Blogs have been reporting on a story in today's 'Mail on Sunday' regarding the expenses of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. Ms Smith represents Redditch so obviously needs the availability of two homes to carry out her duties in both government and constituency. The rules regarding expenses make clear we are told that the MP concerned can claim expenses on a second home but which of the two properties would that be? It evidently depends on which house is slept in more often. The assertion is that Ms Smith returns to Redditch on a Thursday and comes back to London on either the following Sunday or Monday.
Now consider these facts: (1) Ms Smith stays with her sister when up in town (2) Ms Smith claims that this house, her sister's home, is her primary residence (3) Jacqui therefore claims that the house in Redditch is her second home even though her husband and children live there and she spends the weekend with them (4) She would have to return to London on Sundays more often than on Mondays for the sister's home to become the primary residence, this only applying when the HoC is sitting. If one were to logically think about the recesses as well then surely she will be spending far more nights at Redditch. (5) As Home Secretary she has a 'Grace and Favour' apartment available in London should she want it.
A point picked up by some bloggers is that the G&F apartments have a police security presence as a matter of course. They suggest that there is a very considerable extra cost in providing additional policing at the sister's house. I would like to know more - is this G&F place being used at all, I think we ought to be told.
Ms Smith has replied to the criticism in the Mail on Sunday saying that she's acting entirely within the rules. I'm dubious about this, she's certainly not within the spirit of the rules that's for sure. It's really important that the traditional media and the blogosphere run with this as she is setting such a poor example. Another point to be made is the deception that came to light regarding the behaviour of her husband. It had come to light that he had been writing to their local newspaper and that his letters had been heaping praise on her as an MP! It might be that 'Smith' is her maiden name and that he was using his own surname to try to hoodwink the public but evidently they were rumbled. She is sitting on a far from comfortable majority and would be quite lucky to hold the seat at the next General Election.
She seems to have been promoted to a post way above her abilities and I am very unimpressed with her. In making this comparison between two MPs today and similarly on 23 January in each case it was a female Labour MP that got the thumbs down. For the avoidance of any doubt it is not because of their gender or their party label that I have been so highly critical. It is purely because I think that both Dawn Butler and Jacqui Smith are appalling people and shouldn't be representing us. It's as simple as that.