influence on a Labour government is "desirable", he adds.

     
  16.  
    06:56: Labour MP on Scotland polls BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ian Murray, a Labour MP in Edinburgh, is speaking about the latest polls, which indicate a disastrous result for his party in Scotland could be coming. He admits if his party loses Scotland, Ed Miliband won't be prime minister. He says Labour doesn't want or need a coalition with the nationalists.

     
  17.  
    06:51: Parking leeway introduced

    The government has announced drivers will be given 10 minutes' grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parks in England. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, says he wants to end the "war on drivers". The leeway is set to take effect later this month. And it will apply to free and paid-for parking spaces both on streets and in off-street car parks. More here.

     
  18.  
    06:46: Greens 'bigger than UKIP'

    As the Green party heads to Liverpool for their conference today, it's worth remembering that they are believed to have more members than UKIP. In January BBC Online reported the party had 43,829 members compared with UKIP's 41,966. We'll be covering the Green party conference throughout the day.

     
  19.  
    06:41: The papers
    Daily Mail and i front pages on 06/03/15

    This morning's national newspapers feature a number of political stories. Alex Kleiderman has the newspaper review here.

     
  20.  
    06:34: 'UK must support Hong Kong'
    Hong Kong

    The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has urged the government to speak up in support of democracy in Hong Kong or risk damage to the UK's reputation there. The MPs said they were "profoundly disappointed" at ministers' response when China blocked committee members from visiting the former UK colony. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said the UK wanted democratic "transition". More here.

     
  21.  
    06:28: Greens moot alliance with SNP
    Caroline Lucas

    The Greens are expected to call for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP at their party conference in Liverpool later today.

    Green Party MP and former leader Caroline Lucas will say: "With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

    "Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we'll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common." More here.

     
  22.  
    06:18: 'England's population up'

    A major analysis by the University of Oxford estimates that the population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011 because of immigration. The Migration Observatory unit says it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election. Two-thirds of the rise is attributed to people from the European Union. We'll bring you all the reaction.

     
  23.  
    06:13: Good morning from Westminster

    Hello and welcome to Friday's political coverage. Nick Eardley and Sarah Weaver will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Thursday unfolded.

     

Features

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world


  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage


  • Target practice for Lithuanian troopsBaltic shiver

    Europe editor Katya Adler on the alarm at Russian muscle-flexing


  • Ruben ReuterRuben returns Watch

    Child TV star with Down's syndrome on life away from home


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show

Programmes

  • A robotClick Watch

    The latest in robotics including software that can design electronics to solve problems

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.