Downing Street has defended Maria Miller’s special adviser over the way she warned the Telegraph about the Culture Secretary’s connection to Leveson as it prepared a story on her expenses. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has just told the lobby:
‘My understanding is that the special advice was raising legitimate concerns about the way in which the investigation had been handled. It was perfectly reasonable for her to do that.
‘The Secretary of State raised these concerns directly with the editor. It is reasonable for someone in the government to raise these kinds of concerns about the way a newspaper is conducting an investigation.’
Asked whether the Prime Minister still had confidence in Miller, the spokesman said: ‘Yes.’
That these warnings were reasonable doesn’t seem like a very sensible line for the government to stick to. If Joanna Hindley, Miller’s adviser, had phoned up the journalists to give them a standard earful about how this story wasn’t relevant and how disappointed she was in them, this would have been an extremely ordinary warning off from a SpAd. Every journalist gets these calls from time to time. But they don’t get warned about the connection that the central figure in their story holds with the future of the regulation of their industry. Nor do advisers normally call the public affairs departments of newspapers to raise concerns about a story: a really angry SpAd might call up a newsdesk or a senior editor, but not the office concerned with lobbying for the commercial interests of that newspaper.