Betrayal of the taxpayer

There is a view - which I share - that David Cameron committed a serious error of judgement in defending the former Culture Secretary Maria Miller, even after she had resigned.

Here was a woman who played fast and loose with taxpayers' money - cheated, in fact - then failed to cooperate properly with those investigating her case.

Her 32-second "apology" to the House of Commons was a disgrace, and she was finally forced out saying that her continued presence, with this row raging on, was a distraction for the Government.

That may be true, but all those politicians who've been caught with their trousers down, so to speak, have used this excuse; the real reason she resigned is that she fiddled her expenses.

Yet the Prime Minister said he wanted to give her a second chance. That, matey, is a betrayal of the taxpayer. Ed Miliband may come in for a lot of criticism, but he was right to hound Cameron in the Commons about this tawdry affair.

Cameron, full of bravado as ever, came out of the conflict looking distinctly second best. His Cabinet colleagues may not all be paragons of virtue, but they should not sink so low as to fiddle the money of those whom they are supposed to protect.

I can't understand how Maria Miller should remain even a Member of Parliament - she should have been booted out of Westminster, too.

As one of her constituents in Basingstoke tartly observed: "If it had been any of us, we would have been behind bars by now. Why should politicians be allowed to get away with it?"

And so say all of us...

Sorry, Darling

It is beginning to look as though Alex Salmond, the SNP leader and Scotland's first minister, is running rings round his opponents in the battle for Scottish independence.

The Better Together campaign appears to be fronted by the former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling. Now, Darling is a conscientious chap, brainy, logical and clear-thinking, but also boring, boring, boring.

What you need in that campaign is a mob orator, a rabble-rouser, anyone, in fact, other than Alistair Darling.

In that job you have to inspire people, and that does not happen by the application of quiet logic. You need to shout at your audience, be a little outrageous. Whoever was responsible for putting Darling in this job was sadly misguided.

Reports are suggesting that the Better Together campaign is faltering badly, while Salmond, who has more political instincts in his little finger than most of his opponents put together, marches on.

Nothing is a foregone conclusion, yet, but the anti-independence lobby had better buck up their ideas - and quickly, too.

Costly justice

It would be outrageous if Tory MP and former Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans should have to fork out £130,000 in legal fees after his acquittal by a jury on a string of sexual accusations brought against him.

This charge should surely fall on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which bungled this case from start to finish.

They - allegedly professionals - misread the case so incompetently that the jury had no hesitation in throwing out all the charges against him.

I know that if this happened the cost would fall upon the already hard-pressed taxpayer, but, as I say, it would be iniquitous that an innocent man, whose good name has been very badly besmirched, should have to suffer financial ruination as well.

And, as in other high-profile sex cases (most of which, like Evans's have failed) those who made the allegations are protected by anonymity. That cannot be right, either.

It is not good enough for the CPS to explain away its failures by saying these allegations should be tested in court. They have been proved wrong on nearly every occasion, and they should be able to "read" in advance how a jury would react to the claims that are made.

It might at least help (although it would not exonerate the CPS) if some of Evans's colleagues at Westminster, had a bit of a whip round to help him.

After all, we are supposed to be in this together.

Petty politicians

What childish people some of our politicians are! The preposterous Tory Nadine Dorries refused to allow a Daily Telegraph representative to attend her book launch party because he panned it in a review.

And then the unspeakable Speaker John Bercow barred the Daily Mail writer Quentin Letts from attending a launch party in his (taxpayer funded) luxurious apartments for Labour MP Chris Bryant's book about Parliament.

How pathetic. People in public life must take the rough with the smooth, but some of them behave like vacuous television celebrities and seem to think life is a bed of roses.

And as for Dorries on one occasion asking the Prime Minister about the price of a pint of milk - if she doesn't know, why doesn't she ask her milkman?

Union dues

I have been taken to task for hitting out at the European Union. Well, I plead guilty.

I am no great fan of a system which gives hordes of unelected superannuated politicians, usually political failures in their own countries (including ours) being given powerful, cushy, overpaid jobs to sit in judgement on us and tell us what to do.

I am astonished if anyone, anywhere thinks that is a satisfactory way of going on.

Chris Moncrieff, the Press Association's reporter emeritus, has stalked Westminster's corridors of power for over 50 years.

This article is the opinion of Chris Moncrieff and not necessarily that of BT.