Smith, the MP for Redditch, is especially vulnerable as a 3% swing could overturn her 2,716 majority, the narrowest of any Labour cabinet minister. police and security minister. “She’s not very good,” said the insider. “She doesn’t absorb briefs very well. She’s not regarded as a brilliant minister. Of course she’s very nice and she’s popular.
“The gossip is that, if there is a major reshuffle, then she might end up in the department of left-handed affairs. She’s a lightweight.”
Another senior official who reports to Smith said: “She has certainly been concerned about this. She picks up the same gossip as everyone else.”
But more serious for Smith are the new revelations in the Mail on Sunday about her living arrangements. Neighbours have verified that she only spends a third of her time there, and two have written to the House of Commons authorities making an official complaint. Smith has also refused to say whether she paid capital gains tax on her constituency property which she sold in 2004 to move to a bigger house. Nor would she say if she has received a council tax discount on her constituency home, which she would be entitled to if it was a second home.
Businessman Dominic Taplin and his wife Jessica, a manager for a charity, who live four doors from Ms Smith, have written to Commons officials claiming that she has not told the truth. Mrs Taplin, 33, said: 'When I read that she says she spends most of the week here, I thought, "That is a fabrication." The Taplins, who have lived in Ms Smith's sister's London street for three years, point out that they are not members of the Tory Party. Mrs Taplin said: 'I voted for Ken Livingstone to be London mayor but changed to Boris last year.' Mr Taplin added: 'I have voted Tory in the past but I think Gordon Brown is doing a pretty good job and may vote for him next time.'
The Taplins' version of events was backed up by other neighbours who say they see little of Ms Smith. Another resident who lives a few doors down from Ms Smith's lodgings, on the same side of the road, said: 'I see the policemen outside the house three mornings a week. It varies but I would say no more than three mornings a week. 'You really know when she's there - you can't miss two armed coppers standing on your road.'
One neighbour who has lived on the street since the Sixties said: 'I just can't believe it's her main residence. The policemen disappear for weeks.' 'She is virtually never here on a Sunday as she claimed and you don't see much of her in the summer. I would say she spends no more than a third of the year here.'
Mr Taplin, 46, who works from home, said: 'You can tell when she is here because the police guards arrive first. They turn up mid-morning on Monday and leave mid-morning on Thursday. 'I cannot recall when they have been here any other nights of the week. I find her behaviour extraordinary.'
Tory MP Ben Wallace now promises to put this new evidence to John Lyons, the Standards Commissioner.
'Mr Lyon rejected my request on the grounds there was no evidence to show Ms Smith's claims are unjustified,' he said.
'This new evidence completely undermines her claim that her London lodgings are her main home. I hope that Mr Lyon will re-examine his decision.'
Mr Wallace claims that a ruling by Mr Lyon last year shows that Ms Smith's expenses are against the Commissioner's own definition of an MP's main home.
In it, Mr Lyon said: 'If a Member has his or her family living permanently in their constituency home and has modest accommodation in London big enough only for themselves, and which they use only when Parliament is in session, then it would clearly seem to be a matter of fact that the Member's main home is in the constituency.'