Peter Hoskin

Smith’s claims call Brown’s political judgement into question

Smith's claims call Brown's political judgement into question
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Ok, let's get the hard, grim facts out of the way first: Jacqui Smith was an ineffective Home Secretary whose expense claims were dubious, to say the least, and who rightly lost her job in government.  But - having said that - it's hard not to feel slightly sorry for her as she discusses the embarrassment caused by her husband's porn rentals in an interview with the Guardian today.  The whole piece is a remarkably candid exchange: she also discusses how she "did wrong" with her expenses, and how she'd "definitely" be voted out "if the general election was tomorrow".  But this passage struck me more than any other:     

"[Smith] insists she wasn't forced out - that Brown asked her to stay when she first said she wanted out. But, she says, the job had become untenable. She'd lost control of what was said about her, she'd lost her confidence and she was demoralised. 'Gordon didn't have to ask me to stay when it was just me and him in the room. He could have just accepted it. But I do think it would have been difficult for me to continue.'"

Even before the porn and bathplug revelations, the word in Westminster was that Brown was looking to ditch Smith in the next reshuffle - and her track record as Home Secretary made that completely understandable.  But if the PM really did want her to stay after the expenses controversy broke, then - once again - you've seriously got to question his political judgement.