When feuds between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and then their respective supporters, spilled out into the public arena, they were invariably described as “media froth” by John Prescott, the then Deputy Prime Minister.
Yet, when various autobiographies and diaries began to be published, it emerged that contemporary reports about these disagreements – and consequences for good governance – had been downplayed.
The difference with Theresa May’s teetering Government is that supposed state secrets are already an open book because of the extent to which Cabinet discipline and collective responsibility have broken down.
And while this does not reflect well on Mr Smith’s record as the Government’s enforcer in 2017, many will sympathise with the Skipton and Ripon MP’s candour, and exasperation, in a new TV documentary on Brexit.
Though chief whips operate in the shadows, and are never supposed to talk about their work, the fact a weary-sounding Mr Smith has disregarded convention like this is further confirmation of the scale of turmoil which is now overwhelming the Government.
Claiming that the disloyalty of Ministers is “the worst example of ill-discipline in British political history”, the Yorkshire MP went on to confirm that Mrs May was ill-advised, from a strategic point of view, to pursue a hard Brexit when she lost her Commons majority in 2017.
Yet, as MPs remain divided on the way ahead of a five-hour Cabinet meeting, there is one potential glimmer of hope – just think what could be possible for Britain if there was a more stable government in place.