Much has been made of the fact that the Commissioner who investigated Maria Miller's expenses thought she should pay back around £45k, but the Standards Committee over ruled her and decided Miller need only pay around £6k back. This would rather beg the question - did the commissioner (Kathryn Hudson) get it wrong - and if so, should her position also come into question? After all - that would be quite a grave error. Anyway, The Guardian reported on Friday (and again today) that the Commissioner and the Chair of the Standards committee have issued a statement to explain how the two very different conclusions were reached. The Guardian piece says... "Sir Kevin Barron, the Labour chairman of the committee, and Hudson issued a joint statement on Friday to say that the smaller amount had been agreed after Miller provided further details about her mortgage to the committee." But to me, this would beg another question. Why didn't Maria Miller give these full details to The Commissioner in the first place? I understand that MPs have a duty to fully comply with the Commissioners investigations (and we know from correspondence between Miller and Hudson that the former showed a certain reluctance to do so). But the statement issued on Friday would seem to suggest more than that - that relevant material was not handed to the Commissioner but was handed to the Committee. So I wonder why the information was given to one - but not the other?
"It is not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations", he added So said Russell Brand on Newsnight. So I wonder if he thinks these folks are wasting their time? You know, risking life and limb in Afghanistan to exercise their democratic right? The first one certainly seems to have a message for him
While Maria Miller sits firmly in the centre of the media storm over her expenses, there is an ever burgeoning list of other folk who now find themselves dragged into it. How long does this list have to get before Maria Miller resigns I wonder?
1. David Cameron - who wrongly said the lay members of the Standards committee had the casting vote on Maria Millers expenses claim investigation, and must also now regret saying the following (h/t @samcoatestimes and @magsnews
4. The Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson, whose recommendations to the Standards Committee were so watered down, begging the question did she get it wrong - though I now see a statement has been put out (see the end of the linked piece) 'explaining' how the commissioner and the committee could had drawn such different conclusions...
5. Joanna Hindley, the spad accused of attempting to bully The Telegraph by reminding them of Maria Millers links to Leveson. I wonder if her position is the most vulnerable. Remember Jeremy Hunt and Adam Smith?
6. Craig Oliver - who appears to be accused of generally trying to intimidate journalists into dropping the story...
How many other names will be dragged into this over the weekend I wonder?
Now Grant Shapps has been dragged in - claiming on Marr that not a single activist raised the issue with him at Conservative Spring Conference yesterday (which says a lot about Tory activists) and refusing three times on BBC 5 Live to say he gave her his full backing when pressed by Jon Pienaar
"Miller therefore survives to fight another day. But the row has fatally undermined any authority she had left with the press, who are insisting she is not fit to preside over the delicate talks concerning press regulation. The rumour is that she will be quietly reshuffled into the Wales Office at the nearest opportunity."
But is strikes me that if she is now in a position where she can't do the job she has been asked to do - doesn't that make her position as Sec of State at DCMS untenable immediately?
2. David Cameron suggested that the casting vote from the Standards Committee had been given, not by MPS, but by the lay members of the committee. We now know this was untrue, and No 10. have confirmed this was the case.
'A spokesman for Mr Cameron later said his comments were a "slip of the tongue" and that "lay members do not have a vote".'
But if the PM made his decision - that Miller could stay in post - on the basis that lay members had the casting vote, and the basis for that decision was wrong - isn't he duty bound to reconsider things?
I also feel sorry for the lay members of the committee who will now be under enormous scrutiny themselves.
3. Given the Standards Committee have taken the decision to water down the recommendations of the commissioner who investigated the issue, shouldn't either they resign (if the commissioner is right) or the commissioner resign (if she got it badly wrong). Someone has to have made the wrong call here - one or other needs to put their hands up.
I suppose we have to wonder - who is policing the 'police' here?
UPDATE This is apparently the answer to point 3 (according to he Guardian, quoting the chair of the Standards Committee and the commissioner, who put out a joint statement) They said: "It should be noted that after the commissioner [Hudson] had concluded her inquiry the committee was able to secure further information from Mrs Miller on which to base its conclusions. The committee required Mrs Miller to give more information about her mortgage claims, and as a result it was revealed that Mrs Miller's mortgage had increased by over £150,000 after her election, not the £50,000 that the commissioner had discovered. The committee's calculations as to whether Mrs Miller's claims were justified were all based on this higher figure."