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Monday, March 30, 2009 

Richard Timney and the story of his descent into perversion.

The Sunday Express is not often noted for its political scoops, and coming shortly after its Scottish sister thought it was a spiffing idea to lead with the shame of the Dunblane survivors who were daring to act like teenagers generally do, their story on Jacqui Smith's husband claiming expenses for watching two "pornographic" features must be a cause for double satisfaction. For not only did they beat their rivals, but it also seems likely that Richard Timney was also contributing to Richard Desmond's coffers, having probably ordered the features from his Television X venture. A Telegraph blogger claims that the films in question were Raw Meat 3, which it turns out, is of the gay genre, and By Special Request, which is undetermined in nature at present.

If almost any other politician, or rather their spouse had been caught in a similar situation, with the possible exception of Harriet Harman, who the tabloids loves to portray as a feminazi, it wouldn't have probably been so embarrassing or have led to calls for their resignation. This though was unfortunate enough to befall Jacqui Smith, who seems to be have become the latest New Labour Home Secretary to gain the description "accident prone". No one could begrudge a spouse feeling lonely of an evening with their partner away the comfort of a surrogate, and as we know, Smith seems to spend an awful lot of time with her sister, and if they wish to sample adult entertainment to fill the void, as it were, even of the soft pornographic variety available on demand, that is no business of anyone else's. It would be best however if they didn't then claim it on their expenses. Yet to misquote Lady Bracknell, to be caught out once even if no explicit rule has been breached by claiming that your main residence also happens to be your sister's, to be caught out again in such a further shamefacedly way looks like carelessness.

In fact, the claiming of £10 for two half-hearted skin flicks looks remarkably less objectionable when you examine the list for what Smith was claiming in full, which includes, incredibly, a whole 88 pence for a bath plug, not to mention £550 for a Habitat stone model sink. Those who currently find themselves out of work and on jobseeker's allowance would have to save up for two months' and a week (the current rate is £60.50 a week if you're over 25, if you're under it's less) to be able to fit out their bathroom in the same manner. You can't help but think it would have been preferable for Timney to have emerged, crimson and contrite, to say sorry for the fitting out of their home at taxpayer's expense, especially when both are already in the pay of the state and hardly shabbily remunerated, than for him to have face the feral beast in full cry about his masturbatory habits.

Even with all of this in mind, probably the most outrageous statement made since yesterday's revelations has been the repeated claim, by both David Miliband and the prime minister, that Jacqui Smith is doing a "great job". She may be, as Hopi Sen half-heartedly says, decent and hard-working, and might also be a lovely person in general, it's just a crying shame about her politics and more than apparent difficulty to take criticism. It has to be remembered that this was the person who was determined, along with the prime minister, to ram through 42 days detention without charge for terrorist suspects, who recently oversaw the passing of the "dangerous pictures" law, and who now also wants to put through a successor "dangerous cartoons" act. Her contempt for individual liberty could not be more clear than when she when sneers at those that are "reasonably comfortable" but who complain about the erosion of civil liberties when far more important is the "fundamental right" for us "to be safe", and I say all this as someone reasonably sympathetic towards the way the media has portrayed her, from Quentin Letts leering at her bosom (not "pneumatic", friends of Ms Harman have accused me of misogyny) when she made the heinous mistake of inadvertently showing off some cleavage, to the oh so clever cartoonist in Private Eye who draws her with breasts the size of watermelons.

In fairness to Smith, while her claiming that her main residence is her sister's home is especially cunning, most MPs are doing things remarkably similar, regardless of their politics. The Sunday Mirror for instance claimed that William Hague, who is not exactly strapped for cash, was claiming for his second home despite earning in the region of £800,000 a year, and who wouldn't give up his outside interests despite being asked by Cameron. It's been apparent now for quite some time that to all intents and purposes, for those who want to abuse the system, even if they are not breaking the letter of the law, they can claim pretty much anything they want and not have to break into their own salary. At long last, possibly thanks to how bad this looks while everyone else is tightening their belts, Gordon Brown did today finally suggest that the second home allowance should be scrapped, despite only recently fending off attempts by others to reform the system, even if it will be replaced by a flat-rate system.

The rage that this is inducing in the public was palpably summarised on last week's Question Time, when Eric Pickles, who didn't help matters by putting off a poor defence of his allowance, was pulverised by the audience. This can be unfair on politicians who do often, it must be said, make the best of a bad lot. We ought to be grateful that for the most part ours are remarkably straight; far more worthy of criticism is the parliamentary system itself, where party comes above the personal all too often, as indeed is the first past the post system by which they are appointed in the first place. If you had to ask which was preferable, the fiddling of expenses so they can refit their bathrooms and get DVD players and widescreen TVs for their second homes for zilch, or the active buying or bribing of politicians by outside influences, you would go for the former every time. The sad fact is that most of them don't have to be paid to make bad decisions, whether on war, airport expansion or the bailing out of bankers: they do that more than acceptably all on their own.

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You have to laugh at this:

Richard Timney

Oh dear...

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