UK & World News

  • 8 April 2014, 18:25

Miller Aide Defends 'Witch-Hunt' Text To MPs

Under-fire MP Maria Miller's private secretary has defended a text message she sent to backbenchers that claimed the culture secretary was victim of a "witch-hunt".

In an interview with Sky News, Mary Macleod admitted sending a message to Conservative MPs that said: "I believe there is a media witch-hunt on Maria due to Leveson.

"How do you feel about it? Happy to answer any questions you may have She would really appreciate your support. Many thanks Mary," the MPfor Brentford and Isleworthwrote.

It came a short time before the culture secretary apologised once again for claiming too much in expenses, conceding she had "let people down".

Asked by Sky News whether she believed newspapers were focusing on Ms Miller because of her involvement in the response to the public inquiry into the practices of the British press, Ms Macleod said: "I think it's Leveson and probably equal marriage as well.

"In some of the newspapers it has been like a witch hunt where they don't like the work that Maria has done on Leveson and gay marriage.

"Therefore, what they are trying to do is to find a way to get her out of the job."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman refused to be drawn on Ms Macleod's allegations of a witch-hunt, saying: "What the newspapers print, what the broadcasters report, those are decisions for the media."

But her claims come ahead of David Cameron's appearance before the backbench 1922 Committee, when critics of the culture secretary will have a chance to confront the Prime Minister directly.

A series of Tory MPs have broken their silence to voice concerns about the damage Mrs Miller's continued presence in the Government was doing to the party.

However, Ms Macleod insisted the Prime Minister was right not to sack Mrs Miller.

"It isn't the media who decide who is in the Cabinet, it's the Prime Minister," she said.

"Maria has been an excellent culture secretary and we should judge her on her record doing that."

As the backlash among Tories grew, it emerged Mrs Miller had written an article on the controversy for local paper the Basingstoke Gazette.

"I have unreservedly apologised for the way I handled and approached the inquiry," the MP wrote.

"I am devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down."

Mrs Miller previously issued a 32-second apology in Parliament for over-claiming thousands on a second home and her poor attitude to the sleaze watchdog's expenses investigation.

She was asked to repay just 5,800 in expenses that she had wrongly claimed for a second home, despite the standards commissioner stating she should pay back 45,000 - on a property she is said to have made more than 1m profit on the sale of.