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Basingstoke MP Maria Miller pledges to build the Olympic legacy
A WEEK is a long time in politics, and for newly-promoted Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, the last week has probably seemed longer – but also more exciting – than most.
Days after making history as the first Basingstoke Member of Parliament to sit at the Cabinet table, Mrs Miller has already made her first official announcement as Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport – cutting red tape surrounding the installation of superfast broadband – and overseen the end of the Paralympic Games.
And to top off her hectic first week as a member of the Cabinet, Mrs Miller was summoned on Monday to The Queen’s residence at Balmoral to be sworn in as a member of the Privy Council – a group of senior politicians and UK leaders tasked with advising The Queen.
“It’s very, very unusual that the Privy Counsellors get sworn in at Balmoral,” said Mrs Miller. “It did mean that I could not attend the fantastic athletes’ parade on Monday, and I had to watch it on TV at Aberdeen airport. But it was an immense privilege to be sworn in as a Privy Counsellor, and also to receive my seals of office.”
Following David Cameron’s reshuffle last Tuesday, the 48-year-old mother-of-three has found herself thrown in the deep end.
“The first Cabinet meeting is a very important part of being in the Cabinet,” she said. “I had a very important role to play, talking about both the running of the Paralympics, and also the legacy of the whole Olympic Games.”
And Mrs Miller told The Gazette that ensuring the legacy of London 2012 is her number one priority.
“I think there are a number of challenges in our department of Culture, Media, and Sport, which I am very much looking to forward to take on – but none more so than the Olympic Legacy,” she said.
“To be able to make sure that this incredible event that we have all experienced this summer, and we all have very personal memories of, is translated into continued success for our elite athletes into the future, and also increased involvement in sport at a community level.”
The newly-promoted media chief has also faced a week of intense media scrutiny, and an explosion of column inches about her, as journalists and the public have picked over her comments, past and present.
And while she may not yet have a Twitter account of her own, Mrs Miller has been subject to much comment on the increasingly popular social media network.
Within seconds of Downing Street’s announcement that she would replace Jeremy Hunt as Culture Secretary, her name started trending on Twitter – and it certainly wasn’t a friendly welcome from many users.
“I find it slightly ironic that Maria Miller has been made culture security (sic) when she is the M.P. for the culture wasteland Basingstoke,” wrote one of the milder Twitter users.
Mrs Miller refused to be drawn on what she thought of the Twitter criticism. “I think it’s absolutely right that anybody in public life is open to scrutiny,” she said. “There will always be individuals who have different views.
“I want to make this country a really great place to live, and I want to have a more equal society.
“I feel we still have a great deal more work still to do. I am in a privileged position to make sure that becomes a reality.”