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Raymond Snoddy 

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

A Royal Charter with no signatories going nowhere should stand as Maria Miller's political epitaph, says Raymond Snoddy. But more importantly, what might her resignation mean for the post-Leveson media and the future of the BBC?

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Obviously by eventually, belatedly dispatching a Tory placeman at dead of night carrying the sword to fall on.

There is really little doubt that former Culture Secretary Maria Miller thought almost to the last that she could tough it out thanks to the public support of her good friend David Cameron, the Prime Minister. Both have been badly damaged by the week of headlines.

Yet even after the blow had fallen and an element of catharsis should have been settling in, Mrs Miller was still being less than totally candid. Asked by Sky News whether she was pushed, the former Culture Secretary said: "I take full responsibility for my decision."

In her resignation letter - and earlier via her aides - she had the effrontery to suggest that she had been brought down by a press witch-hunt over Leveson and her Gay Marriage bill. She was brought down by her own behaviour over expenses, her arrogance, and her lack of genuine contrition.

It was a people hunt by electors who do not like their MPs to behave in such a fashion, and ultimately a hunt by Tory MPs becoming increasingly alarmed by the Miller effect they were encountering on the doorstep in the run up to Council and Europe elections.

If Mrs Miller had properly apologised and accepted the verdict of the Standards Commissioner, she might have made it."

In the end they were led by Tory grandees calling for her to go, including Lord Tebbit, and most telling of all Baroness Boothroyd, the legendary Labour former Speaker of the House of Commons.

It felt like the coup de grace when Betty Boothroyd, with all the authority of her former high office, said that Maria Miller should go because she had brought Parliament into disrepute and that "it was a matter of honour".

There is no longer any point in going into the ins and outs of her expense claims, though it should be noted that a former campaign organiser, Phil Heath, said it was "ridiculous" for her to claim that her Basingstoke constituency home was her primary residence because she was hardly ever there.

If true then it would be a serious matter if she has been claiming for expenses and tax purposes on the basis that her Wimbledon residence was her "second home".

Never mind all that - we now can see that her only chance of survival was to ignore the slap on the wrist from the Commons Standards Committee.

If Mrs Miller had properly apologised and accepted the verdict of the Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, that she should pay back £45,000 out of the £90,000 expenses claimed, she might have made it.

But was Maria Miller a good Culture Secretary, as the Prime Minister argued, and how will her successor Sajid Javid, the 12th holder of an office inaugurated by David Mellor in 1992, approach the task?

The short answer on Maria Miller is an emphatic no.

It is not really a question of whether she was good or bad. A former advertising executive who only entered the Commons as an MP in 2005 and few had heard of when promoted to the Cabinet, she was largely anonymous outside her two special causes.

She did threaten the BBC at the Royal Television Society's Cambridge convention that the future governance of the Corporation and the BBC Trust was already under review and it was no good waiting until the renewal of the BBC's Royal Charter to act.

The Corporation will be worried that they have now a Culture Secretary who is widely admired on the right of the Conservative Party"

That is exactly what is now happening with the decision already taken to wait until after next year's general election to deal with BBC issues.

Mrs Miller deserves some credit as the politician who steered the controversial Gay Marriage bill though Parliament. But she must accept a lot of the responsibility - shared with Cameron - for the botched attempt to steamroller the press into accepting a Royal Charter on the Press.

Until now not a single newspaper in the country has signed up for such a regime and it is unlikely that any ever will. A Royal Charter with no signatories going nowhere should stand as her political epitaph. A new Culture Secretary can maybe bring a fresh pair of eyes to the post-Leveson environment.

What are we to make of the elevation of Sajid Javid and what effect is his appointment likely to have on the media?

In one central aspect his appointment is good news, even though he only entered Parliament in 2010 as MP for Bromsgrove.

Javid, until now Financial Secretary to the Treasury, is universally regarded as a coming man who has even been tipped as someone who could become the first Prime Minister of the UK to come from a Pakistan-Muslim background, although he is non-religious.

As a banker at the age of 25 he became the youngest vice-president in the history of Chase Manhatten Bank in New York. All the signs are therefore that a heavy-hitter has been appointed to the Culture desk - good news for a department that often sits a long way down the Cabinet pecking order.

At least the Prime Minister has resisted the temptation to round up the first available woman to protect female numbers in the Cabinet.

It did Javid no harm that he is the meritocratic son of a Pakistani bus driver and was educated in a comprehensive and at Exeter University. His big task soon, apart from perhaps trying to sort out the Leveson mess, will be working on what the BBC's future financing, structure and size should be in a rapidly changing media landscape.

The BBC will be very glad he was such a regular on Any Questions.

Set against that the Corporation will be worried that they have now a Culture Secretary who is widely admired on the right of the Conservative Party and above all else because he comes from the Treasury.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is widely believed not to be fan of the Corporation and would be happy to chop it back in size. Javid might already have been infected with such ideas.

It is more likely that he will be bright enough to have an independent mind on such issues and numerate enough to understand just how important the contribution that media, the arts and culture makes to the UK economy.

He might even note the approach of his great predecessor David Mellor - that the job should also be fun.

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