Miller's time is up

David Cameron's refusal, at the time of writing, to sack Culture Secretary Maria Miller over her cavalier handling of taxpayers' money is no less shameful than her actions.

Miller has paid back a few thousand pounds as though that makes it all right. Well, if you get caught shoplifting at Tesco, you are not exonerated by simply replacing the stolen goods.

Miller, whose "apology" in the Commons lasted all of 32 seconds and was an insult to her colleagues and everyone else, should have done the honourable thing and resigned. She has no place in public life, and certainly not as a Cabinet Minister.

If, as has been claimed and not denied, Cameron refused to sack her because that would upset his quota of women at the highest echelons of the Government, that makes his position even worse.

We are constantly being told we cannot be sexist or racist, and here you have Britain's top politician allegedly protecting someone because of their gender.

Already one man, David Laws, had to resign from the Cabinet because he was caught out on an expenses fiddle. Now, unbelievably, he has been reinstated in the Government.

What is the matter with David Cameron? There are plenty of other honourable Members who could do these people's jobs just as well, if not better.

One can at least hope that even if Miller's and Laws's constituency parties agree they should stand at the next general election, the voters will take a stand and boot them both into the wilderness.

One thing that has become obvious as a result of this Miller debacle is that never again should Members of Parliament be allowed to act as judge and jury of their fellow members.

The way the relevant committee of Members overthrew the meticulous findings of the inquiry body was not only a scandal but a betrayal of the people who pay their wages and put them into power: namely, the tax-paying voters.

It is not even that Miller has been anything special as a minister. She has the highest profile job in the Government, yet no one outside the Westminster bubble seems to have heard of her before the scandal arose - that doesn't say much for her abilities.

Her attitude towards those who tried to sit in judgement on her has generally been described as "shocking", and now the influential and still powerful voice of the former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit has described it as "arrogant", and said that she must go.

Though she seems to have skin like armour-plating against all this, she should (ruthless as it sounds) be hounded out of office. If that adds up to a witch hunt, so be it.

Do not doughnut

The practice of doughnutting - whereby a cluster of Members surround a colleague who is speaking to give the impression to television viewers that the House of full, should be stamped on forthwith.

This happened yet again when Miller made her so-called apology to the House. The practice is both dishonest and childish and those who took part in it should learn to grow up.

The Farage factor

I suspect that, despite their fierce protestations to the contrary, both David Cameron and the Labour leader Ed Miliband are both running scared of Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader.

They have seen the way Farage overwhelmed Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, in two broadcast confrontations, and are loath to let the same happen to them.

Independent analysts have demonstrated that even though Ukip may not win much, or even anything, at next year's general election, the party can do enough damage both to Labour and Conservatives to affect the overall result.

Cameron might dismiss Ukip with insults and jibes - but quite frankly that won't wash.

Equally, Miliband claims "I am not that interested in Nigel Farage", which sounds to me like Westminster-speak for "I am trembling in my boots".

What makes the leaders of the two main parties fear Farage is that, whether you agree with him or not, he talks and behaves in a way people recognise and understand. Some other political high-flyers, for instance, try to avoid being photographed with a drink in their hands, and that simply does not fool anybody.,

The Prime Minister's promises to try to renegotiate Britain's membership of the European Union have been dismissed by his critics as having the strength and resilience of candy floss, and he still won't agree to hold an in-out referendum until 2017 (if then) even if he wins the next general election.

Miliband, meanwhile, has as good as said that a Labour Government will not even hold a referendum. Bad mistake.

Farage has got the political establishment rattled - and not before time.

Sleep well, Ed?

Ed Miliband puts on a toothy smile for the cameras, but I suspect he does not feel quite so happy inside as he tries to look outside.

The grim fact is that the Unite union has publicly warned him of financial sanctions unless he bucks up his ideas and wins the next general election. And the way things are going, that is by no means a racing certainty.

Union funds are the lifeblood of the Labour Party, and Miliband owes his leadership election to the unions rather than the Members of Parliament, most of whom would have preferred his brother David.

Now though, the powerful unions are getting stroppy with him, and many Labour MPs are increasingly uneasy about his performance too. Certainly, his efforts in the Commons against a blustering Cameron are far from impressive.

In short, I wonder how Miliband manages to sleep at night.

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.