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UK Home Secretary quits in wake of expenses s -

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UK Home Secretary quits in wake of expenses scandal

The World Today - Wednesday, 3 June , 2009 12:46:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

PETER CAVE: With his party looking likely to be delivered a blow in local and European elections on
Thursday, this was never going to be an easy week for the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Things have just got a lot worse though, with news that his Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to stand
down in the wake of the expenses scandal which has engulfed UK politics.

Opposition parties are renewing their calls for an early general election, saying the Government
has become an international laughing stock.

Barbara Miller reports.

BARBARA MILLER: Jacqui Smith appeared destined for great things in politics.

In 1997 when the Labour Party swept to power she was one of a record number of new female MPs
dubbed "Blair babes".

Eight years later Mr Blair's successor Gordon Brown named her Home Secretary, the first woman to
hold the job.

Within days of her appointment she was being praised for her calm handling of failed car bombs in
London and a terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport.

Two years later, Jacqui Smith was making headlines for much more personal issues.

Her parliamentary expenses claim included the bill for two pornographic films which her husband had
watched.

He said sorry.

RICHARD TIMNEY: I'm really sorry for any embarrassment I've caused Jacqui, I can fully understand
why people might be angry and offended by this. Quite obviously claims should never have been made
for these films and as you know, that money is being paid back.

BARBARA MILLER: But the Home Secretary was also under spotlight for claiming a second home
allowance for what was actually the family home.

She was one of the first of a seemingly never-ending list of MPs to be exposed in the expenses
scandal that has dominated UK politics over the past months.

Phantom mortgages, second homes that weren't, moat maintenance, gardening, duck islands - British
MPs have exploited the system to claim for it all.

And now ahead of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, it's been leaked that the Home Secretary intends to
stand down.

Andrew Rawnsley, a political commentator with The Guardian newspaper, says Jacqui Smith is jumping
before she's pushed.

ANDREW RAWNSLEY: I suppose from her point of view, it's rather more dignified for her to make it
clear and advance that she's stepping down as Home Secretary, rather than go through that grisly
rickshaw of a reshuffle when we in the media all line up on Downing Street like ghouls at the
guillotine, shouting at people are you safe? Have you resigned? Have you been promoted?

So I think there's a dignity question better to announce it yourself than have the chopper come
down on your own neck on the reshuffle day.

BARBARA MILLER: Indeed the taunting by reporters of Cabinet members ahead of the reshuffle is
already in full swing.

REPORTER: Is your job safe Mr Hoon?

REPORTER 2: Is there going to be a reshuffle Hazel?

REPORTER 3: Last Cabinet Hazel?

BARBARA MILLER: John Denham, the Secretary of State for Universities and Skills, says the news on
Jacqui Smith does not amount to a crisis for the Government.

JOHN DENHAM: I've seen a number of reshuffles, many over the years I've been in Parliament, I think
in almost every one, there has been one or more ministers have indicated in advance that they
didn't want to be considered.

But other ministers have said that they are not going to stand, that is a perfectly normal thing to
happen.

BARBARA MILLER: But it's certainly not a good look in a week when Labour is bracing itself for
something of a drubbing in local council and European Parliament elections.

Jacqui Smith joins a long list of Labour MPs who will now not be contesting their seats at the next
election, including the Australian born Patricia Hewitt.

And the Opposition is jumping on the news to renew calls for an early general election.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron.

DAVID CAMERON: At a time of national recession and political crisis, we've got a government that
must now be one of the laughing stocks of the world. It's terrible for Britain.

BARBARA MILLER: Gordon Brown is expected to announce a reshuffle within the next week.

Speculation is rife that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling will be one of the
victims. If things continue to go from bad to worse though, the British Prime Minister could find
himself more concerned with saving his own job.

PETER CAVE: Barbara Miller reporting.