How do you solve a problem like Maria?

 

Five days after that 32-second apology in the House of Commons, Maria Miller continues to generate awkward headlines.

Speculation about the culture secretary's future won't go down well either in Downing Street or in the Wales Office. With David Cameron standing by his minister, the more mischievous speculation among MPs and journalists at Westminster suggests that rather than sacking Mrs Miller, the prime minister could move her to a lower-profile role - such as secretary of state for Wales - in the reshuffle expected at the end of next month.

Mrs Miller may be MP for Basingstoke but she grew up in Bridgend, where her parents lived until they moved to London to share what became one of the best-known MPs' second homes. So why not give her the chance to return to her roots?

The beleaguered minister would be taken out of the firing line and David Cameron would avoid losing a woman from around his cabinet table. Problem solved!

Or perhaps not. Replacing David Jones with Mrs Miller would not go down well with either Mr Jones or with Welsh Tories despite public disagreements with the party's group in the National Assembly for Wales. One MP told me it would be a "disaster".

The idea that someone seen as unsuitable for a cabinet role because she mis-used the expenses system could be reshuffled to Wales would not be universally applauded west of Offa's Dyke. It would be a gift to the Tories' opponents, with shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith tweeting: "Rumours that Maria Miller is set to become Welsh secretary in a forthcoming reshuffle. What have we done to deserve that?" (Mr Smith rehearsed similar arguments amid similar speculation in 2012)

It would also undermine the prime minister's public reasons for replacing Cheryl Gillan with David Jones just 17 months ago. He told me then "I believed the time was right to have a Welsh Member of Parliament as the Secretary of State with a constituency in Wales. David Jones is also a Welsh speaker and excellently qualified for the job."

Perhaps it won't happen and Maria Miller is destined to join the likes of Michael Howard and Tristan Garel-Jones in that exclusive club of former future Welsh secretaries.

 
David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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