Smith thought she'd be cleared
Jacqui Smith is now suffering from the triple whammy - sympathy, ridicule and outrage - which every politician fears.
The irony is that only last week she told friends that she expected to be cleared in the inquiry into the expense claims for her second home. The home secretary has been poring over her home, constituency and office diary to plot where she had spent each night in the past year.
She is confident that she has the proof that she's spent more nights in London than in her constituency and thus, under the Commons rules, could designate her family home as her "second home" and the flat she shares with her sister as her "main home". This, of course, allowed her to claim thousands of pounds from the ACA (Additional Costs Allowance) including that TV package with the "additional features".
Thus, she has gone from confidence that she would be cleared to what I imagine must be despair in the past day or two. She is not, after all, just a minister or an MP but the mother of two school age boys who may now come to hate the day their mum went into politics.
I've been arguing for weeks that it is the system of Commons expenses and the culture which surrounds it which has caused all the problems.
Allowances are treated as just that - allowances not expenses - which compensate MPs for the fact that governments of all colours routinely ignore independent recommendations to increase MPs' pay.
Commons officials have, until recently, encouraged MPs to claim the maximum and treated those that don't as if they're fools. The Speaker and the all-party committee which advises him vainly fought freedom of information requests at huge public expense without using the time that fight allowed them to clear up the system once and for all.
Nevertheless, someone always becomes the symbol of systems that have gone horribly wrong. It is unfortunate for Jacqui Smith that she is that someone.
To many MPs, she's a likeable working mum who didn't expect to be elected in '97; whose husband agreed to sacrifice his career to make hers possible; who works such long hours that she spends more days away from her family than with it and who knows that she's on course to lose her very marginal seat and thus, her job, income and allowances, at the next election.
To many voters she's a minister "on the take" who is not satisfied with a fat salary, a chauffeur and two homes but also claims more by employing her husband, calling her family home her second home and submitting bills for porn films.
The gap between the elected and those who elect them has rarely been wider. It is in all our interests that that gap is closed.