Money over sex every time is the judgement call, Mr Laws

Something new’s been emerging in the reaction to the outing and resignation of Treasury Chief Secretary David Laws. It’s the progressives who are slating him, not for once  the usual expenses crusaders of the commentariat – although it was the Daily Telegraph digging into their old CDs, who exposed him. ( Not the first of another spate of scoops surely).   Thus Ben Summerskill of Stonewall says it was the money wot done it, not the sex.

Regrettably it’s not the rules, or even the naughty Daily Telegraph, which have forced Laws to reveal his sexual orientation this weekend. If he hadn’t claimed £40,000 to be paid to someone he concedes he’s been “in a relationship with since around 2001” none of this would be known now because there would have been no payment from public funds in the first place.

In a clear strategy to advance gay equality, Summerskill is obviously keen to find a shop window for dismissing easy ” it’s because I’m gay” alibis for error or failure.  Barbara Ellen in the Observer would agree.

Laws’ argument fell apart in the manner of a badly made piñata. Look at his options: he could have declined to claim for rooms, period, or he could have rented from someone else, and in both instances kept his gayness completely secret..

In fact it was the massed ranks of politicos, gay and straight, who came out largely in sympathy, like John Rentoul in the Sunday Indy.

Had Laws been open about his relationship, he would have been entitled to claim up to the maximum for the cost of James Lundie’s London flat, which was more than he did, in fact, claim. Had he not been in a relationship with Lundie, he would have been entitled to claim the rent. As a rich man, he need not have claimed for it at all; presumably he wanted to support his partner, but did not want to give him money directly. All rather confused, emotionally fraught and foolish, but not a hanging offence.

So why did Laws not divert the expenses claim elsewhere?  Because he was in a sort of denial to himself? We need to dig deeper with Iain Dale, Tory arch blogger and openly gay, who completely identifies with Law’s problem – like what it feels like to confess being gay to your unsuspecting parents. Dale condemns openly gay former Labour minister Ben Bradshaw’s uncharitable Tweet about Laws.  ( Ben  should take spelling lessons too)

Matthew d’Ancona coalition cheerleader, reports the reluctance to lose him – until they felt he had to go.  To save the new politics, they had to use old politics.  

Even yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister and Nick Clegg were trying to hang on to Mr Laws, who I understand was less certain that he should or could stay in post. Mr Cameron believed that referring the matter to John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, had bought the Government some time and protected it, in the short term at least, from the charge of dithering. But, in the course of the day, Andy Coulson, the PM’s communications chief, warned him of the gathering media storm and the likely scale of the onslaught on Mr Laws. The Chief Secretary and Mr Cameron spoke on the phone at around 3pm, by which time it was becoming increasingly clear that Mr Laws was going to have to go.

 On that media storm,  Mike White is outside the pack.  Has the Telegraph missed a new zeitgeist? 

…So I regret his going and hope the Telegraph’s more thoughtful readers are as unimpressed as I am. Perhaps the newspapers really are losing the plot in their – our – battle to retain sales share.

In recent months the Sun’s attack on Gordon Brown’s handwriting – in a letter to a soldier’s grieving mother – rebounded on the paper. Brown is half-blind, his handwriting appalling.

Only this month the Mail on Sunday’s exposé of pillow talk by the FA chief, David Triesman, about rival World Cup 2018 football bids seems to have rebounded too when fans realised it make have sunk England’s bid in the process.

Next up should be a steady campaign to cool it over MPs’ expenses. The feeding frenzy has gone on long enough. But probably not.  Sex is one thing but money is forever.

  • Pete Baker

    Brian

    Possibly also worth noting Michael White’s take on it

    If I have got this bit right, the sums are not large by the standards of the MPs expenses saga; £40,000 over eight years, less than what David Cameron’s wisteria-clad mortgage cost the taxpayer in two. But Laws had now become the man making the cuts in public expenditure – where cuts to incomes much closer to £5,000 a year will be painful losses to a lot of people. Glib charges of hypocrisy were bound to follow.

    All the same I do not think the public interest has been well served by the Telegraph exposé. Laws is a clever, serious fellow who could have opted for a life of idle self-amusement but plunged in public life where dreadful things can happen.

    So I regret his going and hope the Telegraph’s more thoughtful readers are as unimpressed as I am. Perhaps the newspapers really are losing the plot in their – our – battle to retain sales share.

  • Pete Baker

    Sorry Brian

    Didn’t see it there on my earlier read-through.

  • Clanky

    Regardless of the rights and wrongs of newspapers putting sales figures above the public interest the lesson which would seem to be begging to be learnt here is that if you are going to go into public life it is best to be open and honest about your private life.

    I would like to think that if mr. Laws had been paying rent to a female partner then the consequences would have been the same, but somehow I doubt it, as much as everyone was at great pains to point out that the issue at stake was the money and had absolutely nothing to do with his sexuality I rather suspect that it did in fact at least have a little to do with the fact that he had kept his sexuality a secret and I am also fairly certain that the Telegraph played on the point a little as well.

    Had Mr. Laws been openly gay I don’t think the story would have made the paper, and as such I think that if someone intends to enter public life and therefore put themselves in the public eye then as much as they have a right not to have their private lives snooped into they should also be prepared to be open and honest about themselves.

  • Aldamir

    Multimillionaire gets £40k of taxpayers money in dodgy expenses claim and somehow he is the victim? I don’t think so.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Laws was caught with his expenses pants down and then tried to hide his rule-breaking behind his sexuality. Suddenly the Tories and Libdems have replaced their pre-election outrage regarding expenses miscreants with post election understanding – and talk of poor Mr Laws and his ‘integrity’.

    Michael White’s article is more nonsense from the Guardian – the paper that backed the LibDems and helped the deleiver the Tories to power – at least with the Murdoch press you get what it says on the tin.

  • bulmer

    White’s article has been lambasted on the Guardian website. He’s effectively saying that the press should cover the weaknesses of the rich and famous. An utterly dreadful thing to state.We’d be back to the difference culture that its taken 50 years to erode and ridicule.

    How could Laws seriously continue as a minister when his lover has pocketed £40K? The gay issue is rightly a red herring. The Telegraph has done an excellent job in outing the scroungers at Westminster (including our own swishs). The public is right to fail to see why time should be called on exposing them.

    Law deserves some sympathy on the human level but his actions call into account any credibility he had as a frontline politician.

  • bulmer

    Laws was frightened to appear on Question Time last week. I wonder was he then aware the story was breaking…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The new chappie Danny Alexander will have to go as well. Good enough for the Liberals after their spectacular bedding by the Tories – this relationship is strating to look a bit UCUNFish.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/liberal-democrat-mps-expenses/7787519/Danny-Alexander-new-Treasury-chief-avoided-capital-gains-tax-on-house.html

  • Mr Laws is rich, ambitious and very greedy, such a man is hardly likely to put his constituents first…

    Nothing to do with sexual orientation, everything to do with the culture of greed in Westminster.

  • Brian Walker

    Pippakin and others

    I don’t defend him but a knee jerk charge of greed doesn’t pass muster. He had multiple alternatives to make more money legitimately and didn’t taken them. That’s why his conduct is so fascinating.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Brian,

    Greed is always difficult to define but what we have here with Mr Laws is a clear breach of the spirit of the rules and probably the letter, with his replacement, Alexander it is a clear breach of the spirit of the rules.

    The latter should be oxtered out as well irrespective of wheteher he or Laws were motivated by greed or otherwise.

  • Mick Fealty

    No, he’s not saying that at all. And that he’s being construed that way on the Guardian site says more about the blind cul de sac some people are rushing into more than anything else.

    HIs actions, frankly, are trivial. Especially when compared with the job he was given and which he was well qualified to do. His lover pocketed ‘rent’, not a bribe or something that was not allowed by the rules as written and widely construed at the time.

    That this is so, is a measure of the nonsensical otherworld some members of the Fleet Street pack cannot resist throwing themselves into.

    More on this from me tomorrow. In the meantime, great round up of the main salient points Brian!!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Greed is always difficult to define but what we have here with Mr Laws is a clear breach of the spirit of the rules and probably the letter

    It’s not a “clear breach” at all, certainly not of the letter of the rules. Otherwise why wasn’t it spotted in the Telegraph’s previous exposee on expenses ?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    CS,

    It is a clear breach of the spirit of the law because the term partner clearly covers the type of relationship that Mr Laws had with his landlord.

    In relation to Alexander he has swapped his primary residence to maximise his personal financial benefit under the 3 year sale rule – a rule which was specifically criticsed by the Liberals themseleves – clear tax avoidance with oxtering out of office the deserved penalty.

    I could not give a rambling feck why the Torygraph only published these stories now – interesitng, perhaps, but a totally different story.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    “HIs actions, frankly, are trivial. Especially when compared with the job he was given and which he was well qualified to do.”

    The days when the old above-the-law-because-of-who-you-are are hopefully gone in spite the best hypocritical pre and post election expenses-jibber-jabber from Nicky and Davey.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy,

    You and your ‘jibberjabber’ (roughly trans. = ‘whatever I want it to mean’). As I said, more from me tomorrow.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    re. Tomorrow.

    Look forward to it and perhaps Alexander will be on his way by then too.

  • Rory Carr

    Unemployed individuals who have claimed Housing Benefit to cover rent paid to someone who subsequently was revealed as a partner/lover have been jailed for fraud for obtaining much less than £40,000. Cruel – but they broke the rules so it is difficult to defend them..

    So did Laws but he is not facing jail or being lambasted as a scrounger in the red-tops.

    But then it’s different isn’t it? Laws is rich and (for a few moments at least) powerful.

    He knew that he was doing wrong but his arrogance allowed him to believe that he would get away with it and if queried, his experience of (his) life told him that a shrug and a “Sorry, old boy” would be all that was required to brush over the matter.

    Well, sorry old fellow, it just isn’t any more, we’ve had enough of your sort. I hear that you are devestated. Well good! So you should be. Just thank your lucky silver spoons that you’re not in chokey on remand awaiting trial where perhaps you ought to be.

  • Im waiting on Mr Fealty post tomorrow, but I will take some convincing that grabbing £40,000 for your partner is not sheer unadulterated greed…

    As for well qualified for other positions: no doubt, but name one that offers the holidays, the perks, and until recently the respect.

  • Frankie12

    Poor Laws… His last name now forever, much like Portillo, synonymous with prison slang for “Look out behind you…”