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CHRIS MONCRIEFF: Culture Secretary sacking not a question of equality

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 25, 2014

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David Cameron should have the courage to replace Maria Miller as Culture Secretary over her embarrassing expenses claim. And if that means fewer women in his administration, so be it. Chris Moncrieff reports

How on earth can the Prime Minister justify keeping Maria Miller in office as Culture Secretary?

Ms Miller is embarrassed, to say the least, over an expenses irregularity in which she has claimed £90,000 for a house in which her parents were living. Some MPs have gone to jail for less.

It would, of course, be too much to expect Ms Miller to resign from her post. That just does not appear to happen much these days.

So why is Cameron faltering on taking any action – could it be the “shortage” of women in ministerial posts in his administration?

If this is the case, then it is a dereliction of his duty.

Cameron should give people ministerial posts on their merits, not on the grounds of the colour of their skin, their gender or their sexual orientation.

This is sexism and racism whatever else anyone might say.

To call it “positive” discrimination is an insult.

James Naughtie, one of the presenters on the BBC Radio Four Today programme, has the right idea. When some nitwit pointed out that there were no black people in the Today team, he simply replied: “Come off it. This is not sociological laboratory.”

Good for him. He could not have made the point more effectively.

And surely, apart from any other considerations, Ms Miller is expendable.

The second-eleven, so to speak, of British politics are girding their loins. Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, and Nigel Farage, the charismatic leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, are squaring up for a TV confrontation.

The irony of this is that although Farage is not an MP, nor is any member of his party, it is he, and not Clegg, who will be the favourite to win this battle of the minnows.

Prime Minister Cameron and Opposition leader Ed Miliband will also probably lock horns on screen before the general election in May next year.

Last time, Cameron and Gordon Brown foolishly let Clegg take part, even though there was not the slightest prospect of his becoming Prime Minister, and that may well have cost Cameron an outright victory in 2010.

So now, Clegg and Farage can have their own little playfight beforehand.

The Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election are already dire, though. Many punters believe that Farage will make mincemeat of the Liberal Democrat leader, and Clegg is certainly taking a big risk in taking on his popular and populist rival.

Especially, too, when there seem to be clandestine moves afoot, among some leading figures in the Lib Dems to dump their leader anyway.

The Lib Dems have certainly shown, more than once in the past, that they are not above a spot of dirty tricks if it suits them. Watch out, Cleggy!

Hands off Prime Minister’s Question Time!

The Speaker, John Bercow, and various other grandees from various parties have been calling for MPs to calm down and cease to be so rowdy and “twittish”.

Even Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has said it is possible “to disagree without being disagreeable”.

I am afraid that “Red Ed” has got it wrong.

It is not possible for your dyed-in-the-wool politician to be reasonable when faced with opponents in the torrid atmosphere of the House of Commons.

Meet a politician in a bar, and he is usually a most reasonable character, even if his pockets are usually deeper than his arms are long.

But put that same person on a platform or in a political forum like the Commons then he is magically transformed into the equivalent of a cage fighter, unable to control his emotions or, indeed on occasion, his language.

So the Speaker and others are effectively spitting into the wind; whatever they say will have no effect at all on these political passions.

And a good thing, too.

If opposing MPs started to be polite to each other that would add to the belief, increasingly held by voters, that there is no difference between the main parties.

They should be verbally mauling each other and not be indulging in spurious courtesies.

Long may the Wednesday afternoon mayhem continue

Between now and next September the newspapers and air waves will be awash with stories about the referendum on Scottish independence. There is no doubt the Prime Minister is getting worried that the UK-splitters, led by the wily Alex Salmond, appear to be getting the upper hand – for the moment, anyway.

Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor, is himself a crafty old bird, but he is scarcely the cheer-leader that the Better Together campaign needs at its head.

Instead, the Tory MP Brooks Newmark has cleverly described Salmond’s campaign in tabloid terms.

He said: “He is like a man in a mid-life crisis who wants to divorce his wife for a sexy young French model. But if he does, he will be worse off and wish he could dump his floozy and go back to the missus.”

Darling, you had better watch out. Newmark could be the man to appeal to the voting masses.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is dragging his Cabinet to the North-East of Scotland to demonstrate how much he cares about the unity of the United Kingdom.

It certainly won’t be the last extravagant gesture, as the campaign hots up.

You may well have heard ministers talk about urgent COBRA meetings during the floods crisis.

Well it is not quite as dramatic as it sounds.

The acronym COBRA stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A.

Sorry to destroy the illusion.

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