Charles Moore’s reflections on the week
Only connect. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said that her family house in her Redditch constituency was her second home. This allowed her to claim £116,000 from the taxpayer for it. Then her husband, Richard Timney, who is paid by the taxpayer as her constituency assistant, claimed pornographic films as part of her parliamentary expenses. Nobody seems to have noticed the link. By her own account, Miss Smith spends four nights a week staying with her sister in London. Mr Timney, answering his wife’s constituents’ letters in Redditch, may, therefore, be bored and lonely. His claim for the cost of Raw Meat 3 (why ‘3’? — did he also claim for Raw Meat 1 and Raw Meat 2?) may be his way of getting his wife to pay attention. It is what we psychologists call ‘a cry for help’. Spouses of MPs traditionally feel hard done by — especially, perhaps, husbands. Barbara Castle, Labour’s most successful woman politician, recorded in her diary a sad scene with her husband Ted, the worse for drink, in 1970. He rounded on her: ‘You can’t possibly understand. How could you? You have gone from success to success. I have gone from rejection to rejection. You’ve no time to spare for me. How could you?’ The best way to deal with the role is to accept it and assume that you will get no public money out of it, and get on with life. That was Denis Thatcher’s attitude. He had many evenings alone while his wife ran the country, but I should be very surprised if he resorted to pornography — let alone pornography supplied by the public purse — to beguile the hours. He preferred gin, the Daily Telegraph and rugby on television. He certainly would never have hired Raw Meat 3.