It’s been a long time since adland had a representative in the UK cabinet (although the ubiquitous Lord Mandelson was a non-exec director and minor shareholder in Clenmow Hornby Inge in its early days) but former Grey Advertising exec Maria Miller (left) is the new secretary for culture, media and sport, the department that mostly oversees advertising and media.
We say mostly because cabinet office minister Francis Maude was the person who took the axe to the Central Office of Information (COI) in the early days of the coalition government. This has since been replaced with a complex departmental system that nobody seems to understand.
Anyway Miller, the Tory MP for Basingstoke and formerly non-cabinet minister for disabled people, is now in the hot seat vacated by Jeremy Hunt (moved to the even more sizzling imitation leather of health) and she has some tricky issues to confront.
Most notably the Government’s response to the findings of the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, due to be unveiled before Christmas although there’ll be a queue of interested parties eager to boot the thing into the long grass for as long as possible.
The response, such as it is, will be the work of PM David Cameron and his close allies rather than Miller, but she’s the one who will have to front up and try to make it plausible. In essence his lordship seems likely to call for an independent press regulation body, that can, if it sees fit, use the law to back its judgements. A bit like broadcast regulator Ofcom. This is subtly different from a statutory body which would have its powers defined by an Act of Parliament.
The press owners and, one suspects, many Tory MPs who see a tricky election hoving into view in 2015, would prefer a voluntary system, much like there is at the moment but with a few more teeth. But Leveson can hardly, consistently, recommend this after his inquiry has unearthed evidence of the current system’s complete failure on almost a daily basis, most notably phone hacking.
Miller’s previous experience as an account handler (we assume that’s what she was) should see her in good stead. But driving down the M4 to show an angry client some ads that are both late and not very good hardly compares to the brickbats that will now be aimed at her from both left and right.