Culture Secretary Maria Miller leaves Number 10 Downing Street on December 3, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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It just gets worse for Maria Miller - how long can she survive?

Under fire from her colleagues and the voters, the Culture Secretary is surely now considering whether all sides would be best served by her falling on her sword. 

Five days after Maria Miller's non-apology, her position looks ever more vulnerable. Esther McVey, one of those tipped to replace her as culture secretary, last night became the first minister to criticise her actions, telling ITV's The Agenda: "I can honestly say it wouldn’t be how I would have made an apology. But different people have different styles and do things in different ways."

Meanwhile, Graham Brady, the head of the backbench 1922 committeee, has warned David Cameron that MPs from across the party want Miller to be sacked (with one describing the story as "absolutely toxic"), a change.org petition calling for her to "either pay back £45,000 in fraudulent expense claims or resign" has received more than 130,000 signatures, and, to top it all, David Laws has popped up on the Today programme to helpfully offer his "support". By contrast, while expressing his "natural sympathy", Boris Johnson declined to say she should remain in her post: "My natural sympathy goes out to people in a hounded situation - how about that?" 

While refusing to criticise Miller directly, cabinet ministers are also making it clear that whether she stays or goes is a decision for Cameron alone. Dominic Grieve said: "She’s a valued colleague, as far as I’m concerned, but she has got to answer to her constituents and also answer for her responsibilities to the Prime Minister." And Iain Duncan Smith commented: "No one is above the law, that is the only point I would make. There have been big sanctions and a number of people who have misrepresented themselves in the parliamentary system have now gone to prison...I’m not going to judge this particular case because this is a complex issue."

The pressure on Cameron to dismiss Miller, and stem the bleeding, has certainly intensified over the last 24 hours. But it remains far from certain that the PM will be moved to act. Cameron is famously stubborn in his defence of under-fire colleagues (recall how long he stood by Andy Coulson) and rarely misses an opportunity not to wield the knife (as the continued cabinet presence of Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates). That the blitzkrieg against Miller is partly (or even largely) due to her role in promoting press regulation and equal marriage is only likely toincrease his determination to protect her. 

And while the complaints of the 1922 committee (which the PM will address tomorrow) cannot be dismissed out of hand, Cameron's position, owing to the economic recovery and the narrowing of Labour's poll lead, is stronger than it has been for years. Reflecting this changed reality, Tory rebel Andrew Bridgen yesterday wrote to Brady withdrawing his letter of no confidence in the PM. 

But the longer the row persists, the harder it will be for Miller to reasonably remain in her post. The Culture Secretary has been pulling out of scheduled appearances and interviews and reportedly made the "quickest ever" entrance into Downing Street this morning. In these circumstances, Miller is surely now considering whether all sides would be best served by her falling on her sword. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear