Monday, May 31, 2010

Why the Standards Commissioner Should Find Laws Not Guilty

It's amazing how many people have already tried David Laws and found him guilty. I wonder how many of them have actually read page 66 of the Green Book, which states...

Partner means one of a couple, whether of the same sex or of the opposite sex (the other being a Member) who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses.

The clue is in the final five words. And that, ladies and gentlemen is why it ought to be difficult for the Standards Commissioner to do anything other than clear David Laws. Neither he nor Jamie Lundie thought of the other, or treated the other, as a spouse.

Unfortunately it won't do him much good as the word is that David wants to quit politics altogether.

Politics really has come to a parlous state when most people will treat this eventuality with a massive shrug of the shoulders and say 'so what'. The court of public opinion has already found David Laws guilty, and in the end that's what matters nowadays. All politicians are guilty as charged, no matter how trumped up the charges might be.

And that ladies and gentlement is part of the reason why many people - me among them - want nothing more to do with national elected politics.

91 comments:

Tcheuchter said...

Why did a rich man claim anything from the public purse?

Tom said...

Aaaaaaaagh Iain.

Merely asserting something does not make it true. You & I could assert that we are the answer to England's defensive frailties or that we are thin. Palpably neither statement is true.

Laws asserts he did not view his partner as his spouse. Sure, they lived together for 8 years, they had sex (he has said he only has had 1 partner), he did not have sex with anyone else and he loaned him 200k to buy a new house. For the rest of us (be it in divorce cases, benefit claims, whatever) that would be called common law spouse.

Are you really saying that people will not wish to be MPs becuase they are now expected as MPs to be treated in financial matters like the rest of us rather than in a better way?

If the commissioner says that it was okay to pay a rental rate for a room at a 50% premium to someone you were in a relationship with & not declare it then he is on a different planet to we mere taxpayers.

And if he or you are relaxed that Laws claims for utilities fell sharply after he had to provide receipts than you live in a different planet. In the private sector if you found that someone had been inflating their expenses for years they would be OUT. Why do you persist in the belief that MPs should not abide by the same rules & standards as the rest of us?

John Moss said...

So, Iain, the test has to be, did they share a bed?

What a pretty pass we have come to, eh?

matterhorn said...

If it is correct that the "court of public opinion" has already found him guilty, this is simply a further example of the infantilisation of the British public that seems to have begun during the Blair years. The Telegraph was extremely naughty headlining the misleading £40,000 figure and asserting that it did not want to reveal Mr Laws's sexuality (and that Mr Laws chose to do this himself). Did they really think they could run the story without this fact emerging? I would like to know who put the Telegraph up to this story. There is certainly something strange about the whole thing and I hope you, Mr Dale, will use your contacts to find out who was behind it all.

Adrian said...

"The court of public opinion has already found David Laws guilty"

No it hasn't. Elements of the press have already found him guilty. Blameless journalists who would never claim for so much as a ham sandwich on expenses without producing a receipt and explaining why they needed it.

And, if one is honest, Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Brown have their share of blame for their supine behaviour in accepting that MPs were wrong and that they "still just don't get it".

The system is broken, and the politicians don't have the balls to fix it.

Jimmy said...

Obviously when trying to restore public confidence in our elected representatives, you can never go far wrong with showering the public with sophistry.

Hole. Digging. Stop.

Plato said...

I sincerely hope that David Laws isn't so bruised that he throws in the towel.

I would well understand why he'd want to and be justified in doing so.

That said, he's got an awful lot to offer and it would be a crying shame that all his efforts were sacrificed on the alter of a Daily Telegraph grubby expose that was a little merit and did great damage to getting our country back on its feet.

OnceOuted said...

Iain, it is with a somewhat heavy heart that I must disagree.

Regardless of whether the Green Book gives wriggle room or not, it is abundantly clear that Mr. Laws valued his privacy at £950 per month.

His problem is that he asked the tax payer to pay his monthly rent which he in turn paid to someone who was at least a significant other. If we are being asked to pay for it, we are entitled to know who it is being paid to. Bluntly, two people, same house, sexual relationship looks like a duck, walks like a duck and goes quack. This "being together but living separate social lives tosh" does not come close to assuaging public concerns that Mr. Laws was bunging his boyfriend just shy of a grand of expenses cash every month.

Even David Blunkett might have perceived that as being just a little bit risky and likely to backfire spectacularly.

Whether the Standards Commissioner finds Mr. Laws guilty or not is an internal, technical and (for most of us outside Westminster) a trivial matter. The Standards Commissioner can only report whether the rules were broken or not. He cannot report on whether the Minister can continue to command any respect from the electorate.

Daedalus said...

Iain

You mentioned a while ago that you thought the blog was coming to a watershed; maybe this is that watershed.

Personally I thing that David Laws should have hung on for the committee to make up its mind. If he does resign from politics the country will be the worse for it. The fact Prescott will go to the Lords "for Pauline" really shows how low we have gone really.

Daedalus

eb said...

That Iain is why many people, me included, consider many politicians to be primarily out for themselves and what they can get. Not to be believed or trusted.

If one had a female partner whom one did not treat as a spouse she would surely be a mistress. How big a rucus would there be if an MP financed his mistress from public funds. Why should a male partner who is not treated as a spouse be any different?

juga said...

If you interpret the rule as you say, it's a huge loophole that anyone could use. Any couple could say they don't consider each other as spouses.

The spirit of the rule is clear. It is designed to apply to anyone who is "in a relationship" as opposed to just heing friends. The rule is quite plainly there so that being formally married or in a civil partnership is not the defining criterion.

David Laws admitted helping his "partner" buy a flat. I do not believe anyone who is just a friend does that. It was not said that this was a loan, which implies it was a gift between people who are committed to being together indefinitely. i.e. Partners within the normal meaning of the word.

You may have a point that the rule was poorly drafted. However the Green Book also says: "Members ... who are uncertain about any allowance, should contact the Department beforehand for advice". It also says "Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else".

David Laws' claim has quite obviously given rise to the appearance of an improper personal financial benefit to his partner. If this comes as a surprise to him, he must be the only person in the whole country. As a politician, he should have seen this possibility and checked with the fees office and probably with Nick Clegg.

Lord Blagger said...

Or perhaps they don't want to take part because the opportunity of making as much money out of the public sector no longer exists.

e.g. The Kinnocks. Multi millionairs and worked all their life in the public sector.

To be quite honest, I don't care. The majority have ripped off the public for large sums of money. The current defence is that

1) they could of ripped us off for more
2) other has ripped us off for more
3) He's a nice chap
4) He's gay
5) He would have made the cuts
...

None of it washes. He broke the rules.

1. It's what government does to the citizen anyway. eg. Parking. Guilty unless proven otherwise. Ditto with IR, ...

What does it matter when an MP gets done in the same way? After all they wrote the laws. They voted on the law. It's their area of expertise. Ignorance in their case is not a defence.

No doubt there will the claim, ah, but we won't get good MPs. There is an easy solution to this. Give us control.

1. Don't take the cash in the first place.
2. Then let people have the choice. The final say on all issues.

More tax? Voters get to say
More borrowing? Voters get to say
More spending? Voters get the say

Nick

Pam Nash said...

Time to draw a line under the expenses affair, for the good of all parties - have an amnesty, unless it's criminal and the police choose to take action, and move on. The DT are playing games to pursue their own agenda and to let ANY newsaper do that is dangerous indeed.

I saw hidden away in their 'analysis' on Laws this revealing line: 'There is, of course, no suggestion at this stage that Mr Laws has broken any criminal laws.'But they've already hung, drawn and quartered him. DT as investigators, Judge and Jury? A very worrying thought.

Benny said...

From people I've spoken to from Yeovil, they greatly admire him and would be devastated if he stood down.

Alan Douglas said...

If it came to a choice between the vast majority of politicians and the secretive Barclay brothers, sadly now owners of the Daily Telegraph, I would definitely choose the politicians.

WHAT EXACTLY IS the agenda of the brothers ? And if they told us, would we be right to believe them ?

Alan Douglas

John said...

The court of public opinion certainly hasn't found David Laws guilty: The Daily Telegraph has.

The DT is playing a dangerous game by rattling the sabre over CGT. Intellectually, the arguments espoused by John Redwood et al might well be correct, but the fact is that the agreement made between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives has become a key part of the coalition's foundations.

What happens if the DT gets its way? Will the Lib Dems be happy to sustain the Tories in office, as mere vote fodder for the DT's favoured Conservative legislation?

Naturally not. The DT should remember that the collapse of the coalition will not automatically result in a Conservative majority government.

Patrick said...

I interpret the last 5 words as meaning that the couple have sex together. Thats what spouses do.

The Green book is trying not to be vulgar about it.

Delilah said...

I would look at it the other way, Iain. This resignation is unique in that it was prompt, honest and humbled, yet both party leaders showered him with praise and respect and made it clear even as they took his resignation that they hoped for his return. It could be a watershed moment (once Laws is cleared) for both leaders to effectively remind the media that they, not the newspapers, run the government and welcome back David Laws.

Plus, David Laws will no longer have to fear exposure - he acknowledged himself it was better to live openly, and will hopefully be able to enjoy doing so.

Main thing is I hope he is not lost to parliament as he seems to be the real deal: intelligent, well liked and respected by all parties, and dignified and coherent at the dispatch box. He could recover from this an be a future party leader.

Anyway, back to you Iain - in what way are you throwing the towel in on national politics? Do you mean this blog, or have you decided not to try to seek selection as an MP again?

Nick said...

The problem is that these are the rules that MPs themselves laid down; This massive conflict of interest has inevitably led to public outcry, and no politician can thus hope to be protected even if they acted 'within the letter of the rules', since the whole premise of the rules - go on, have a spending spree on the taxpayer - is massively unpopular.

Steve said...

Iain, few are at their best when self-righteous and pompous. You are no exception.

You suggest that people have prematurely pronounced Laws guilty; your 'not guilty' verdict is just as premature. And spare us the 'innocent until ... ' routine which if it means anything is to do with criminal proceedings, not the workings of a disciplinary tribunal.

I don't know what 'treat each other as spouses' means, do you? There may be some precednt from previous relevant rulings but absent a definition, how can you be so confident? As you well know, there are those who would say that no same-sex couple can by definition treat each other as spouses.

FWIW I wish that Laws had found it possible to stay on.

Plato said...

Patrick "I interpret the last 5 words as meaning that the couple have sex together. Thats what spouses do.

The Green book is trying not to be vulgar about it."

Oh do give over - most of us have had sex with someone who we've had problems remembering their name the next day, for the occasional bit of fun/comfort or old flames.

Are they all suddenly spouses??

No one except Messrs Laws and Linden know what their relationship was. Since they were NEVER seen in public social occasions together - that tells me that they didn't appear to be spouses or partners in the decade they knew each other.

That's a VERY long time to supposedly be a pair and for no one to ever actually see it.

Peter said...

Iain i am afraid you are losing the plot, David Laws has been giving our money to his partner and no amount of playing with words will avoid that conclusion. Let it go.

Delilah said...

It can be argued, although how tawdry and demeaning to do so about oneself, that having sex does not make someone a 'partner' comparable to a spouse.

It's entirely reasonable to say that Laws/Lundie's self-imposed purdah on fully and openly sharing their lives publicly, restricting their socialising and not having shared family/friend contacts - meant they did not have lives as partners/spouses.

Yes, it's a bit Clintonian. But taken in the additional context of the claim made being less than the openly partnered/married MPs making huge mortgage claims, and comparable to any other rental arrangement, does it really matter? Er, no.

Plus has anyone made an even remotely comparable fuss to Sion Simon (lab) and Bernard Jenkins (con) for similar rentals? Er no - they've paid the money back and tis all water under the bridge.

Ben said...

Laws has already admitted that what he did was wrong, in his public statement.

Specifically, he used the Parliamentary expenses system, illegitimately, to conceal a relationship of which he was ashamed.

The only honourable thing he has done in all this is to quit speedily (after being found out).

His departure marks a welcome step in cleaning up corruption in the political system.

Gervais said...

Well, maybe for the best - if he falls to bits over a simple 'Domestic' fiddle, how could we expect him to cope when the IMF guys with the Baseball Bats come knocking at the door

Noetic said...

That is the 2009 one isn't it? The 2006 one isn't so clear AFAIK, no definitions etc. And remember, in 2009, when this was clarified, Laws *did* move out.

2006 version:
http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-finance-office/greenbook2006.pdf

Latest version: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-finance-office/greenbook0907.pdf

................................. said...

I'm sorry to say that I agree with you, Iain. Having been on the receiving end of some spiteful attack efforts from the press not so long ago, I no longer have any interest in ever going for the candidate's list.

What seems to be particularly bitterly ironic is that it is the same press that at once demands that politicians are "authentic" and independent, and yet as soon as they can find anything remotely interesting about someone's private life they will use it to destroy you.

Glyn H said...

Laws is obviously a bright guy and a severe loss the HMG, but politically nieve. Firstly he could not seen the difference statism and what non socialists believe - otherwise he would have not joined the LDs. Section 28 is no excuse as it sought only to prevent prosleytising homosexuality. Hardly what Laws was about so he should have supported it! Secondly with his brain one could have seen the 2006 rule changes gave him notice to quit paying his mistress (or equivalent) from public funds.
However his reasonably quick resignation (praise be after the Labour embarrasments including the wretched Scotland woman) leaves room for rehabilitation.
Hammond should have got the job and Alexander left with Letwin, seemingly a sensible pairing.
(E&OE; this being done on a phone so can't fully check it for silly typos!)

................................. said...

I'm sorry to say that I agree with you, Iain. Having been on the receiving end of some spiteful attack efforts from the press not so long ago, I no longer have any interest in ever going for the candidate's list.

What seems to be particularly bitterly ironic is that it is the same press that at once demands that politicians are "authentic" and independent, and yet as soon as they can find anything remotely interesting about someone's private life they will use it to destroy you.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I don't think this is helpful. Had the DHSS been spying on them, the inevitable conclusion would be that they were "cohabiting", or as they say in Scotland "abidie in". Technically, he is bang to rights.

However, for me there are two important mitigating factors:
The first is that I believe that Laws was so fanatically precious about his privacy that he got himself in a mess with the proper way to do things. Secondly, the actual cost to the tax-payer in this is piffling, especially to someone who is wealthy.

The latter point is crucial. As a wealthy man, I doubt whether David Laws even saw the amounts involved as real money. This may sound odd if you have never met wealthy, generous people, but in his world, of city trading, the sums involved were equivalent of one decent lunch every month. It is wise to bear that in mind, however shocking it may seem to the hoi-polloi.

Over the week-end some were saying that Laws was even considering leaving politics altogether. I can see why he might have thought about that during these dark moments. But he must dismiss it. The mood of the leadership, and I believe, the majority of the country, is with him and hopes that one day, and soon, he will return to make a valuable contribution.

It may be just me, but I think The Daily Telegraph has done the job and should move on. I no longer feel these "revelations" are in the public interest.

Noetic said...

@Tcheuchter - "Why did a rich man claim anything from the public purse?"

Every MP is entitled to have their added expenses covered, I'm not saying all claims by Laws and others were above-board (the level claimed dropped dramatically across the board when they started demanding receipts!) but I sincerely disagree with the notion that someone's personal finances should in any way block them from being paid for their work or their added expenses!

Keir Hardie said...

"treat each other as spouses."

They were boyfriend and boyfriend, so just in what way did they not treat each other as spouses?!?!

neilmack said...

I sincerely hope the Standards Commissioner does exonerate Mr Laws. My reading of the story makes me think he will. But the baying mob will just holler "whitewash" and carry on vilifying a thoroughly decent and conscientious man.

The blogs I've looked at today are a dreadful reflection on my boneheaded fellow citizens. Hundreds of Guardian readers all spluttering with an ersatz moral indignation straight out of the pages of the Daily Mail. Over on the Daily Telegraph Gerald Warner can't even be bothered to get his facts straight. Just so long as he raises a howl from his groupies (they share a ward at Rampton). And the rapier wit of Guido Fawkes is hosting an anti-gay event of quite astonishing puerility.

If as Iain suggests Mr Laws quits politics I shall be sorry. Our loss. I'll wish him and his well.

Joe Public said...

They screwed each other & Laws claimed expenses (paid for by us taxpayers) to pay Lundie.

Was it prostitution then?

If it was kosher, why has Laws offered to refund us?

Peter said...

I'm afraid you are incorrect Iain.

The Green Book for 2006, the time when Mr Laws started breaking the rules, states

ACA must not be used to meet the costs of a
mortgage or for leasing accommodation from:
-yourself;
- a close business associate or any organisation or
company in which you - or a partner or family
member - have an interest; or
- a partner or family member


as well as the notice

You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit

I think, on the rules at the time, Mr Laws is indeed in breach. Will you bother to update your post to reflect the facts, or is this a sign of the weakness of Tory bloggers come the coalition?

cyberboris said...

So many of the influential bloggers are sympathetic to David Laws and feel what has happened is wrong. Iain Dale. Guido. Fraser Nelson. Tory Bear, Matthew Parris, to name but a few.

Tcheuter, re. "Why did a rich man claim anything from the public purse" David Cameron, George, they bought houses and claimed the mortgage payments. If you do a job, you are entitled to the expenses, that is a silly argument, like you are saying rich
people should always work for free. Being a politician is a hugely stressful, not that well paid job.
Tom, there are so many different types of relationship nowadays. It is not clearly split between partner/non partner anymore.

It sounds to me as though Mr. Laws genuinely believed, fond though he was of the chap, that they were not formal partners, so he believed he was entitled to do what he did. Because of his Catholic background, he found it hard to accept fully the situation he was in, he was in denial. I am sorry if that sounds complicated, but I have Catholic male friends and they deal with that situation in exactly the same way.

We should not judge. It is terribly hard for anyone brought up a Catholic to accept being gay, and even if they manage to do it for themselves, they cannot face the repercussions involving their families. Sadly, there are so many horribly insensitive people around who make life hell for anyone in this situation. Mr. Laws has been forced to face reality in the most public, brutal way possible. He must be going through hell.

D. Bum said...

Sorry Iain, Laws is a benefit fraudster and we can't have people like him in politics and I don't understand why you seek to defend him. I like many thought him excellent and like virtually everyone in the country couldn't give a toss about his sexuality but the man has been on the fucking fiddle! So he can piss the fuck off. Fuck him.

alan said...

There are many Civil Servants in the UK, many of whom are very likely to be losing their jobs in the current crisis. If ANY of them had conducted themselves as Mr Laws had they would have been sacked, immediately. It does not matter a hoot who his partner was - he committed fraud, and must be held accountable. It may not be illegal, given that MPs make their own rules, but it is still wrong, wrong, wrong.

MPs - and you, Iain, and many others in the Westminster bubble - simply do not get it. Goodness knows, you have had enough warning, but it still is not getting through.

Joe Public said...

CyberBoris @ 10;17

Thank you for your many subjective opinions.

Now would you care to provide some facts?

William said...

Spouses also introduce each other to each others' family and friends. This, more than the lack of shared bank accounts, is what strikes me as the reason it seems that they felt they were not partners according to the Green Book.

jailhouselawyer said...

I don't care what the Green Book states. However, I do care what the criminal law states. Let him explain it to a jury. The law on theft is clear. I would be very surprised if a jury accepted the privacy defence.

Johnny Norfolk said...

He has been on the fiddle no matter how you lok at it.So many who should know better are at it. Its just not good enough.

50 Calibre said...

The Standards Commissioner will find that the excuse offered by Mr Laws for helping himself to taxpayer's money are just too thin to be credible and will find him guilty.

It just goes to show that it's entirely possible to be very talented and an idiot too. I suspect that there are a lot of such people.

50 Calibre said...

Quite how protecting one's sexuality can be equated with stealing lots of money from the public purse is beyond me.

trevorsden said...

'Tch ...' huh? define, when would you say 'yes start claiming' where would you put your sliding scale?

what rubbish.

Are expenses means tested ... NO.

Laws received a service. the provision of accommodation. He obtained accommodation at a rate that was a good deal for the taxpayer - it did not 'cost' us anything, it saved us.r.

take Jacqui Smith - she designated her property so that her real home was treated like her second home. A real swindle for which she was just given a polite rap.

Laws' issue is a pimple compared to a mountain. As Daedelus says - we have Prescott becoming a Lord so that his cockolded wife can become a laydeee. Pathetic - truly pathetic.

Winkled Weasel - the Telegraph will not move on. It wants the power it has an agenda - but you can bet it will not investigate the Barclay Bros. I do not buy it now and am less inclined to now more than ever.
I also suspect that the power stream in the Telegraph is homophobic.

Perdix said...

Can't blame you for not wanting to be a politician. It seems that the DT plans to use its expenses records to blackmail/smear any politician they don't like or to try to sell a few extra papers by creating a so-called "scandal". By digging up past expenses claims and putting them in headlines they will convince the proles that "they are all still at it" even when the claims were lawful. However I have a solution to the Coalition's need to raise some money to pay off Gordon's debts - put VAT on newspapers, particularly those whose owners are not normally resident in the UK for tax purposes.
The hypocracy of the Dead Tree Press stinks.

Lauchlan McLean said...

Iain's interpretation of the rule book may be technically correct however I am cynical enough to believe that David Laws knew he was on shaky ground in claiming the expenses he did, therefor he is either very arrogant or extremely stupid. My guess is he will leave politics for good.

John R said...

The new politics?
I dont think so.
Brand new piggies.
Same old trough.

Jimmy said...

"Why did a rich man claim anything from the public purse?"

That is how rich men become rich men.

Noetic said...

@jailhouselawyer: "I don't care what the Green Book states. However, I do care what the criminal law states"

The Green Book *is* the law on this matter, for crying out loud!

Freddie said...

Lived together and treated each other as spouses is a polite legal 1970s long hand for had a sexual relationship.

It's an accepted legal phrase from a dependancy claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.

For them not to have been treating each other as spouses it means that they weren't having sex. I don't think anyone is claiming that...

Weygand said...

I have a high regard for Laws and am extremely sorry that he has had to leave the government. However, he had no choice but to leave it (especially if, as I hope, he is to be rehabilitated).

The issues of privacy and that he could have claimed the money in a different way are irrelevant to the breach of rules even though they may be very relevant to the sanction that might be expected for that breach - and explain why we might expect him to return.

Anyone who cannot see the impossibility of a man accused of wrongly claiming £40k of public money leading a department imposing cuts on people for whom that sum is a fortune had best forego any hope of a career in politics.

Peter said...

I don't get this 'saving the taxpayer money' thing.

He paid £900 a month for a room in a house. I work in Westminster, similar hours to a government minister I suspect, and am paid about 1/3 as much.

I do not begrudge MPs their second homes, but I can manage to find a room for £500 a month - if Mr Laws is really saving money he would have found a room like this, not a £900 one.

kev said...

Not the court of public opinion at all.

The media were judge, jury and executioner.

The original Telegraph story failed to provide any balance, for example 400 MPs claimed more than Laws in accommodation allowances. And the rest of the media, with a few very honourable exceptions, followed suit. And the public swallowed the media line because they were not familiar with the extenuating circumstances, and because of residual anger from the original revelations.

The feral media is more and more out of control with every passing year. What are the causes? Murdoch and "The Sun wot won it"? New Labour's addiction to the culture of spin?

Just as much as political reform, we need some kind of media reform.

Samuel Dale said...

You are presuming his innocence in the exact same way you condemn others for presuming his guilt!

Samuel Dale said...

Also, just because David Laws claims Mr Lundie was not his partner does not mean he wasn't. You're simply accepting as fact the asserations of a desperate politician under immense pressure. I'm sure you're disappointed Laws has gone but don't let it cloud your judgement

..Silicon Implant!! said...

I see an attempt here to work out whether they were partners or not. It seems to me that two people who are wracked with Catholic guilt about their sexuality and who sleep with each other as a safer, more discreet, more civilised and more organised alternative to seeking illicit guilty comfort in the bushes on Hampstead Heath, might well see themselves as 'not partners'.

You will be aware of the concept of 'Friends with Benefits' arrangements amongst heterosexuals - people who vaguely get on with each other, and use each other to satisfy their mutual physical needs, without seeking or developing an emotional relationship. Leaving aside the fact that such a relationship would disqualify somebody from being a national politician in the important court of Daily Mail Leader Writer opinion, would they be considered 'partners' or 'spouses'?

STFC Executive said...

Rich men, should know better, recall soon.

Battersea Boy said...

IMHO, the key question is:

Has David Laws repaid the money?

If so, then he has already accepted that he wrongfully claimed it.

liz said...

Having read your article in the MoS I can sympathise to some extent with the notion that Mr Laws wished to keep his private life (ie his sexuality) private. However, Mr Laws was in a better position than most NOT to risk exposure by simply NOT claiming for rental expenses and risk having that can of worms opened. How do you suppose anyone caught claiming benefits under the same scenario would be judged by the Benefit fraud department?
The so called 'court of public opinion' (to which you refer in a tone reminiscent of NuLabour) doesn't much care for the subtleties of the last 5 words of the green book - WE know we wouldn't get away with it - and are sick to death of THEM doing it with impunity.

wild said...

What a lot of tripe!

You claiming that you do not want to be an MP (after just trying and failing to be one) is merely sour grapes. It implies a lack of backbone and determination. Why do you want to be an MP anyway? In order to further inflate your ego? Maybe that is why they rejected you?

David Laws had to resign because he has a case to answer. I await the results of the review. If Laws cannot face going back into politics after all this attention he should never have joined in the first place. Again it implies a lack of backbone.

If he has behaved well he has nothing to be ashamed of, if he has behaved badly he should be ashamed.

John Redwood would make a far better Chief Secretary. Laws got the job because of politics. I do not hear Redwood whining and moaning about being denied a Cabinet post. He just gets on with attempting to make constructive suggestions in pursuit of that thing beyond the self called the "National Interest".

Iain Dale said...

Wild, don't pretend to know me. I made the decision long before this election that I wouldn't try again if I didnt get in this time. And part of the reason was a growing disillusion with the way things were going. But it wasn't only that. I will be 52 at the next election. Few people get selected in their 50s.

Lady Finchley said...

Reading between the lines it would seem that they were not partners but rather f..k buddies or friends with benefits at the time. In that case it would explain a lot. Having said that, he's a bright enough guy to be aware that he was sailing close to the wind. And the self-declared 'moral arbiter' that is the Telegraph would stand in judgement. What do you expect of a paper that employs Simon Heffer to puke his bilge on a regular basis. There is nothing more that Heffer and his ilk would like more than to de-stabilse the coalition.

Tom said...

The other part of the reason, I suspect, is the far worse behaviour of the politicians who get away with it (and don't even feel guilty about it). Greed, dishonesty, corruption... it puts me off before I've even started.

wild said...

I think the exposure of MP's expenses has been very healthy for our politics, unless of course you are a politician.

If politicians have been shown to be untrustworthy it is their own fault, and it is something voters should know about before letting politicians award themselves yet more power.

In any case in an open society the people who pay their representatives expenses have a right to know whether or not they are being taken for a ride.

As for 52 being too old to be an MP. If you want to change something you have to fight for it.

No doubt there was a time when being openly gay counted against being selected.

Duncan said...

On the bright side, if we ever got proper electoral reform you're just the sort of man who'd benefit from STV. You'd get my additional preferences, at any rate. Perhaps it's time to get writing books and become a sort of elder statesman of the centre-right. Lord Dale makes a lot more sense than Lord Prescott (or Lord Paisley!)

Thank you for continuing to be sensible about all this. Are you sure about David's intention being to leave politics altogether? That's very sad news.

@Tcheuchter - Rightly or wrongly the system is that you should not be put out of pocket for being an MP and so you can claim expenses incurred by being one back (such as the cost of living in London). David might be wealthy but if he had to extend his own mortgage in Yeovil to lend James money then evidently his finances can't be very liquid. That aside, his claims were much lower than they could have been had he been open about his sexuality and co-signed on the mortgage (less than half, in fact). He should perhaps have referred himself to parliamentary standards back in 2006 when the rules changed but he apparently reasoned that given his status as regards James was ambiguous, and the only possible outcome of the PS inquiry would be things either staying the same or his costing the taxpayer more money either in mortgage claims or in rent elsewhere that there was no harm in choosing instead to continue to hide his sexuality.

Jimmy said...

"I don't get this 'saving the taxpayer money' thing."

He could have claimed even more.

Amongsts ConDems this is apparently considered a defence, at least where their own are concerned.

Gazza's UsefulTips and Blog said...

So many hypocrites writing here. It is entirely reasonable for every employee to claim expenses, whether they are rich or not. This is just naked envy.

More interestingly, what do you mean by giving up on national election politics?

Adrian said...

Although I think it's a pity that Laws has had to resign, I don't think you can claim that he did nothing wrong.

Nor do I think that MP's should now be given a break - we need to carry on until the whole sorry expenses mess is cleared up.

Just Wonderful said...

It's a shame that David Laws cannot continue in his post.

It's also a shame that when I, as a member of the armed forces, had to stand for 3 hours in a line to justify eating for the previous 6 days.

When I was claiming it wasn't as a millionaire paying rent, it was as a member of the armed forces claiming to eat for food whilst being made to deploy for 4 months away from my family in support of the National Interest.

Don't get me wrong please. I am not, and will never be, a Labour voter. I find their politics revolting. I do know that had I claimed in a similar manner as did David Laws I would face a court martial.

He did wrong, he should accept it and all members of Parliament who have "juggled" the laws and rules should also accept the same and go quietly into the night.

If Parliamentarians had to abide by the same rules as the people the send into conflict I would guess they would not fall foul of the rules.

Guthrum said...

I cannot believe this !

What he does behind closed doors is nothing to do with any of us.

When he uses that as an excuse to cover dipping into the public purse that is what he is going to be criticised for.

The worse that is going to happen to him is an apology to Parliament. In private business instant dismissal for gross misconduct and an investigation by HMRC.

Stuff the Green book, he should have lived by the same rulebook imposed on the rest of us

Catosays said...

Let's be perfectly honest here Iain, the only reason you are attempting to defend Laws is because he is 'gay'.

It's obvious to almost everyone that the guy has ripped off the taxpayer and for him to claim that he and Lundie were not partners/spouses is patent rubbish.

Ian said...

Tcheuchter

Because it's not a means-tested system. It is there to cover expenses incurred as a result of being an MP, and wouldn't be incurred if he/she was not an MP.

Good to see the politics of envy are still going strong though.

Tcheuchter said...

@ Noetic & trevorsden

I am not questioning a rich man's entitlement to legitimate expenses. I do however question why a rich man feels he should avail himself of the entitlement.

@ Jimmy

I take your point.

LEEROGER said...

The court of public opinion has found Laws guilty but you have found him innocent.Politics is in a parlous state because of cheating politicians.Have you heard of priciple?The fact that the rent was reasonable is neither here nor there.It should not have been claimed.If Laws did not consider Lundie a partner why did he live with him for 8 years and lend him £200k towards a new house? Iain, get out of the westminster village and find ou what people in the real world are thinking.

HampsteadOwl said...

Laws has
(a) Resigned
(b) Admitted, albeit in somewhat circular language, that what he did was wrong
(c) Committed to paying the money back

It would be reasonable to conclude from this, wouldn't it, that it was David Laws who pronounced David Laws guilty, not the infamous "court of public opinion". So for that matter why does the Standards Commissioner need to investigate any further at all, especially if his investigation is going to trespass into the bedroom, a place we shouldn't be paying public servants to go?

As I wrote in an earlier comment, I believe that Laws' honourable resignation did something to put a little bit of integrity back into British public life. It would be a shame if that all gets washed away through an investigation that serves no other purpose than to provide a platform for prurient speculation about the nature (or existence) of an MP's sexual relationship with his partner.

Tcheuchter said...

@ Ian

I can assure you that envy did not prompt my comment and am aware that MPs, no matter what the state of their finances, are entitled to recompense for legitimate expenses.

It would, however, be nice & a fine example to others, if those in a position to do so were to decline the offered recompense pro bono publico.

You will understand I do not live in the real world.

cyberboris said...

http://cyberboris.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/religion-can-tear-your-soul-in-two/

Iain, I know that religion can often come into these situations. We may think we understand what people go through when they come from very religious families, whose beliefs are at odds with their true selves. Unless you have first hand experience of the conflicts, you don't know.

Alex said...

Iain, I have to agree with uou on this point. The whole point about rules is that to be effective they have to be clearly defined and operated according to the precise wording wherever possible.

If that that means that some borderline cases such as Laws seem to benefit, then so be it, life is like that some times.

I think it comes to a pretty pass when we think that we can decide on behalf of others that they are a couple.

The position of welfare recipients is slightly different. They are requesting support from the state based on their needs, which the state is quite entitled to assess according to specific rules.

Laws is was per se entitled to recover the cost of his second residence, subject to the rules that would prevent him paying rent to a spouse or partner or someone who is treated as a partner.

I would have thought that it was pretty obvious that to be treated as an unmarried/(civil partnershipped) partner, the first requirement would be that the nature of the relationship would be openly declared, which was not the case here.

Little Black Sambo said...

Time to stop digging, I think.

Roger Thornhill said...

Iain,

I think you may be a little too close to the problem to see it clearly, on a number of dimensions.

Had this been a female other, there would be not a shimmer of doubt. Had this been a Labour minister, you would not doubt it.

Regardless, Laws created a situation so as to put himself significantly at risk of blackmail*. That was irresponsible. Extremely so.

In addition, Laws did signify, almost totemically, what was right about the Coalition in many peoples' eyes. He was willing to speak about cuts and had a good delivery.

What is tragic is that if as it seems Laws will not bring himself to return, it might actually be an indication of his decency, unlike the shameless, brass-necked, shallow scoundrels we have had to endure for 13 years.


"The sharpest blades are easiest blunted".




*This is why it was so right to end the ridiculous laws against homosexuality.

p smith said...

If I have to hear one more time that this is a "national tragedy" I will puke. He unquestionably broke the spirit of the rules (and in my view he broke the letter of them also). Wasn't it the Libdems that sat atop the moral high ground lecturing the two main parties about how important is was not just to comply with the letter of the law like some Belize dwelling non dom but to abide by the obvious spirit of the law? Laws himself sanctimoniously lectured his fellow members as to how clean he was by choosing to rent rather than claim a second home allowance.

If Laws was not gay, there would be no room for debate at all. Man lives with woman for 9 years, has sex with her, loves her, helps her out with home purchase and then claims expenses for rent paid to her. Game over. The fact that Laws is seeking to argue that they did not treat each as other spouses because they "lived separate social lives" is an extraordinary defence. Is he pleading promiscuity as a defence? Or do they occasionally go to the pub with different people? Either way it's bollocks.

And can we please do away with this nonsense that he is "Mr Integrity". Laws knew this was dubius but throughout the expenses furore he declined to come clean or even refer it. It was only once he was exposed by the DT that he referred it and even then, he intended to hang on. It was only once Dave made it clear to him that he could not have this hanging over his government for months that he "decided to resign".

I have sympathy for the fact that his private life has been exposed to publicity but he didn't have to fleece the taxpayer to the tune of £40,000 to reimburse himself for rent paid to his unspouselike lover.

Sean Haffey said...

"I will be 52 at the next election. Few people get selected in their 50s."

Isn't it bizarre that in politics, where you would most expect experience to count, there is this age bar that in almost any other field would be illegal?

jailhouselawyer said...

@ noetic: "The Green Book *is* the law on this matter, for crying out loud!"

No it is not. The Green Book is merely an internal document like club rules.

Nobody is above the law, not even MPs.

This is a clear clase of obtaining £40,000 by deception. This is a criminal law matter and not a Green Book matter.

neil craig said...

That is a very technical as well as dubious quibble to rely on Iain. Which is what the entire scandal has been about people doing.

Laws is an extremely rich man who did not need to rip off the public so.

Anna said...

Laws was a public servant. Compare what happened to David Laws with what happens to an ordinary civil servant who breaks the rules. Recently, a civil servant who used the office post to dispatch his ebay sales (total postage costs £40) was not given the chance to resigning. He was summarily sacked and lost all his pension rights. He was told that prosecution was avoided only because the cost of court action was too high. He broke the rules and paid the price. David Laws, by contrast, was able to resign with dignity, and keep his job as an MP.

His sexuality is a red herring. If you want to keep your sexuality a secret, DON'T LIVE WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND!. And certainly don't help him pay, from public funds, the mortgage on a house that was subsequently sold at a profit of £198,000.

And, if you are an honourable man, don't advertise on your website how squeaky clean you are and remind the public of the excesses of MPs in neighbouring constituences. That was really, really shabby.

Homosexuals have suffered appalling treatment in the past from the law, religion and social attitudes and thank heaven most of us are more civilised now. But sympathy for Laws' private anguish - and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel for him - mustn't blind us to the fact that he did a fiddle. OK, many MPs have got away with much worse - and these many unfairnesses are at the root of a lot of the ongoing hullaballoo. There is much unfinished business that the 'show trials' will not settle. People are still furious that many MPs got off so lightly or, like Laws, appeared to be squeaky clean when they were not.

I'd have respected David Laws more if he'd admitted that he was sucked into a corrupt culture rather than using his desire for privacy as an excuse for his wrongdoing.

Noetic said...

@Anna "If you want to keep your sexuality a secret, DON'T LIVE WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND!"

He wasn't his boyfriend when they moved in together, he started a relationship with his landlord two years after moving in together.

George said...

One wonders whether Mr Lundie has declared the income received from David Laws on his tax returns. The sums taken in rent are somewhat higher than the room to let rates that are published by the HMRC.

Mr Laws has shown incredible stupidity and then dressed it up as a right to privacy in his defence. What he has done is to demonstrate an incredible lack of moral and ethical standing and left himself open to the actions that have been taken.

I might also say that given Lundie's occupation and position, Laws has also shown that he cares little for reputation. What secrets has he revealed to his lover, or what access has been gained. The speculation on this particular aspect of the relationship is compelling for investigation.

Nonny Mouse said...

They were partners because the were 'spousal equivalents' - see my blog post.

If you are worried about your age then just join a union like Jack Dromey. Of course, the down side is the need to share a bed with Harriet.

Intentionally Blank said...

Iain, you're probably fed up with people disagreeing with you on the subject of David Laws but for what it's worth - I think you're wrong too :)

I just think it's laughable (and slightly offensive to gay couples) to suggest that Mr Laws and Mr Lundie were not just as much a couple as any other. If it were *Miss* Lundie, I don't think you would even try to suggest that the two were anything other the long term partners.

As for the privacy defence - I really can't believe you are supporting the view that Mr Laws should be excused because he broke the rules for understandable reasons. As sympathetic as I am to any gay man or woman's anguish if they have yet to come out to friends and family, I absolutely disagree with the idea that this is in any way a defence - any more than "I could have claimed more", "everyone else was doing it" or "it was an honest mistake". We all have our reasons for doing what we do - unfortunately, that doesn't relieve us from taking responsibility for our actions.

Mr Laws (apparently) knew he was breaking the rules but thought it was okay to do so because of his personal circumstances. That is not a reasonable position for a senior member of the Government to take. It certainly isn't tolerated when the masses choose to break the rules and have to face the consequences.

Laws' plight is unfortunate but entirely of his own making. I know his position must resonate a little more with you than others (from what you've written before) but I can't help thinking you're allowing that to cloud your otherwise very sensible judgment.

Just saying.

Mrs Rigby said...

The court of public opinion has already found David Laws guiltyFrom comments left here, and from people's own blogs, I think you can see that public opinion is split.

The Telegraph does have questions to answer though, they claimed to have 'investigated' David Laws last May and found nothing untoward, yet overnight (after QT) they found enough information to damn him.