I’ve tried to resist, I really have. But I can’t help but post on Jacqui Smith submitting a claim for her husband’s porn. But it’s just too good a story to let pass by. And it isn’t just a case of taking the high moral ground, although I did oppose the government’s attempt to conceal MPs’ expenses. Nor is it a case of believing that MPs’ should wear hair-shirts.
If anything, I’m a bit uncomfortable about the whole row because I think MPs are entitled to expenses for second homes. What’s more, I have no problem with them using it for a bit of luxury. If you are expecting most of them to divide their lives between two homes I do not see how they would be made more effective if one was a ‘home’ and the other the political equivalent of a monk’s cell. People need a degree of comfort.
Where the line is drawn is a matter for debate. What I might consider a perfectly acceptable comfort might be a luxury too far for someone else. Indeed, I don’t think I’d object to a media package, why shouldn’t MPs be able to unwind with a bit of mindless TV or a movie? But even having said that, paying for porn for the other half is surely a step too far. What really gets me on this is that the Home Secretary submitted this claim nearly a year ago. Only now it’s in the news has it become a problem. But didn’t she check the claims made in her name? Didn’t she spot the curiously titled items on her Virgin Media bill?
To me, the worst sin here is not a husband who likes porn when his wife is away, but the culture in which an MP can claim for anything they want without any sort of moral check. Now it might be that Jacqui Smith doesn’t do her own expenses claims, and that would be even worse; you then have people in her office (and I know her husband is one of them) who don’t check the claims, or if they do, don’t feel they can challenge what is a blatant abuse of public money. Whatever way you look at it the whole culture around MPs expenses in corrupt.