Jacqui Smith's Expenses
And while the Opposition stays rather quiet - they're worried about their own MPs' expenses after all - David Davis has about got it right when he says there would be less strident calls for her to go if she were actually any good at her job. As remarked here previously, she is a dismally underwhelming performer in one of the top offices of state, over-promoted and incapable. But then, I guess if she'd been any good, she'd have had the wit to avoid her present controversy wouldn't she?
UPDATE: I see that the BBC's Nick Robinson has made a couple of interesting points about the Smith case on his blog. First, he comments that she has been has been "poring over her home, constituency and office diary to plot where she had spent each night in the past year." Which must be quite a considerable task, taking her away from the minutiae of running the Home Office - one not so happy impact of this whole affair on the conduct of public affairs. Second, he outlines the gap between the political and non-political worlds:
"To many MPs, she's a likeable working mum who didn't expect to be elected in '97; whose husband agreed to sacrifice his career to make hers possible; who works such long hours that she spends more days away from her family than with it and who knows that she's on course to lose her very marginal seat and thus, her job, income and allowances, at the next election.
To many voters she's a minister "on the take" who is not satisfied with a fat salary, a chauffeur and two homes but also claims more by employing her husband, calling her family home her second home and submitting bills for porn films."
Now this is a salutary point. Robinson is in a position rather different from most of the rest of us, where his regular contact with politicians allows him the opportunity to understand their 'human' side, and provide a more balanced picture of their actions. He rightly says that it is in all of our interests to close the gap between public and private perceptions of the political world. But who is repsonsible, at least in part, for the gap in the first place? So much of that public perception is down to the way MPs are reported in the media. If journalists have the opportunity to understand the nuances of political existence, would it be too much to expect them to do their job and convey that through their writing? Or are they enjoying Stanley Baldwin's famous "prerogative of the whore" too much? There are many lessons coming out of the Jacqui Smith affair - not all of them for MPs alone.