SHOULD Maria Miller resign as Basingstoke’s MP? That was the question put to Gazette readers in a poll that was launched on this website last Wednesday – the day that Mrs Miller bowed to mounting pressure and resigned from her position as Culture Secretary, at the heart of the Government.
As reported last week, Mrs Miller resigned from her position in the Cabinet following the controversy over the findings of, and her reaction to, a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concerning her second home expenses claims.
In her letter of resignation to Prime Minister David Cameron, the mother-of-three said the controversy, which had lasted six days, “has become a distraction from the vital work this Government is doing”.
Last Thursday, The Gazette revealed that of 737 people who voted in our online poll, 96 per cent thought that Mrs Miller should have resigned, or have been sacked, as Culture Secretary.
In a second poll that closed yesterday, of the 1,293 people who voted, an overwhelming 88 per cent of people thought that Mrs Miller should now resign from her position as Basingstoke MP. Just 12 per cent of voters backed the under-fire MP.
The Gazette has still not been able to speak directly to Mrs Miller since she resigned last week.
When The Gazette asked her for a response to the latest poll result, her Conservative Party press adviser Tim Smith referred back to what Mrs Miller had said in her weekly ‘How I See It’ column in The Basingstoke Extra.
In that column, Mrs Miller said: “As Basingstoke’s MP, I want to make sure our part of north Hampshire has someone in Parliament to help make this a fairer and better place.
“I fully recognise that I have made mistakes. I have apologised unreservedly for making those mistakes, and for the deep concern caused.
“Now, by continuing to work hard for the people of Basingstoke and being your voice in Westminster, I will hope to put that right.”
Mrs Miller’s decision to step down from the Cabinet last week followed growing pressure for her to be sacked by Mr Cameron, or resign, after she was criticised for her attitude to the inquiry conducted by Parliamentary Commissioner Kathryn Hudson.
While Mrs Miller was cleared of deliberately claiming incorrect second home expenses for her home in Wimbledon, London where her parents also lived, the Parliamentary Committee on Standards – on which the Conservative Party has the largest single representation – recommended that the 50-year-old should repay £5,800 to cover over-claimed mortgage payments during 2005 and 2009 when the MP failed to cut her claims as interest rates fell.
This sum was agreed upon by the committee despite Mrs Hudson recommending that Mrs Miller should pay back £45,800.
After she was told to apologise for her attitude to the Commissioner’s inquiry, Mrs Miller complied by making a terse 32-second apology in the House of Commons on April 3 – something that only served to fuel the controversy over whether she should resign, or be axed, from the Cabinet.