A petulant ploy to win back women

The real reason the culture secretary has been harrying the BBC.

It's not often I feel sympathy for the BBC but, thanks to Maria Miller, I've felt a little in the last fortnight. For about five minutes, as Cristina Odone said in The Daily Telegraph, Miller, the culture secretary, seemed like "a well-fed Julie Andrews, capable of crowd-pleasing sweetness". But that was some time ago. Since then, she's been embroiled in the MPs' expenses scandal, antagonised newspapers with her handling of the Leveson Inquiry and, the other day, annoyed Tony Hall, the new director-general of the BBC, by firing off a letter complaining of sexism in the corporation's sports coverage.

In a tone "as petulant as a diva's", says Odone, she asks what he plans to do about John Inverdale, the presenter who imagined Marion Bartoli's father telling her: "Listen, you're never going to be, you know, a looker."

Now, whatever one thinks of this remark, Inverdale has apologised on air and written to Bartoli. Beyond that, as Odone says, the BBC has been "unflagging in its promotion of women under Mr Hall" a new female presenter has just been appointed to the Today programme.

Quite rightly, Hall has told the culture secretary to mind her own business; her letter looked like a "last desperate bid for popularity". Besides, the thinking behind Inverdale's maladroit remark was not unkind, says Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. "The presenter was trying to say, I believe, that Marion Bartoli would never be the kind of sponsorship-bagging, classically beautiful glamazon who would make millions from even a mediocre tennis career." For her, the glory would lie in her sporting triumphs, not in "glossy magazine deals selling tights".

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Maria Miller, like Alex Salmond, has also been in the news for boycotting last week's golf Open Championship at Muirfield. Many have compared Muirfield's rules on the non-admittance of women to those of apartheid South Africa, and it was on these grounds, said Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times, that the culture secretary refused the invitation to attend the Open. A spokesman for David Cameron said: "The prime minister certainly shares the view set out by the culture secretary on this."

That, says Lawson, "is a contemptible insult to the memory of those who suffered from the race laws of those places". They had entire political systems that persecuted non-whites and kept them away from the ballot box. To say that Muirfield's policy of allowing women to play on its course only as guests is "not morally different from apartheid" makes those who draw the comparison, argues Lawson, "seem as crass and stupid as the dimmest blazer-wearing misogynist in the clubhouse".

I agree. Cameron has a problem with female voters. He knows, as Rachel Sylvester says in The Times this week, that he has "to win back women" if he wants to retain power. But I can't believe backing Maria Miller will do him much good. He'd do better to fire her.

Tabloid money: 'at least one bit of our stricken economy is flourishing'

"At least one sector of our stricken economy is flourishing we're selling more weapons to the world's most mentally ill and violent governments," says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "A new House of Commons report has revealed Britain approved licences for arms sales worth £1.8bn to those tea-towel-wearing, women-hating, medieval headcases in Saudi Arabia. And that's not the half of it. You name a revolting foreign government and we'll have flogged them stuff to help them oppress their people. China? Yep, check £1.4bn. Our great friends in Iran? Yep £803m. And plenty of stuff to Robert Mugabe's basket-case hellhole, Zimbabwe. I hope Big Bob's grateful. You see, we're a deeply principled people until someone mentions cash."

"JK Rowling says she's furious she's been outed as the author of The Cuckoo's Calling," writes Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. "Published under the pen name Robert Galbraith, it had sold just 1,500 copies and was 4,709th in Amazon's best-sellerlist before the secret got out. Since the leak publishers have had to print an extra 140,000 copies after what's turned out to be the marketing coup of the decade. But still JK's whingeing. I'm very angry and disappointed that my trust has been misplaced,' she moans. Course you are, luv. But look on the bright side you're going to get even richer!"

"David Gower's call for urban dwellers to be taught country ways amuses friends of the ex-England cricket star and Hampshire owner," says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail. "They recall how, townie-style, he once left a rental car on a frozen lake in St Moritz, with unfortunate consequences. He later explained: I left it shimmering in the moonlight, and by the time I got up in the morning it was no longer there. Swiss police sent divers down and floated it back up again. Herr Budget of Zurich decided the Opel Vectra was worth 20,000 Swiss francs less than when I first borrowed it, and charged me accordingly'."