Maria Miller's resignation: An episode that reflects boiling public anger

Maria Miller has stood down after a sustained period of pressure. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Archive

47 minutes. £45,000. Seven days.

I write this from a train to work - the journey time of which is not dissimilar to the commute from London to Basingstoke.

It is a commute that, these days at least, some MPs do make into work at the House of Commons everyday.

But Maria Miller's expenses for having a home in London -when her constituency is 47 minutes from Waterloo - forced her out of a Cabinet job.

And yet she hasn't even claimed those expenses for five years.

This political episode reflects boiling public anger over MPs expenses. (Even though that second home allowance system no longer exists and a new system is in place under which Maria Miller's disputed mortgage interest claims could not happen).

But voters have not forgotten what did happen in 2009 - and all the years before that.

There remains huge distrust of the political class.

And the perception that there is one rule for ministers and another for everyone else has simply grown - rather than diminished.

David Cameron offered public support for Miller before her resignation. Credit: PA

Let's just be clear about this inquiry: Maria Miller was cleared of the original allegation that the taxpayer was paying for her elderly parents to live in her house.

She was however found to have over claimed on her mortgage interest payments.: rates fell in 2008/09 but her claims did not.

She paid back what was due: £5,800.

But there began her problems. Because Maria Miller had frustrated the inquiry and failed to assist it as voters might expect, the Parliamentary Commissioner didn't have all the facts. So Kathryn Hudson concluded Maria Miller owed £45,000.

Armed with new facts, the MPs Committee on Standards decided, quite legitimately, that the amount owed was £5,800 (based on the mortgage in 2005 when Maria Miller was elected).

Then Maria Miller decided that a statement of apology which ran for 32 seconds (and can be seen below) was suffice.

Not so.

The discrepancy between the two figures, the obfuscation Maria Miller showed the inquiry, and the inadequate/contemptuous/mealy-mouthed/begrudging apology (delete as appropriate) sealed her fate.

Mix in a lack of support from Conservative colleagues (she was tasked with pushing through the deeply unpopular equal marriage legislation), anger in the press (she was designing press regulation after the Leveson Inquiry to which newspapers were vehemently opposed) and seven days of media coverage which drowned out all other government news (like welfare reform, the improving economy, changes to personal taxation) then you see why Maria Miller could no longer stay in her job.

Was the Prime Minister right to stick by her?

He is loyal. He didn't want his decisions to be dictated by the press. But he took a long time to see that this wasn't going away.

And on the day he was due to both take Prime Minister's Questions and meet his 1922 Committee of backbench MPs - the threshold had been crossed.

Maria Miller called David Cameron last night. Letters were exchanged this morning.

"Finally" came a few texts to my phone from some Tory MPs this morning.

They could see that this resignation was inevitable.

But they wonder why Downing Street didn't.

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