One might be tempted to be bored by the Jacqui Smith 'second home' affair and ask why the fuss. After all, it is surely her woeful, underwhelming performance in the high office to which she was too prematurely promoted that is the real issue we should be concerned with. However, the expenses story is rightly on our radars too, since it exemplifies the problem we still have with MPs taking liberties with their taxpayer-funded expenses to line their own pockets.
MPs are public servants. They serve at the pleasure of the public, and are there essentially to look after our interests. This idea of MP - and minister - as servant is rapidly lost in the insular world of the Westminster village, where MPs - and some journalists - can quickly come to believe in their own importnace, and forget the purpose of there presence in an elected chamber. When an MP of Jacqui Smith's seniority deems it appropriate to claim money for a 'second home' which is palpably her first, and in so doing defrauds the very taxpayers she is meant to be serving, then we know there is something wretched in the Westminster body politic. So the requirement by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to explain herself is entirely appropriate. Not that it was speedy. It has taken some three complaints to get John Lyons to investigate - not exactly a resounding defence of the taxpayer's interests from that quarter either.
Simon Heffer can be caricatured as one of the right-wing's grumpy old men, but he's pretty well on the mark about Smith with his article here.