Smith's expenses claims were never any worse than many others' in Westminster, although the porn angle did make them slightly funnier.
In any sensible, decent political system, she would have had to have quit a long time ago. Not over money, but
over ethics. Smith's tenure as home secretary marked another sustained attempt by the government to undo some of the best aspects of British politics.
Where to start? With drugs. When she reclassified cannabis, the home secretary managed to do
several pitiful things at once. Firstly, she took a step backwards, undoing one of the only sensible, liberal actions taken by her predecessor, David Blunkett. But it also flew against the facts, which showed use was down since the drug became Class C.
The government's own advisory council, the view of experts and scientists, asked for the Home Office not to do it. She did it anyway. She put Daily Mail headlines over and above an effective drug policy which finally saw usage drop and she put shabby
politics above scientific advice, setting an awful precedent.
Her efforts to basically scrap habeas corpus deserve a special mention. Smith and the prime minister managed to scrape through the vote on 42-day detention, albeit relying on DUP
votes. It's been pretty much kicked into the long grass now, but the attempt reflects just how little respect and understanding she had for the things that make this country great, such as the rule of law and freedom from state tyranny.
attitudes were on display this time last year, when journalists read her letter to the NUJ with a mixture of horror and resignation. In it, she stated that police could restrict photography in certain circumstances , going against a long-standing
principle in British law of a free press. We got a good indication of why the press should be able to photograph the police a few months ago, during the G20 protests.
Throughout the summer, we were briefed of a progressive new policy on
prostitution when parliament sat again. Instead we were treated to an abominable piece of law, which made it an offence to have sex with a woman controlled by a pimp. Legal experts exploded, because the law paid no attention to whether or not the client
actually knew the woman was under control. But far more importantly, sex worker groups, who were not even considered worthy of consultation, immediately said the law would make them less safe. By effectively outlawing prostitution, Smith had forced it
further underground, preventing sex workers from organising and cooperating when they sell their services. But then, it's only evidence and empirical data which tells us that when we adopt such a policy, there are more prostitute deaths, and the home
secretary had already proved how little she thought of such things when she upgraded cannabis.
The old one's are the best! "You've got nothing to fear... ...if you've got nothing to hide"
There is a marvellous irony about the fact that, last week, MPs discovered just how embarrassing it can be when private information reaches the public domain. First up was the home secretary, pale-faced and tight-lipped after the
revelation that her husband had been renting pornographic films at our expense. Overnight, Jacqui Smith had lost dignity and everyone felt free to comment and jeer about the coupleís attractiveness, sex lives and the state of their marriage. The rest of
her expense claims provided more material for outrage or mockery; whether she was claiming for an extremely expensive sink (£550) or an extremely cheap bath plug (88p), it was hard to avoid the impression of a senior politician milking the taxpayer
in an unseemly and avaricious fashion and looking considerably diminished as a result.
Some MPs privately found her discomfort funny, but the next day the rest of the Commons was faced with the possibility that embarrassing claims of their own
were about to surface. It turned out that the details of every MPís expenses had been copied and leaked and were on sale to the media for an asking price of £300,000. The claims had been due to be published officially in the summer, but only after
every member had had the chance to delete any details they wished to keep private. The bad news was that both the original and edited versions were now on sale, potentially allowing the rest of us to discover just what nervous MPs didnít want us to know.
Parliamentís indignation at this breach of security would have been funny if it werenít for the fact that these are the very people who have voted for massive state intrusion on, and information gathering about, the rest of us.
we have been assured that we neednít worry about leaks and that the security of our information wonít be compromised. Last week we saw that the state canít even guarantee the privacy of a few hundred lawmakers, let alone their 60m constituents.
S hock, horror! Home Secretary's Husband Watches Porn Movies! Government On Brink.
I'm sorry, but I can't get too worked up about this story. So what if Richard Timney watched a couple of blue movies at his home in Redditch
last year? Is it really the end of civilisation as we know it?
Yes, it was wrong of Jacqui Smith to claim these films on expenses, but that is not really the issue here. Would people be equally outraged if the films in question had been The
Sound Of Music and Ring Of Bright Water ? I doubt it. It is the fact that these were adult films that has caused all the fuss.
But what is so terrible about looking at pictures of naked women? The truth is that most men will have taken
a peek at pornography at some point in their lives and, contrary to popular opinion, it hasn't instantly transformed us into dirty raincoat wearing perverts.
For the vast majority of us, it is just a bit of fun, an escapist fantasy that is no
more harmful than watching a James Bond movie.
Don't misunderstand me. Where women have been coerced into taking their clothes off or appearing in pornographic films, that is clearly wrong and we should do everything in our power to stop it.
But anyone who thinks that such practices are common in the adult entertainment industry simply doesn't know what they're talking about. Believe it or not, 99.9% of women who have sex in front of a camera do so of their own free will. They are not
being rounded up by gangs of white slavers and forced to perform degrading acts. On the contrary, it is a choice on their part, not least because they can earn good money.
I decided to subscribe to a similar 3-in-1 package to the Home Secretary's husband: Playboy TV, the Adult Channel and Spice Extreme. (Playboy TV's website, quick to capitalise on the recent unexpected attention, has this to say
yesterday: 'We'd like to offer all MPs and their husbands a special VIP subscription to Playboy.')
When I called to subscribe, an automated service asked me to hold, stating that all operators were busy. No shortage of new subscribers then.
The phone line operator, when she answered, sounded as bored and weary as a hooker on her final trick of the night. Since my husband's name is on our Sky package, I had to hand him the phone for him to authorise my usage. (I wonder whose name is on
the Timney-Smith household's TV package?). Playboy film
The cost is £15.99 a month, with an additional £15 joining fee and a guarantee that there will be no mention of what you have purchased on your bank or credit card statement
- though that will come as cold comfort to Mr Timney after his viewing of two blue films was exposed.
After two hours of watching these channels, my conclusion was that these 'films' are degrading, exploitative,
overlaid with terrible music and, once the shock has worn off, unutterably dull.
While you become an expert in female anatomy, you learn almost nothing about the male nude. The men, in any case make relatively rare appearances - 'girl-on-girl
action' is the order of the day, however heterosexual the women may be. Clever camera angles stop short of actual penetration, but it's abundantly clear what is going on at all times.
In short, what I saw were unlovely people doing unlovely
It was interesting to read the comments online after Olivia Lichtenstein's article in the Mail about the sleazy TV channels watched by Jacqui Smith's husband and Toby Young's riposte. They were surprisingly liberal: men (overwhelmingly men) attacked
Olivia for being uptight and said that nobody forced anybody to watch porn.
No space here to go back over all the arguments civilised people make to show that pornography is demeaning and exploitative, but to say it's always been a part of life
is no defence. Cockroaches are a part of life, too, and we generally regard them as ugly
After years of watching late-night porn in anonymous hotel rooms - for research purposes - its purpose is clear, says Clive James. To keep one's mind off sex while one's partner is absent.
Tough on pole dancing, tough on
the causes of pole dancing - it's a New Labour policy in the grand modern tradition, which takes a moral view that includes the economics, or, if you like, an economic view that includes the morality.
Either way, when you hold the position of
Home Secretary and have been so outspoken on the topic of adult entertainment on expenses, it isn't the best moment for headlines to be telling the world that your husband has not only been watching porno movies, he has been off-loading the cost of doing
so on to the tax-paying public