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Prime Minister's Handling of Maria Miller Scandal Is Like a Sunday Night TV Drama

11/04/2014 13:14 BST | Updated 09/06/2014 10:59 BST

With barely a voting slip between the two main parties, honesty is going to be the subject in the minds of most of the electorate come the General Election next year.

Just who do the public trust most at a time when the popularity of politicians is at an all-time low?

David Cameron has seriously damaged himself with his handling of the Maria Miller affair. Leaders have to make difficult decisions to protect the integrity of their organisation and this he didn't do.

Government ministers may well cite the Prime Minister's humanity and loyalty to his front bench Cabinet colleagues, but it was misplaced in a saga that unfolded like a Sunday night TV drama... predictable with an inevitable conclusion.

Cameron may well have won the respect of his Cabinet colleagues, but what is the point of that if you lose the respect of the Party at large and the country to boot.

At the very least he could have insisted that Miss Miller issue a fulsome apology and repay everything she claimed. It was small beer compared to the £1.2 million she made in profit from the sale of as property in Wimbledon.

One petition gained 166,000 signatures and even if half were politically motivated, surely the other 50 per cent should have been listened to.

As so often happens in these cases Mrs Miller and her entourage dug a deeper hole as each headline exposed more of a perceived cover-up.

An aide claimed Mrs Miller would crush Press freedom if newspapers continued to report the issues; the minister herself claimed she had four au pairs who could support her claim that the constituency cottage really was her main home, yet none of them could be traced by her.

After such a well-received budget, David Cameron scored a massive own goal by not only allowing Mrs Miller to continue, but even wishing her speedy return to Government on the very day she resigned. In other words she has departed because of a Press witch-hunt, not because of her own failings. The public will feel this is the elite protecting their own.

The root and branch members of the Conservative Party have long questioned the Prime Minister's connection to the party he leads. They view him at a career politician who is not prepared to communicate with them, not show that he cares for their views.

They fear he exists in a bubble with his old public school cohorts and little understanding for how real people think and feel. Ed Miliband consequently has focused his attentions on the squeezed middle, power prices and bankers' bonuses because he believes real people are affected by these issues.

That in turn leads to criticism that Mr Miliband is only grabbing those agenda to win votes, not because he really cares about those issues.

Next year's election will make history. If Ed Miliband is to become Prime Minister he will have to come from a position in the polls that show he is more unpopular than any Opposition Leader has ever been going into a General Election. At the same time Cameron needs to increase the number of seats his party control... again something that is unheard of except in times of war.

Cameron has been accused of hesitating on the big issues throughout his Premiership. Syria, Europe, the future of Press Regulation and others.

Honesty and leadership are the key areas that will win next year's election. Watch Cameron try to be more assertive as we near polling time.

Or is it too late?