Jacqui Smith: My expenses were examined first because I'm a woman
Former home secretary Jacqui Smith has spoken out about the porn scandal that ended her career and has suggested her expenses were scrutinised more because she is a woman.
The former MP - who lost her seat at the last general election - said her expenses were examined first because she was a woman and there was a view that she should have been devoting more time to looking after her husband and children.
During an interview with the Radio Times, Ms Smith also dismissed rumours it was her eldest son, rather than her husband, who had watched sex films.
The cost of the pay-per-view films was claimed on her expenses and caused a stir two years ago when it emerged that her husband, Richard Timney, who also ran her constituency office, had watched the movies.
The furore - compounded with claims over her main residence - led to her resigning as the first female home secretary and taking a back-bench position until last May, when she lost her seat. Smith, who posed for the magazine while walking around London's Soho, which has long had a reputation for its thriving sex shop trade, said it was her gender that led to people targeting her claims.
"I know that it was my expenses people looked at first because I was a woman and should have been at home looking after my husband and children," said the mother of two.
She said that she felt "protective" towards her husband because of the contribution he made to their family - which she was unable to do due to her heavy work schedule.
"I couldn't have done the job without Richard to pick the boys up when they were sick, make them do their homework and piano practice," she said. Ms Smith became the focus of newspaper revelations about her expenses claims weeks before the Daily Telegraph started publishing stories about claims by scores of MPs, based on leaked receipts. She also faced criticism after designating her family home in her then Redditch constituency, which she shared with her husband and children, as her "second home" on which she claimed expenses.
Her "main home" was designated as a property she shared with her sister in London, but it was claimed that she was only there a couple of nights a week.
Ms Smith will be heard presenting a documentary about pornography for Radio 5 Live next Thursday. She said it was a "very brave" way to head off the controversy, and hopes it may lead to further opportunities as a broadcaster. Recalling the claim for porn films, she said: "I was more frozen than angry. I just couldn't believe that we - both of us - had put in this claim."
She said she was asked not to resign immediately by the then prime minister Gordon Brown.Ms Smith took responsibility for the claim: "I was the one who did the wrong thing; for claiming it, for not going through the expense form closely enough."
The incident left her husband "devastated", she said. "Really. Deeply affected by what it did to me and the family." Mr Timney was forced to make a humiliating public apology outside the couple's home in Worcestershire after the details emerged.
Asked about rumours that Mr Timney had actually shouldered the blame for her 17-year-old son, Ms Smith said: "It isn't true. That is the thing I hate the most."
She also countered a suggestion that her husband had been watching gay porn, saying: "Richard said 'don't make me laugh'."
The controversy surrounding Jacqui Smith was among the first scandals over MPs' expenses to hit the headlines two years ago.
Her husband Richard Timney, pictured below, was forced into a public apology after revelations that he watched adult pay-per-view movies that reimbursement was later claimed for. It came several weeks before far more extravagant claims emerged in newspaper revelations about expenses for duck houses, moats and tennis courts.
The former home secretary later remarked that she had not been the "worst sinner" in light of subsequent disclosures that have seen some former MPs jailed. But Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon also found she wrongly designated her main home as her sister's London house, enabling Ms Smith to claim second home allowances on her Redditch family home. She lost her Redditch seat last year to the Conservatives.
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