Coincidence? Two Osborne allies publicly criticised Maria Miller

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There is some interesting gossip circulating at Westminster this morning.

It is being suggested, for example, that Esther McVey, who wasn't very supportive of Maria Miller's apology on ITV's The Agenda on Monday - and was privately criticised by some close to the Prime Minister for her stance - had cleared her comments with someone in Number Ten before she appeared.

Just gossip, you say. Perhaps. But Esther is reasonably close to George Osborne and it is notable that the other person to publicly criticise Maria was Nicola Blackwood, who happens to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to Matt Hancock, Mr Osborne's closest ally.

A coincidence? Perhaps. But it is also possible that the Chancellor, who prides himself on the quality of his political antennae, had come to a rather different conclusion from the Prime Minister as to which way this crisis was going.