The 12 Op-Eds of Christmas (Day 6)

Throughout the festive season, LDV is offering our readers a load of repeats another chance to read the 12 most popular opinion articles which have appeared on the blog since 1st January, 2009. The third most-read LDV op-ed of 2009 was by former LDV contributing editor Alix Mortimer, and originally appeared on 29th March …

Porn on expenses – nothing to hide, Jacqui Smith?

There’s something oddly, uh, gratifying about today’s revelation that the nation has been paying for Jacqui Smith’s husband to watch porn.

In case you’ve been busy with F1, the boat race, large amounts of roast food and sundry other matters, here’s the story from the Beeb:

The Home Secretary’s husband has said sorry for embarrassing his wife after two adult films were viewed at their home, then claimed for on expenses.

Richard Timney, who is also Jacqui Smith’s parliamentary aide, said he understood why people might be angry.

Ms Smith said she “mistakenly” claimed for a TV package when billing for a web connection and would repay the cash.

Gratifying, that is, because it is obviously cripplingly embarrassing for all concerned. Let us count the ways.

1. How in the name of arse can you claim for a broadband/TV package “by mistake”? They’re ubiquitous. And we, the great unwashed self-employed, have to watch out for this trap all the time. I deliberately refrained from buying a phone/internet package, for example, because I wanted there to be no doubt whatsoever about my ring-fenced internet costs. If we ordinary citizens make this kind of “mistake”, we get clobbered with penalties.

2. What does it say about Jacqui’s relationship with her hubby that she could be “furious and mortified” with him over a bit of porn. I mean, it’s not as if… Actually, no. Let’s not even go there.

3. It’s embarrassing professionally. This woman has publicly inveighed against lapdancing clubs and instituted nigh-on unworkable prostitution legislation in the name of women’s rights.

4. She’s already under investigation for claiming that her “normal residence” is her sister’s spare room. Which gave rise to the treasurable little headline:

Smith expenses ‘all above board’

Hokay then.

5. He watched porn and then claimed it on his wife’s expenses! Of course it’s embarrassing!

And why, you might ask, am I, um, handwringing over this in quite so prurient a fashion?

Simple. This is just the kind of happy little vignette that it’s apparently just fine for three hundred thousand civil servants and ministers to know about the rest of us. Every internet transaction, every site visit, every email. So what if outrage, mortification and a publicly damaged relationship results? At least the government have been able to verify to their own satisfaction that you’re not doing anything wrong.

Come to think of it, if adult-rated content were to show up in anybody’s records, Jacqui would probably be the first to advocate just nipping in to people’s private purchases and checking them for, say, consensual violent content.

Because if you’ve got nothing to hide, and you haven’t broken any laws, you have nothing to fear from having your privacy invaded.

Right, Jacqui?

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