Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 29 May 2010

I am so angry about David Laws having to resign

I know people will think I am saying what I am about to say because I am a Lib Dem but I would be saying this if David Laws was a member of any party. I did have a fairly hard line on some of the MPs who were guilty of the worst excesses regarding the expenses regime last year. However I was only hard on those MPs who I felt had clearly tried to play the expenses system to their financial advantage.

In the case of David Laws it is now abundantly clear to me that all he was trying to do was retain his privacy regarding his sexuality. He was in a very difficult position once the rules changed in 2006 about partners and if he had just stopped claiming, as Charlotte Gore blogged earlier today he would have been effectively outing himself. His breach was a technicality and if he had followed the rules it would likely have cost the taxpayer more money. As Mark Pack has just said on BBC News, it could be the first expenses scandal case where an MP has got into trouble for claiming less than he was entitled to.

The media and Laws' political opponents have now got their ministerial head. I hope they are pleased that such a bright and talented minister has been forced from office for what Matthew Parris has just called a "ridiculously trivial" matter. David's resignation statement was extremely dignified and I defy anyone watching it to not have been moved by his integrity.

I am slightly worried about the tenor of the closing remarks in his on camera statement. I can't find a link at the moment to it but the comments were about having neglected the people closest to him and needing to decide the best thing for the constituents of Yeovil. I hope I am misinterpreting this but it sounded a bit like he might be considering standing down as an MP altogether. Frankly after everything that has happened I would not blame him but I really hope he is not planning to do that and that he takes some time out now to reflect.

Hopefully he will remain an MP and return to government at some point in the future like the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have expressed that they would like.


redarsedbaboon said...

If he didn't want to stop his claim when the rule changed for fear of outing himself (fair enough), why not quietly in one of the four whole years that have elapsed since then?

Anonymous said...

I am so angry that if a single mother had her boyfreind living with her she rightly would lose her benefit.David Laws was living with his partner and claiming benefits in a similar way, get this corruption out of goverment just as your leaders said said they would.But I see no liberal or conservative complaining about this, all they can say is what a wonderfull chap he is.

Jason P said...

As much as I have sympathy for his personals situation and being a gay man who spent many years in the closet, he did something wrong in the eyes of standards committee and that is not good enough. Should he have gone? Probably not but neither should many other MPs too.


I'm afraid I agree with some of the comments too. David Laws is brilliant and he was well suited to his role but he broke the rules, pure and simple.

If he had been a Tory or Labour MP we would have called for him to go so go he must.

The bigger story is what this says about the response to the coalition from the Tory press and right wing rump within their party.

Bill Quango MP said...

Real shame. It sounded bad yesterday, mostly as he hadn't done anything about it over the years.
It did sound like he might consider quitting as an MP which would be a shame.

better to find him an out of the way role for a few months and see what happens. That stupid expenses investigation let Jacqui Smith and Tony McNulty off without having to pay anything back.
A technical breach of the rules. How many times did we hear that!
Stunned he hasn't gotten away with it really.

paulo said...

He's a thief pure and simple. Enough of this applauding his resignation as a minister, when is he resigning from Parliament? Before or after plod is called in to feel his collar?

If any of us stole £40k from our employer it wouldn't be over with "whoops, sorry."


Anonymous said...

You're angry he went? That just shows how partisan you were about expenses.

He broke clear rules - rules designed to prevent potential profiteering. If you had a shred of integrity, you'd recognise it's a resigning matter.

Tom King said...

Anonymous - "He broke clear rules - rules designed to prevent potential profiteering. If you had a shred of integrity, you'd recognise it's a resigning matter."

You'd have a good point - if it wasn't for the fact that had Laws done anything other than retained this arrangement, he would have been entitled to claim tens of thousands of pounds more from the taxpayer.

For example, if he had been open about his relationship, he could have claimed for the mortgage on the house, rather than investing his own money in it.

He could also have chosen to designate his house in Yeovil as his second home and claim over £20,000 a year - as David Cameron and many others did.

Or he could have 'flipped' between the two houses to avoid capital gains tax, like George Osborne, Hazel Blears, and many others.

But instead, he claimed £40,000 over 6 years to pay rent below the standard rate in that part of London.

Anyone suggesting what he did was 'profiteering' is simply wrong. He did this because he wanted to retain his privacy. The rules did not allow him to do so. He recognised that in a sense, he had done something 'wrong' by breaking the rules - but is it a resigning offence? Far from it - far better to ask people like Cameron and Osborne to justify their use of public money.

Constantly Furious said...

I couldn't give a shit about his sexuality, but he took money - my money - to which he was not technically entitled.

As I said here, if his private life was so private, he should not have asked us to fund it. As a taxpayer, I'm entitled to know what I'm paying for..

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of David Laws, he seems a knowledgeable man suited to his brief.

However, he funnelled £40,000 to his long term partner in a way that was only possible because he kept the relationship secret.

If he had been open about his relationship, he wouldn't have been allowed to claim that money.

He kept the relationship secret, broke the rules, and cost the taxpayer £40,000.

When you consider he is a millionaire and an intelligent man, it amazes me that kept this arrangement going all through the expenses scandal.

Tom King said...

akashic - "However, he funnelled £40,000 to his long term partner in a way that was only possible because he kept the relationship secret.

If he had been open about his relationship, he wouldn't have been allowed to claim that money.

He kept the relationship secret, broke the rules, and cost the taxpayer £40,000."

This is a fallacious argument, because if he hadn't kept the relationship secret, he would have been entitled - under the rules - to cost the taxpayer FAR MORE money.

Are you really saying you'd rather he had had to declare his relationship openly and thus spend more public money?

Anonymous said...

Tom - I'm not familiar with how it would have cost more money, but that's not the point. In answer to your question, given a choice yes, I would rather a MP be honest.

I think you need to consider your own position when you find yourself advocating that MP's should break the rules in order to save money. I'm sure the rules are there for a reason. To prevent fraud and abuse of expenses for example.

Tom King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom King said...

For examples of how he could have claimed far more money, see my earlier comment.

My point is really that *if* he did indeed break the rules, the rules need refining, and fast, because at the moment a man of integrity who attempts to claim a reasonable amount for his living arrangements has been treated more harshly than those who routinely claimed vast amounts every year for their second homes, or those who 'flipped' between their homes to avoid capital gains tax.

This was clearly not about lining his own pockets. For that reason alone it is a transparently different case than many of the other expenses scandals. It is for this reason that we should be angry that such a talented and important member of the coalition has been forced out - and by a newspaper at that.

Ollie Cromwell said...

David Laws chose to resign because he recognised he did something wrong. The argument that he could have claimed more is spurious and has nothing to do with the matter.

What he didn't claim for was his choice, as it was his choice to claim what he did in the full knowledge it was against the rules. I am glad that he has shown some late integrity, admitted he has done wrong, and resigned. He cannot simply choose to rewrite the rulebook to suit him, whether it costs less or not.

He could so simply have maintained his privacy by not claiming off me and you to pay his partner. I like the vast majority of people pay for my accommodation costs out of my hard earned income that I have paid tax on. Why couldn't he have done the same rather than breach the rules?

I am sorry that you are angered by his resignation Mark and I am disappointed by your judgement which appears to be that MPs should be allowed to choose which rules they should follow and be allowed to use their own judgement on the cost implications for taxpayers. It was them feeling that they had those rights that led to so much abuse in the past.

I regret his lapse in judgement has made his departure necessary as he seemed to get off to a competent start. He appears to be a very talented and decent man, many such people have has such lapses and rightly paid the price, and I hope in time having paid the price for his abuse of the rules he can rebuild his career.

I hope that he and his partner are able to adjust to their relationship becoming public. Perhaps the silver lining is that this being in the open may allow them to have a happier and more fulfilled life together.

Daniel said...

Two points...
1. Innocent until proven guilty. The media do not pass verdicts. This is a matter for the standards commission.
2. He allegedly claimed in the wrong way less money than in fact he was in fact entitled to. If he had claimed on a mortgage instead of a contribution to rent he could have legitimately claimed a far larger amount.

Matthew said...

I don't understand this argument that he would have outed himself by stopping claiming. I don't believe Laws himself made it (his argument was to do with Lundie not being his 'partner'). The 2006 changes were not solely about no longer being able to rent off close family, and he could have just said he had decided not to claim for a whole host of reasons.

The argument that he could have claimed far more money by another way, or indeed any other way, is a better one, but I'm not sure it is as good as its advocates claim for it ignores what Laws actually wanted, which (apparently) was to a) live with Lundie, b) get taxpayer money for Lundie and c) keep the relationship secret.

Mrs Rigby said...

I agree with you, and have linked.