Why the anti Laws ‘campaign’ was ill conceived and anti democratic

Brian did a good round up of the journalism surrounding the David Laws resignation. Now, after months and years even of devoting his column to fairly partisan electioneering, Matthew Parris has the best crack I’ve seen so far on what underlay what became a nasty piece of decapitation:

No, he did not have to go. No, it was not “always inevitable”. No, Mr Laws was not right to jump “with dignity”, “before he was pushed”. And who, pray, would have done the pushing? We, the media. What stinking hypocrisy, then, to call the fall inevitable, and then wring our hands in pious lament about what a tragedy this is for the individual and the nation, as though we were helpless witnesses to some kind of extreme weather event. We in the media have been the instruments, not just the chroniclers, of the fall of a good man.

P O’Neill reckons that the gay thing was instrumental to blasting Mr Laws out of his Treasury post:

So they were merely going to report mysterious rent payments to a “partner” and leave it at that? And as everyone recognises, Laws’ job was essentially Minister for expenditure cuts — zero relevance to his sexual orientation. In other words, the Telegraph was precisely on the kind of search and destroy mission that Sully [Andrew Sullivan] says he abhors.

Although as the Slog blog notes, Mr Winnett has played around with the gay thing in the past in an effort help dispatch an earlier target…  But it goes on to note that actually the problem may be the Telegraph’s in the end, since some of its writing staff appear not to have noticed that there was an election just three weeks ago

As to the offence, Iain Dale puts it clearly enough in his Mail on Sunday opinion piece:

Claiming up to £950 a month for renting a room in a flat in Kennington. I’d say that was very good value for the taxpayer. I tried to do the same thing last year and couldn’t find anything for less than £1,200.

What his critics are saying is that in 2006 he should have moved out of the flat he shared with his partner when the parliamentary rules changed to ban financial relationships between spouses or civil partners.

Laws and Lundie weren’t and aren’t spouses or civil partners, so why should Laws have moved out? If he had, it would have cost the taxpayer more money. [Emphasis added]

As Charlotte notes, the ‘killer’ clause in the regulation appears to be that MPs haven’t been allowed to make payments to their spouses since 2006. Reader Rory Carr raises another question: when is the person you live with a spouse, and when are they not? In respect of claimants of Housing Benefit, co-habitation is a ‘good enough’ standard. But what about House regulations?

‘Good enough’ standards for politicians, says Paul, but not for those low or non taxpaying elite who can afford, for instance, to have a Premiership footballer show up at a child’s birthday party for a cool £25k.

Andrew Sullivan may be right when he says that “lies, even white lies, even understandable lies, cannot last in today’s culture and today’s media.” And I agree with him, up to a point.

But when Government is compelled over and over to self scrutinise down to such fine granular detail, we should remember that there is more than just one fox on the loose out there and not all of us are locked up safely inside the chicken coop.

David Laws will now likely be consigned to the scrap heap of British parliamentary history (with the Orange Book as his primary footnote). Yet unless the UK wishes to be consigned to the same cynical ‘Let’s kick the bums out’ election cycle the US is current struggling to break out of, the chiefist lesson is next time it happens (for it surely will): inject some perspective these one eyed media campaigns into the public space.

But in the meantime the last word should go to John Ward at the Slog, who appeals directly to progenitors of this particular anti politics crusade:

There’s a rainbow-in-negative cacophony of bitterness at work in Britain today – and what a ghastly crock of shit lies at the end of it: Balls, Whelan, Farage, Tebbitt, and every other grumpy, out of line dinosaur from Rupert Murdoch to Piers Morgan.

If the Daily Telegraph wants to join that shower, then good riddance. But I certainly won’t be reading it. I am a friend of the Telegraph and all its fine traditions. I think Robert Winnett a fine journalist of enormous intellect and talent, and Brogan a political editor of rare insight. As a real friend, however, I don’t ask the DT team to live up to my standards: rather, I accuse them of falling below their own.

They are guilty on that count. And somehow, I think sane minds in the Telegraph building know it.

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    IF Laws was so concerned to conceal his sexuality why did he claim at all ? The reason the rule on claiming from a partner was introduced was to stop people like Laws in effect paying himself and his partner.

    In the case of Alexander, his replacement, he used a ‘loophole’ (Torygraph term) which was there to help someone having difficulty selling their house to sell what was in reality his second home (which he claimed expenses on as his second home) but which he choose to designate as his main residence – which incidentally he also claimed expenses for his wife to fly to – in spite of the fact that she worked in London.

    This is not about government watching every little detail but public representatives behaving properly and the libDems in these 2 examples have been caught with their financial and expenses trousers down after lecturing us all they were cleaner than a clean thing – all a bit like the Tories with their back-to-basics.

    The people People of Britian, understandbly, dont especially like being told to keep their trousers on or to tighten their belts when the people talking at them are doing exactly the opposite.

  • It’s not about homosexuality and that really does have zero relevance. What is relevant is that the man is a former investment banker and a millionaire overseeing savage cuts to public sector workers and public services who claimed here from the public more than most people earn in a year. Why did he need to claim that money from the taxpayer? I have very limited sympathy for him, off he goes.

  • Mick Fealty

    Boyz, boyz…

    You are both missing my point and perhaps in danger of getting overly absorbed by the ‘bread and circus’ show the expense story as become.

    The point is that these relatively small breaches regulation are being scaled up to massive breaches of public confidence. In the meantime, we have the 2005 Enquiries Act set up prevent Saville from ever happening again.

    This is dog whistle stuff intended to wake the so-called ‘silent majority’ of the right. But they’ve clearly doubled their money in gleaning such strident support from the left too.

  • DC

    Laws broke the rules in relation to renting off a partner.

    Laws is a millionaire who has no need to claim the money anyway and could have remained utterly private by not claiming publicly; but, besides all that, it was a fairly unprofessional use of public money all the same whenever the public have to pick up the phone to estate agents when considering their own rental options. Laws instead picked to pay his partner.

    Which was and is still against the rules.

    The two quoted people Parris and Dale are by instinct very sympathetic, overly so and offer distorted judgements in the process. Dale’s argument about cheaper rent is a red herring as well.

    Laws broke the rules. Simples.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    there are a number of points here and you are, obscuring the main one by talking up the lesser one. Of course that is a matter of opinion but I would suggest that the pre-election jibber-jabber(meaningless talk) by the Liberals and the Tories about how in the case of the Liberals they were whiter than white and in the case of the Tories that they should be praised for cleaning things up so quickly has been replace by defending the culprits.

    The sexuality angle was used in my opinion as an excuse to hide Laws wrongdoing and the Torygraph (a paper I normally dislike) has done an excellent job in bringing this and the expenses ‘scandal’ to light. Proposing to shoot the messenger aint going to wash.

    Minor misdemeanour becomes major political issue where there is even the slightest whiff of hypocricy and
    this one stinks to high heaven and that is why this story had/has legs and not because of some sinister plot by right wingers.

  • Dewi

    “The point is that these relatively small breaches regulation are being scaled up to massive breaches of public confidence.”

    £40k a small beach? Me or thee would be in clink for thieving that amount…

  • jon the raver

    Agree that maybe a ‘talented’ individual should not have lost his job.

    Is it the case that he used his sexuality to get the expense claim? Had he have been straight and living with his female partner would he still have claimed the money ?

    But this case just intensives the need for radical reform of MPs and their expenses. They have shown that when it comes to self reform they are not effective.

    I’m sorry but there needs to be a serious check on how much MPs claim – and if they cry poverty they can resign because there is no shortage of people behind them wanting a seat

  • DC

    And it’s not bread and circus.

    Firstly, because Laws knew the cosequences and resigned on Saturday. Issue over, no distraction really. It was a bank holiday, he resigned fast. By Monday the government had moved on.

    Secondly, why should the public not know how an MP spent taxpayers money whenever public money is now in short supply today. Because if there was an easy claim attitude and disregard towards taxpayers money how can such MPs hurl opprobium at the financial sector for its greed and neglect *and try and extract changes to the system* whenever they weren’t able to follow their own rules and show proper regard to the taxpayers – their own voters?

  • Mick Fealty

    Dewi,

    The figure in question is not £40k. For the first four years, Mr Laws was unquestionably allowed to do what he did. He swerved out of the difficulty confronting the new rules to avoid being outed.

    And as I say in the post above (which everyone so far seems utterly determined not to read) it is still not clear to me that ‘co-habitation’ is regarded by the rules as the same as a ‘spouse’. It certainly makes emotional sense to appeal, as Rory has, to the analogy with Housing Benefit, but that’s not necessarily good politics.

    Sammy,

    When you have finished with yer oul single transferable jibber jabber, try reading the post… 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    DC,

    How many rules/laws have you broken in the last six months? Should any of them disqualify you from commenting on a public website? For my part, I earned my first three points in more than 20 years on my drivers licence on New Years Day on my way to catch a tyre repair place to replace the tyre on my garden wheelbarrow before it closed at lunchtime. Should I declare those times I may have breached the speed limits in the intervening period? And, crucially, should I resign as editor of Slugger O’Toole, now I’ve outed myself as a rule breaker?

  • DC

    It was open to interpretation whether his partner was a partner in the legal term of a spouse, but the court of public opinion quickly defined it on Laws behalf and he left just as fast.

    It’s a non issue now, it was a good debate on Friday and maybe Saturday – the man’s out of office away now.

    It’s over.

    Finished.

    The End.

    You get the point 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Laws is gone (see the post above for confirmation of this salient fact), but the court of public opinion is still in session.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    If the expenses issue has taught politicans anything it is that technical acquitals are not good enough that is why Rory’s point is irrelevant and that is why Laws paid back the money before the parliamentary ruling was delivered on what constituted a ‘partner’. It is a clear breach of the spririt of the law and that in today’s climate is rightly enough to see him to the exit.

    He should not have claimed expenses irrespective of the rules before or after they changed as he should not have benefited from paying his own partner or spouse rent.

    Unfortunately his replacment, Alexander, seems to be slipping off the hook, perhaps we will hear from his constituents as to how happy they are about his house being one day his home and the next his second home.

  • DC

    Yes you are right and yes they probably should.

    If you want a re-examination of legislation codified on moral beliefs I’m all for it and I’m you’re guy for delegislation and proper re-regulation of many social problems that lie currently criminalised.

    But unfortunately perception is a killer and the moral code has been fashioned by centuries of conservative rule.

    Personally there has been too much moralism over sexuality and time taken up over abortions and talk of broken society throughout the years in parliament, which could all we’ll be junked for a fixation on the operations of capitalism by politicians instead.

    A fixation on the financial services sector would be good because in terms of political values money is thing which prevents life from turning brutish and ugly. Not morality on sexuality. Harassment because of sexuality, disability and racism as well tends to only get worse when society becomes skint and unemployed, people use minority communities and different people to take their anger out on.

    Back to Laws, even if we had such a debate in the public / political / legal sphere he may well still be found erring slightly on the wrong side of how to spend public money properly.

    In terms of political values making money for your nation or your electors should always be first and then spending your taxpayers money wisely a close second, should it ever have been different?

  • jon the raver

    If he was so concerned with being ‘outed’ then why claim in the first place?

    It has been well reported Mr Laws has deep pockets surely to conceal anything the worst thing you can do is start a paper trail.

    I think the reason he had to resign was because there is a real stench, as with all the entire expense scandal, is that an MP has set out to line his pockets.

    Which is wrong no matter if it is within the rules or not

  • Mick Fealty

    Perception is part of the problem. My concern is that we are involved in a circus that is diverting the attention even of otherwise intelligent readers of the news from actually watching what government is, or is not, getting up to on our behalf in the name of ‘newsworthiness’.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The Media beating itself up? Id pay good money to see that.
    But not really necessary.
    Iain Dale, Matthew Parris (not overly protective of Mandelsons privacy as I recall) and others have discovered a new partisanship unconnected to Politics. As Ali G might have said.
    “Is it because I is black?”
    “Is it because Mr Laws is gay”?
    I doubts it but clearly the dog whistle approach that the Torygraph uses can mix indignation at Laws real fault with appeal to the baser instincts of their “Disgusted, Tonbridge Wells” readership.

    But lets get the obvious thing right away. Mr Laws and his “partner”? No paperwork down at the Registery Office but Id suggest that if payments had been made to a live in girlfriend of 8 years duration….then I think thats a “partnership”. Havent we had all this questioned and possibly determined in relation to compensation payments for “partners” of less duration in Afghanistan?
    Sky News Press Preview the other night gave credence to the nonsense that Mr Laws is from a Catholic background and did not want his elderly parents to know of his sexuality.
    We were informed that Catholics believe homosexuals will roast in hell for all Eternity? Really? Catholics think that?
    Sheesh if Mr Laws’ parents are that “conservative” they must have been mortified when he came out and said he wasa Liberal Democrat.
    Of course theres an old saying that if you get a reputation for getting up early …you can lie in bed all day.
    In terms of Fleet Street (and no doubt Stormont) this means that those fair minded journalists LIKE you,they wont grass you up in the Sunday papers.
    If on the other hand, the Press Pack dont like you, you can get away with a lot of stuff.

    Thats the problem with Laws. The Press Pack liked him. And Im guessing here of course……but in the Westminster Village..there are few real secrets. Indeed do they still have the “Rules” of the Lobby pinned up for all lobby hacks to see?
    Left to the Lobby hacks would this story have been published? Indeed wouuld the whole expenses thing last year happened? In a word…..no.
    Not wishing to trivialise it but effectively its no different than the Football hacks, following the England World Cup team or indeed any Premiership team into Europe.
    There was a time that what happened “on tour stayed on tour”. Our finest footballers could misbehave knowing their antics would be known to the travelling journos but never reported.
    But the NEWS reporter has made life almost impossible for the FOOTBALL reporter.
    Different priorities.
    So its interesting that Politicians are the new Premiership Footballers. Safe within their own village with POLITICAL reporters, they are now increasingly being scrutinised by NEWS journalists.
    Where once Politicians could rely on Discretion (Tom Driberg…..journalist, MP, PREDATORY homosexual (according to a BBC documentary)..they can no longer expect that.
    Sorry ….I have no sympathy for Mr Laws.
    A Tory-lite, a millionaire, who would have been the face of Cuts for people (£250 Child Trust cut is small beer to the amount he trousered) . No. Good riddance!.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Sorry…….that of course should read if the Press Pack like you….they wont grass you up …….if they dont like you, youre history.

  • I’d give this one up if I were you Mick. As Chris says, …

    “The message here is that it is better to be a prissy, priggish follower of rules than a man of any other virtues – which is a perfect recipe for mediocrity. ”

    http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2010/05/laws-lessons.html

    We seem to have entered an age where the only possible reason for politicians to exist is to have a parliament full of petty little demagogues (perhaps all wearing white suits? It’s where the word ‘candidate’ came from, after all).

  • Mick Fealty

    Nonetheless, I hope some of Laws’ more entrenched critics do bother to come back on this, since it is important for any politician to try and address this (those that are serious about actually trying to do stuff with their elected offices that is).

    I would also like to register the fact that we have managed to get to 19 comments on this story without once appearing in the top panel of the site, which is one of the reasons why (although I still love the design idea), I’ll not be unhappy to see the end of the algorythm driven top end of the site in the next day or so.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    re. alogroithm – why not simply the number of hits over a given previous period e.g. 12 hours, with perhaps an ‘importance factor’ which reflects the Editorial wisdom?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep, that should not be a problem. But I think we are better returning to the simplicity of the common or garden blog, with that kind of metric on the side.

  • jon the raver

    Latest: Laws says he has paid a high price – on the BBC

    I still can’t understand – how would his privacy have been affected if he simply stopped claiming rent ?

  • Anonymous

    Has Slugger O Toole become responsible for enforcing speeding laws? Is it likely to instigate a crackdown on speeding and other traffic violations as necessary in the current environment? Please put your Straw Man away.

    Thems what makes the rules can’t break them, and standards go up if they have been abusing that. There probably needs to be something in between getting away with it and getting the boot, but that’s how it is.

  • David Gordon

    Have to say, I’m genuinely taken aback by the pro-Laws whingeing going on.
    To those who believe £40,000 is a mere trifle – try telling that to the many people convicted of benefit fraud offences involving much smaller sums.
    The facts are really quite simple. The rules were changed in 2006 to stop MPs enriching partners/family members through rental expenses claims. At that point, Laws had options that did not involving outing himself. Like finding another place to rent. Given that FOI was in play by then, he actually put his privacy at risk by maintaining a taxpayer-funded financial relationship with his partner.
    It’s not unreasonable to expect MPs to follow the rules, let alone set an example. And let’s not forget all the Lib Dem smugness over expenses in the General Election campaign, and the fact that Laws’ Ministerial job had involved preaching austerity to the public sector.

  • Framer

    If David Laws had simply stopped claiming rent in 2006 no questions would have been asked. The Fees Office did not care if you claimed less, or nothing at all.

    Even Baroness Uddin finally stopped pretending she was overnighting in an empty flat in Kent and switched to claiming a day allowance.

    No questions were asked. And she continued the pretence for a year after she was outed!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Jon,

    Well he would say that and not sure the gay community are to happy with him as he appears to be using his sexuality as an arguement of convenience.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Whatever about “in-negative cacophony of bitterness at work in Britain today ” and although not a big fan of conspiracy theories surely MI5 should have been concerned that someone in such a sensitive position was open to blackmail for breaching the rules and being extremely sensitive and worried about his sexuality.

    However once the story came out he was always going to be dead in the water and it no credit to Clegg and Cameron that they tried to save him given all they jibber-jabbered (talked nonsense) about standards in public life.

  • Mick Fealty

    It is certainly reasonable to expect MPs to follow the rules. But not that the scale of this particular breach demand he lose his job.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    Ah the oul algorithm has come good? Or did you tweak it?

  • Jimmy Mack

    the fact is mr laws was paying his partner almost £1000 per month – it is because he is gay that the liberal left is going soft on him?

    had a politican been paying his wife the same amount they were would, rightly, have been an outcry.

    it money not homosexuality thats the problem , the lib dems are as stinking as the tories.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I have to agree.
    It would be obviously intolerable if Laws was actually victimised because he is gay.
    But likewise it would be intolerable if he was in some way “excused” because hes gay.
    Basically last year we had very briefly Jacqui Smith masquerdaing as the betrayed wife (her hubby watched adult movies) and a parade of Labour wimmin “is it because I is a woman?”
    But the lesson here is if youre a semi articulate Labour MP in central Scotland, dont expect any mercy from the Metropolitan Media.
    If on the other hand youre a classic LibDem metroploitan……well different rules will apply.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    It would be interesting to know who grassed Laws up. Did the Torygraph follow up a tip from a rival Party or a fellow Lib Dem. Or maybe it was personal.
    But its odd that for such a seemingly enlightened Party…the Lib Dems are constantly doing this “confessional thing”, Laws, Oaten, Hughes……not to mention Ashdown and Kennedy.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Jon dumbo read what mick has said, there was nothing wrong with claiming at first, it was only towards the end when the rules changed that a possible issue arose in what was a vague area, rather than draw attention by inquiring into what was permiaible, he just let things run, and possibly (but not for certain) claimed a few more grand that he might have been entitled to.
    In the real world as a result of this witch hunt we have probably lost one of the most financially astute politicians in this government at a critical, at best it will probably cost the country millions at worst…
    The standards we are requiring of our politicians are absurd, not one of the poltical leaders of the past (in the UK or RoI) would have survived the scrutiny of today’s gutter press and not one of us here would last a week in our own jobs if the same rules applied, so I think it is about time we all grew up and allow people who are good at their job to get on with it.

  • Bulmer

    I find the mass of articles trying to suggest outing Laws (financially) was ‘bad’ for the country perplexing. It seems that certain elements of the system want to go back to the good old days when they could easily cover things over and only a small group ‘in the know’ made the decisions on what we read, heard and ultimately thought.

    Laws was incredibly naive to believe his sexual preference would not have come out. The first profile in the Sundies would have had to mention his private life so would we have had lifelong bachelor tagged on? And the Sun would have ignored that for long?

    If he was so naive about his personal life (and apart from his parents very few would care less now) then for a rich man to take money he didn’t need seems to show a less than the public spirited saint he’s being presented as.

    Laws may or may not have been a good beard for the Tories to hide behind when they cut public services to bits.But we cannot go back to the days when someone decided in Westminster what was good for me to know about.

    Maybe the gnashing of teeth is from a claque of journos who realise they no longer can act as gatekeepers.

  • padraig

    I diagnose a chronic and advanced case of shoot the messenger-itis.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    DR,

    You are missing the point – it is not the ‘letter’ of the law that did it for Laws but the spririt – he should not have claimed for ‘renting’ from his partner irrespective of whether it was in the rules allowing him to do it.

    The idea that it is too difficult to get politicans to decide what is ethical and what is not whether it has to do with expenses or otherwise is ridiculous.

    I suppose you also think that Alexander, his replacement, didnt know or understand what he was doing when he decided to designate his 2nd home as his main residence to both claim expenses and then to avoid paying CGT? Technically he broke no rules but should not be in charge of cutting other peoples expenditure when he clealry has an insufficent ability to carry out his own business ethically.

  • townieman

    This coud be the start of a concerted campaign by the right wing Tory media to undermine he coalition by targetting the Lib Dem members of the cabinet.

    I find it strange that Laws came through the entire expenses scandal unscathed, until he got promoted into the cabinet.

  • Alias

    If he misappropriated 40k in bogus rent from hardworking taxpayers or a £40 taxi fare he’s still a fraudster. Honest folks don’t steal (and fraudsters make poor public servants) – and, yes, it’s really that simple.

  • Andrea Gill

    “If he was so concerned with being ‘outed’ then why claim in the first place”

    He may be extremely bright but David Laws is not able to predict the future!

    He rented a room from someone whom he later started a relationship with. Five years later, the rules were changed, meaning that part of the £40’000 were claimed after the rules were changed.

    Furthermore, while the 2006 rules introduced the clause about partners/spouses, the terms were not defined anywhere near as clearly until much later. Incidentally, Laws did move into his own property in 2009, when the terms were made much clearer.

  • David Gordon has it right

    QUOTE.The facts are really quite simple. The rules were changed in 2006 to stop MPs enriching partners/family members through rental expenses claims. At that point, Laws had options that did not involving outing himself. Like finding another place to rent. Given that FOI was in play by then, he actually put his privacy at risk by maintaining a taxpayer-funded financial relationship with his partner. END QUOTE

    As to materiality. Two points. Firstly he has breached the rules and we are now debating the materiality and the proportionality of the punishment. Secondly; savings made from social security fraud cautions or convictions are routinely converted to projected savings over a period of time were the fraud to have continued; it sounds better in the KPIs and press releases among other things. In similar vein it could be argued the Telegraph has saved the taxpayer £150k over the next ten years, £300k over the next twenty years etc.

    The guy had the opportunity in 2006 to alter his arrangements, instead he continued to defraud the taxpayer. To paraphrase and abuse Churchill and Astor ” the principle is established, we’re quibbling about the price”.

  • DC

    A million deaths is just a statistic. When one dies, it is a tragedy.

    Well?

  • Henry94

    There is a mood of zero tolerance for expense claims and anybody caught breaking the rules will get run out of town. I think most people could see that Laws was unlucky to be caught up in the scandal when his motivation was not financial gain. But if anyone is to blame for that it is his fellow MPs who acted like pigs at the trough and created the public mood Laws became a casualty of.

    He is not on the scrap-heap for all time. Mandelson came back a few times and Laws, if he is as good as they say, will too.

  • Doh. Bring back the preview.

  • Mick Fealty

    No. It just started kicking in when this thread got to 21… Moochin’s thread from yesterday carrying nearly 400 comments probably ups the ante for getting on the top panel.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    FJH,

    Surely it would be remiss of MI5 not to have outed him as an expenses culprit given the sensitivity of his post and his own fears of being outed as gay and I suspect the Torygraph will say they got an anonymous tip-off.

    ..and I would not be suprised if the Torygraph has not sat on a few juicy Tory stoies as I think all the expenses files still remain in their custody?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    itwassammymcnallywotdunnit,
    It is the duty…allegedly of the Security Services to inform the PM of any potential threats, including blackmail.
    Whether or not they knew is a different matter.
    Of course a Minister in a sensitive area during Labours 13 years was possibly a security risk because of collecting money for Irish republicans in his youth.
    But ultimately the responsibility lies with David Laws himself.
    It does not seem unreasonable that he would have taken Nick Clegg aside at any time since the Clegg became leader and said “look Nick, this is embarrassing but….”

    The actual real security at Westminster is the files held by the Party Whips Office. They know the secrets or should know……which in the wake of Laws, Hughes, Oaten makes me believe that the Lib Dem Whips …possibly because of a committment to civil liberty……dont know the stuff they should know.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    FJH,

    I had forgotten about Simon Hughes, didnt he campaign against someone because they were gay and then deny he was gay himslef and then was forced to admit it?

    Are we allowed to know, under freedom of information, if MI5 has a file on all cabinet ministers?

  • Jimmy Mack

    Mr Laws is a rich man in his own right, he did not have to claim a penny but he did and he gave it to his partner.

    THis was public money , not his own. He used it to line his and his partners pockets. whether it was right or not is neither here nor there.

    It is no more justifiable than Cameron and his wisteria or claiming for a moat or duck house.

  • david gordon

    New update today from DSD website:
    “A 45 year old woman was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 3 years at Antrim Crown Court last week. The woman had been claiming Income Support and Housing Benefit as a lone parent but investigations proved she had indeed been living with her husband. Her overpayment amounted to £37,287.70 which will have to be repaid to the Department.”
    http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/index/news_items/benefit-fraud-gateway.htm

  • NordTrader

    And that’s exactly it: how come all of a sudden the commentariat are worried about the baby in the bath water now? Having abided by the letter of the law / the rules on expenses 12 months ago was no defence. But for some reason Laws deserves to get a pass? Hmm…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think we can assume that MI5 DOES have a file on everyone in the House of Commons and many beyond the Commons.
    After all MI5 vets all BBC reporters. It had/has an office in BBC in London where a “Christmas tree sticker” on your personnel file meant you were ok.
    Its surprising the BBC dont actually do a programme on it. Well maybe its not that odd. Theres enough info on the Internet identifying BBC journos with er connexions to the Security Services.
    And theres an element of usually passive “vetting” of civil servants here

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I should also point out that the History of MI5 is being taught as a MA degree at Queens University. I wonder if they vet the Students. 🙂

  • andnowwhat

    How dare David Laws assume such predjudice against gays? That really is the thing that gets me. I think he played the victim card and was proven wrongby much of the media’s reaction ie. they couldn’t give a stuff about his sexuality.

  • Mick Fealty

    Last post of the evening from me on this subject:

    – The current annual salary for an MP is £64,766.

    – Challenging job as a Deputy Primary School Headteacher in Lewisham is in the range of £53,000- £61,000.

    My point here has nothing to do with Laws. These should, to some extent, our watchdogs as well as our public reps. That some too often go feral is a problem our journalists (and bloggers) should never go soft on.

    But we should not lose perspective either. If we are going to go heavy on petty rule breaking how do we distinguish between slight infringement of regulations and heavy duty corporate corruption? Or fraud? Few, if any, of these guys are an Archer, Hamilton or an Aitken.

    I am not, BTW, implying that these guys get paid a pittance. But, on the wider scale of things, neither are they paid a fortune. Some (probably too many for the good of a diverse Parliament) like Laws (Osborne, Cameron, Clegg, etc) come from a wealthy background. But the job demands virtual surrender of a private life, up to and including having your bins regularly turned over by British tabloid ‘investigators’ for the least scrap of dirt.

    And you can be pretty sure their wages are vastly outweighed by those of the wealthy lobbyists who rarely miss an opportunity to press home a commercially sensitive point.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    I think it fair to say that your attempt to suggest that the defendnant Mr David Laws is innocent of the charges against on the grounds that they were too minor or simply technical or irrelevant or not proven or not in the greater public interest has failed.

    The court of Slugger has given it’s verdict by a majority decision: Guilty as charged.

    Next Case: Slugger versus Mr Alexander?

  • Francis Irving

    So… Most of the comment writers here would have liked:

    a) Laws to declare his lover as being a partner.

    b) Him to claim a much larger amount from the taxpayer for a mortgage on a house they jointly owned, as he was entitled to do under the rules.

    The idea that he was deliberately thieving stands up to no scrutiny – he could have taken far more money from the taxpayer, completely within the rules. Strange kind of theft.

    Can the people who thought Laws should resign please admit that, and stop claiming he “stole” money. @Alias and @articles in particular need to apologise for making such false claims.

    Yes, attack Laws for being dishonest. Yes, argue that *all* MPs should be claiming less expenses. No, it is not a valid argument to claim Laws stole any money.

  • Jimmy Sands

    To me the problem lies with the expense system itself. It’s designed to give MPs an income which does not appear as part of their “headline” salary but instead of simply giving them the equivalent salary the expenses system invites prurient and corrosive press coverage in the guise of good governance.

    Of course the Laws witchhunt was disproportionate (although his breach of the rules seems unarguable) but then they all were. It ill behoves the Mmes Defarges on the right to cry foul now that one of their own is headed for the tumbril.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed. It demonstrates the degree to which some (too many) have imbibed the Telegraph originated mime: all politicians are liers and thieves. Regardless of the evidence.

    And Jimmy surely has a point, when he points out this revolution was fine with some people when it had a chance of destabilising the old Labour government. It’s one profound limitation on Parris’s particularly partisan brand of commentary that it took one of the coalition to be under threat before he came out with an adequate defence of the political class in the midst of this sh!t storm.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Francis,

    I have heard the ‘mortgage’ defence used elselwhere and although I dont believe it (like you dont yourself?) relieves him of the charge of being ‘dishonest’ – do we actually know for certain that Laws ‘partner’ had a mortgage on the house and that the amount claimed by Laws in rent payments was below the amount he would have been entitiled to claim on the joint mortgage?

  • Brian Walker

    Not sure how big the conspiracy is, as distinct from a feeding frenzy. There is no clear ideological divide, for and against. Laws is also powerfully attacked of the left by for instance, Polly Toynbee.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/31/david-laws-cuts-agenda

    Next was the heat on Danny Alexander, now cooling and then comes speculation about an early return for Laws, if he’s cleared ( though I don’t see how he can be on the clear technicality whatever the difficulty of defining partner)..But if he gets away with a Commons apology and repayment an is prepared to continue in politics, the frenzy may start to be sated. Perhaps..

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Jimmy,

    “invites prurient and corrosive press coverage in the guise of good governance.”

    There can be little doubt that the Torygraph rightly exposed wholeslae abuse and if the Libdems and Laws in partcular had cleaned up their act and not spent their time boasting about their own (relative) innocence then we would not be having this little debate and the distinct smell of hypocricy would not be emantaing from Mr Laws and his successor Mr Alexander.

  • Mick Fealty

    Polly’s attack is a political one, and fair play to her for it. She also makes the point about the median earnings, which cannot be made often enough since people like Polly who live inside London’s metropolitan bubble tend to live within working cohorts where the median earnings are a great deal higher than the politicians on whom they report.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I wonder if Clegg has been sitting on this little bomblet all along – it would be interresting to see his reaction if he was asked if he advised Laws to keep schtum.

  • Granni Trixie

    I have every sympathy with anyone like Laws in the public eye who wants to keep their sexual preferences or relationships private. Why should it be anybody’s business?

    However I was v disappointed in what Matthew Parris wrote as I usually enjoy him because he can be insightful and amusing (I also try to overlook that he is a Tory) . His piece on Laws however smacked of straightforward pro gay prejudice. Conspiracy theories are beside the point
    – he and all politicans as never before ought to keep expenses honest and above reproach. Surely there are enough ‘straight’ (moneywise) MPs around with capability to do jobs such as those Laws has left?

  • jon the raver

    This whole ‘he could have claimed more’ is a watery defence !

    During the whole furore over the exepnses there has been claims that it was ‘less than the amount you could claim’ or ‘within the rules’
    AND yet has there been one politician who has come out and said ‘This is what I have spent to do my job for what I have been elected to do’ ?
    I think not – expenses need a complete overhaul.

    It is acceptable to claim for a mars bar or a sandwich when you have to put in extra hours.
    It is also totally acceptable to claim £40,000 in rent if you have to rent somewhere to attend parliament.

    But the money has to be paid out in the first place – every single expense has to demonstrate that it is legitimate to do the job – therefore with a receipt and with no connection with MPs or their families.

    That should be the one simple rule that all MPs should follow:
    “Its been paid out here is the receipt and there is no connection to any MP, myself or family or friends – no one has benefited from this transaction apart from the electorate”

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Andrea,

    that is a fair point – but I was under the impression (i.e. read somewhere) that the relationship preceeded the moving in.

    Not sure if there is a link clarifying this.

  • In 2005 when she gave evidence to the PAC Polly’s earnings were 110k, one of the lower paid of the top rank.

  • Francis,

    The cork is out of the bottle. It’s now a self-evident truth that all MPs are thieves and liars. Unlike every other section of society that can only be seen as victims of this corruption.

    When demands for more ‘transparency’ are focused exclusively on democratic institutions, you can expect it to damage those institutions disproportionately.

    I was listening to the radio this morning as a few commentators were talking about Scandinavian levels of openness in respect to our personal dealings. Everyone was quite agreed that this madness needs go no further than MPs.

    This whole episode has damaged democracy – and some (not all) of it’s boosters were very useful to those who would cripple regulators.

  • Freya

    The argument that he could have claimed more money is a non starter as far as I’m concerned. He could only claim for where he was living and as he chose to live with his partner he could claim nowt! The fact is if he wanted to keep his sexuality private he should not have claimed any expenses – he could afford it and his secret would have been safe. He instead chose to break the rules so he pays the price. Simples!