Miller was seen in her previous post to have taken a long time to come to grips with her brief as Minister for Disabled people, but once mastered, she executed the role with a minimum of fuss and considerable good sense. She maintained a focus on high-level strategic thinking and did not become bogged down in detailed, day-to-day operational matters.
The vastly expanded responsibilities in her new role will prove challenging, and her constituency, Basingstoke, has no particular connection with the sport. Yet racing could well find itself near the top of her in pile, as negotiations over the size of the next levy scheme draw to a conclusion over the next few weeks. If those are unsuccessful it will fall to Miller to make a decision about that.
She arrives at her post as a person with no history of interest in the sport, and so will be a new face to all parties within the industry. That need not be a disadvantage to her, but of course she will rely heavily on the advice of officials who have been working with industry representatives for many years.
There were no cries of disappointment about Jeremy Hunt moving on, with Will Lambe, head of External Affairs at the British Horseracing Authority merely wishing him well on his new appointment. Lambe went on to say of the levy discussions, “As the current legislation stands, if there is no agreement on the levy at the end of October it will be landing on her desk. We’ve made good progress with DCMS in recent years and there is a government commitment to improve racing’s funding mechanism. We naturally hope Mrs Miller will not have to be involved in the determination of the levy and can instead focus on longer term structural issues.”
Lambe is right to be concerned. Racing will hardly endear itself to a new Secretary of State if she has to intervene in a matter that is well within the industry’s own capacity to resolve.