Maria Miller should resign, say grassroots ConservativesPosted: April 6, 2014
This article originally appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, April 6, 2014
By David Barrett & Ben Lazarus
Grassroots Conservative party members have called on Maria Miller to resign and expressed serious concerns about how the affair was handled by David Cameron, the Prime Minister.
In a straw poll of 50 activists at the party’s spring forum in central London, 14 told the Telegraph the Culture Secretary should have stood down from the front bench – or been sacked – over her expenses claims.
A further 12 party members said they had other major reservations over the party’s conduct or the operation of the parliamentary standards committee.
Another 24 members approached following a keynote speech by Mr Cameron declined to comment on the affair.
Significantly, not one party member surveyed expressed support for Mrs Miller.
Clive Nelson, 70, a member of Kenilworth and Southam Conservative Association, said the interventions by spin doctors were “undemocratic” and called on Mrs Miller to resign.
Mr Nelson, a party member for 50 years, said outside the conference: “She has put up a good fight but she was in the wrong and it sends out the wrong message to the public.
“She should have gone for the sake of the party.
“I’ve spoken to several people here today who shared my views on this.
“The Telegraph was very brave to expose it in the first place.
“Press regulation would be wrong because the Press are the guardians of our freedom.”
Mr Nelson, a retired furnishing and fabric agent, said: “It was undemocratic of the party officials to speak to the Telegraph in the way they did.”
Peter Oakley, a magistrate and Tory parish councillor at Tanworth in Arden, Warwickshire, said: “It was a resigning matter, in my opinion. And I’m always uncomfortable when the activities of members of any institutions are reviewed by their own peers.”
Susan Jones, a fellow parish councillor, said: “Personally I think she should have been sacked.
“She tried to get out of it, denying and denying and wrongdoing until it was proved she had done wrong.”
John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, stopped short of saying Mrs Miller should have resigned but called for wholesale reform of the parliamentary standards system.
“The committee in these matters should consist of lay members and not MPs,” he said.
Asked about the role of Tory spin doctors in the affair Mr Strafford, a member for 50 years, said: “I think Conservative party officials should keep out of these things. It’s not their role.”
One party patron, who declined to be named, said: “She’s a pretty poor individual, why is Cameron defending her?
“She is guilty. She had the opportunity to apologise properly to the House of Common. Instead she chose not to demonstrate integrity.
“Those threats [to the Telegraph] were outrageous. She should absolutely resign.”
Jo Gideon, a district councillor from Thanet in Kent, said: “I think it was a resigning matter.
“It is particularly concerning that people are saying she has been given special treatment because David Cameron is worried about losing one of the few women in Cabinet.
“I’m very sad about that because to be given special treatment is anti-feminist.”
Ms Gideon added that she was concerned by the party’s attempts to deter the Telegraph from investigating Mrs Miller’s expenses claims.
“It was totally wrong to intimidate a newspaper in this way,” she said.
Dr Anthony Clarke, a councillor from Somerset, said it would be “appropriate” for Mrs Miller to resign.
“We can do without these sort of issues. It is a distraction,” he said.
“The issue is her continued presence on the front bench.”
Nicholas Vose, a party delegate from north London, said: “I would say her behaviour is questionable.”
Asked whether Mrs Miller should resign he said: “From what I know, it’s obvious: Yes.”
Graham Cox, a councillor for Brighton and Hove, expressed particular concern over the party’s interventions which mentioned Mrs Miller’s responsibilities for Press regulation.
“This is a prime example of why she shouldn’t gag the Press,” he said.
“It’s quite worrying, that post-Leveson, there has been an attempt to silence the papers.”
Will Millard, a European Parliamentary assistant, said: “It was wrong of her. We should expect better from our politicians.
“Making huge profit of the taxpayer is pretty excessive abuse, and it disgraces the whole system”.
Jim Fleming, another party member, said: “I think all MPs should be more honest. And perhaps the investigation should have been concluded more quickly.
“I’m disappointed. Ministers need to be completely open and transparent with public money.
“The public perceive that lessons still haven’t been learned from the expense scandal.”
A female party activist, who declined to give her name, said: “If you take responsibility then you are a pillar of society.
“It’s outrageous and let’s the side down. She should consider her position very carefully.”
Anne McAllister, a councillor from Calderdale in West Yorkshire said: “If it was proven to be deliberate, then she should resign.”
Another former constituency chairman who declined to give their name said: “She has behaved disgracefully. She should have done the decent thing and resigned.
“She is bringing the party into disgrace.”
John Fifield, another party member, added: “It doesn’t look good.
“From what I’ve read it looks pretty nasty. It’s not straight.
“I’m surprised Cameron hasn’t let her go.”
One party member, who preferred not to be named, said regarding the telephone calls from spin doctors that it was “quite wrong” to “interpret them as a threat”.
“I think it’s all been stirred up and we have bigger things to worry about, like Ukip and Europe,” he said.