David Laws: what should happen next?

Last night, Lib Dem Voice covered the Telegraph’s story that David Laws, the chief secretary to the treasury, has referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner because it is alleged his second home expenses claims breached the rules which state rent cannot be paid to an MP’s spouse.

The story is dominating today’s news agenda, presenting the coalition government with its first real test. There are, as I see it, three options:

1) Tough it out. David has referred himself to the Commissioner, maintaining that he has done nothing for personal gain, even if he has broken the rules. Many will have a lot of sympathy for a man who has been unwillingly forced out of the closet by the Telegraph, and whose over-riding aim was to keep his private life private. But this runs the real risk of the ‘new politics’ being seen to be tainted, and David’s reputation being permanently damaged.

2) Suspend David pending the Commissioner’s inquiry. In most work places, an employee alleged of wrong-doing will be suspended pending an investigation. There is no reason why this should drag on for months. The facts of the case are quite clear and not in dispute. If cleared David could come back into the role; if not, he would have to resign.

3) Resign instantly. David could choose the manner of his departure and would gain sympathy for behaving honourably and decisively to spare the government’s blushes. But it would be a heavy price to pay for an as yet unproven allegation – not only for David, but also for the government which desperately needs his skills.

Any one of these options would be understandable. Personally I hope David does not choose to resign. It is clear to me that neither he nor his partner sought to gain from their domestic arrangements. Indeed had they declared their relationship openly, they would have been entitled perfectly properly to claim much, much more in second home expenses than David did.

It strikes me as odd that people who were outraged by MPs using ‘the rules’ as a technical excuse for declaring themselves innocent are now so keen to use those same rules to judge an MP guilty on a technicality.

The only issue that matters here is this one: was the taxpayer defrauded, and did David set out to defraud the taxpayer? My reading of the case is that the answer to both questions is resolutely no. Which is why like many on Twitter today: #IsupportLaws.

Here’s what other Lib Dem bloggers have been saying:

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80 Comments

  • He’s a vile hypocrite. “Let’s cut these services that help the poor to reduce public spending- but let’s spend £40,000 on me that I’m not entitled to!”

    Would you be defending him if it was a relationship with a woman that he, for whatever reason, wanted to keep secret? There’s no excuse.

  • Your question was the tax payer defrauded and your answer ‘no’ simply do not relate to the facts. If mr Laws had been honest about the true nature of his relationship with his “landlord” he would not have been able to claim any money. I am sorry but this is clear cut. He found a duplicitous way to pay money from the public purse to a lover, which is as bad as any of the other expenses scandals, how can you possibly defend this?

  • @N Makhno

    Spot on. And as for your question, “..how can you possibly defend this?”. This is the LibDems we are talking about

  • Terry Gilbert 29th May '10 - 11:27am

    Why not more attention for this, in Tha Guardian today, which has far more implications for the conduct of public policy:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/may/28/donations-tory-wives-businessmen

  • Sunder Katwala 29th May '10 - 11:27am

    I sympathise with Laws, and on balance hope he does stay, though it is a bad error of judgement to have made the claims after 2006. I think Julian Glover’s commentary on this is one of the best I have read.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/29/david-laws-expenses

    Your comment that – “It strikes me as odd that people who were outraged by MPs using ‘the rules’ as a technical excuse for declaring themselves innocent are now so keen to use those same rules to judge an MP guilty on a technicality” – is unconvincing.

    It is Laws’ attempt to claim an ambiguity in the rules over who a partner is which is a rather bad example of stretching a “within the rules” defence to breaking point. I would expect many LibDems to make that point if that were an argument by an MP of another party.

    : ““In 2006 the Green Book rules were changed to prohibit payments to partners. At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as ‘one of a couple … who although not married to each-other or civil partners are living together and treat each-other as spouses’.

    “Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses. For example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives. However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.”

    He should drop this ambiguity in the rules argument entirely. That he could have claimed more if he had arranged his affairs differently, he could have claimed a similar or greater amount is not a good defence of making this claim under the rules. He is much better off apologising, saying he made a mistake, because of the way in which he was dealing with his personal life. That is exactly what he does do in this Times interview, again with which many people will sympathise.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7139806.ece

    And I think it would be legitimate for the government to say they did not think that should be a resigning issue, with the money paid back, etc though that is as you say now a political judgement.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th May '10 - 11:30am

    “Indeed had they declared their relationship openly, they would have been entitled perfectly properly to claim much, much more in second home expenses than David did.”

    I really don’t understand this.

    Hasn’t the party been saying very loudly that MPs should not be able to realise capital gains on their second homes? And yet here the suggestion seems to be that if Laws had had a joint mortgage with his partner it would have been fine for him to do so.

  • Sunder Katwala 29th May '10 - 11:31am

    I gave the wrong Times link: intended this one.

    ‘I have kept this secret from everyone I know for every day of my life’
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7139807.ece

  • No Jennie, David Laws should step down while he is being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards. That’s what other Government Ministers have done previously.

  • “You’re wrong. If they had been an open couple and jointly bought a house David could have perfectly properly claimed far more in second home expenses.”

    But he didn’t did he? He chose to decieve, for whatever reason, and to gain public funds through deceit for his own personal use- and this when he’s a multimillionaire calling for savage cuts in public expenditure that will hit the poor.

    Harpymarx has it right- “In reality, if a couple were claiming housing benefit for example, whatever their sexuality, lived together but had separate bank accounts and ‘separate social lives’… you would have a struggle getting past the Housing Benefit office and you would probably lose your appeal as well.”

  • Just a quick question to all those defending Laws. Supposing he was heterosexual, and had a wife. Him and his wife had a very open relationship, and he had a long term mistress. Now let’s say he chose to ‘rent’ a room in his mistress’ home. In order to keep his private life private, he decides not to reveal the true extent of his relationship with his ‘landlady’. Would you still be defending him?

  • Stephen

    Yes they could have moved in together and got a mortgage together (although as a millionaire would he need a mortgage?), maybe even made a little money on capital gains, but that would have required honesty and openness on their behalf. But they didn’t, they wished to have a relationship, claim the money, and yet keep their relationship secret, because like so many powerful people he seemed to believe that the rules did not apply to him. I am sorry but your attempts at a defence are baffling. He took £40,000 of public money by duplicity, and lined the pocket of his lover in the process. He must resign, especially after being so sanctimonious about the affairs of others.

  • “The only issue that matters here is this one: was the taxpayer defrauded, and did David set out to defraud the taxpayer?”

    Not so, there is also the matter of competence, honesty and judgement in financial matters – given his job.
    On those the picture is not as clear cut.

  • You have missed another option, for Clegg to sack Laws, theres been enough time wasted already.
    On your option 1, Laws himself destroyed that possibilty when he apologised & offered to give the money back. Ordinary people dont hand over £40K of money they beleive is rightfully theirs.
    On option 2, better than nothing but you have to realise that the Commissioner has no credibility with the public. If Laws was cleared many voters would only see the establishment protecting their own.
    Sexuality is irrelevant here. Given the context of the last 2 years most people will see another example of one law for the powerful, another for the powerless. Try accidentally claiming benefits in breach of a technicality & see how much sympathy you get.
    Please, try to imagine how you would feel if Laws was a straight, ugly Tory with a whiny voice rather than a gay Libdem with real charisma. Would you be so understanding then ?

  • N Makhno seems to have a serious problem with people who are rich. Clearly, he disagrees with Lord Mandelson, who said that New Labour is incredibly relaxed about people gettintg filthy rich, and he must feel a tad uncomfortable belonging to a party that has increased the gap between rich and poor.

  • I’m afraid folks he should resign.

    This is a critical post and you have to be “whiter than white”. Its a shame – just hope that we have someone as able in that post.

  • Sesenko

    I don’t have a problem with wealth, but a problem with wealthy people duplicitously and dishonestly claiming large sums of money from the public purse while hypocritically lambasting others who have done so. Even more I have a problem with a political party which claims to be morally superior to the others but which buckles at the first test because they have a whiff of power. Most of all the problem is yours, now that you have entered the real world of government you cannot sit above the fray claiming the high ground. The man has made a very big mistake over a very protracted time. He must go. All else is double standards to protect your own. This new politics project is already looking like the new labour project which I have no time for.

  • paula fields 29th May '10 - 12:20pm

    He has to go. He claimed rent which the rules did not allow him to claim that he could have claimed mortgage repayment is not a defence because he was living with a partner not sharing a mortgage (which he could have done whilst still keeping his relationship private. In 2006, he could have sought advice about the rules and again when the expenses scandal broke. Instead he chose his own personal interpretation of the rules: that he kept his own bank account and had a separate social life. In addition, he claimed over £150 in cleaning expenses for his second bedroom that he rented – and only reduced this claim when receipts were required (£300 a month if shared is a huge cleaning bill and Brown was crucified for this and at least he could prove he had a cleaner – can Laws show £300 cleaning?). He also claimed for maintaining the property which in a landlord tenant relataionship is the landlords responsibility – this suggests more of a partner relationship. He shows bad judgement. In addition, he has humiliated himself and his lover – let alone his party.

  • @ jayu – I replied in the other thread before noticing this one, so I’ll copy+paste here:

    Provided he weren’t double-claiming on his expenses, yes of course I’d support that – i.e. if his wife lived at his constituency home which he paid for himself, but he claimed rent for a second home in London, but happened to be sleeping with the landlady. What would be wrong with that? How would that be unfair to the taxpayer? If he weren’t sleeping with his landlady, he still have to pay rent somewhere else, which the taxpayer would fund.

    I’m genuinely baffled at this apparent notion that one person in a couple gets away with not paying anything towards housing costs. I live with my partner, in a flat that he has owned since before we met, but naturally I pay rent. It would never occur to me that I should get to live here for free – that would be a bizarre arrangement, and I don’t know of anyone amongst my friends, acquaintances, family or work colleagues who hasn’t contributed to the costs of accomodation they share with their partner. I mean seriously – does anyone here have such an arrangement?

    Although I must admit that would be a fun slogan for prospective MPs: “vote for me – I’m sexy enough to seduce my landlady and get her to waive my rent so you won’t have to pay my expenses”.

  • As Roger Daltrey would say…..”Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Stephen Timms discovered to his cost that MP’s are not the flavour of the month!

  • He should be sacked. If nothing else he is guilty of an astounding failure of judgment.

  • To the people above saying “oh but he’s a millionaire, why should he be allowed to claim the money” – why weren’t you complaining about this before it emerged that he had a sexual relationship with his landlord?

    If you’re advocating that rich MPs shouldn’t be entitled to the second home allowance then please say so openly.

    If you’re not advocating that, and you accept that all MPs are entitled to claim accomodation costs regardless of their personal wealth, then David Laws being a millionaire is totally irrelevant so please stop bringing it up.

  • To the people above banging on about David’s personal wealth, why weren’t you complaining about this earlier, as in before it emerged he’s having a sexual relationship with his landlord?

    If you’re arguing that millionaires shouldn’t be entitled to claim the second home allowance, please say so openly.

    If you’re not arguing that, and accept that all MPs should be entitled to claim accomodation costs regardless of their personal wealth, then David Laws being a millionaire is totally irrelevant so please stop bring it up.

    In answer to the main question of the thread, I vote for option 1, with Jennie’s suggested amendment that Nick should come out and defend him with all guns blazing. David Cameron (a millionaire who claimed £1700 a month expenses for a mortgage on a house he shared with his wife) should publicly back him up too.

  • If somebody receiving Housing Benefit did the same thing in exactly the same circumstances (claiming for housing and then paying his/her partner) that person would be tried for fraud, and considering the amount ‘claimed’ if convicted, would face a custodial sentence. no excuses would be excepted and ignorance is no defence

    Those ‘three options’ given above are just insulting to the people who are likely to lose their jobs in the current crop of cuts and those caught in the ‘crack down on benefits’

    SHAME ON HIM

  • Why are the Lib Dems being so tribalistic about this? Laws should follow the honourable examples of Shahid Malik and Peter Hain and step down from government while the allegations against him are being investigated. Meanwhile, Cameron could put Philip Hammond back into his old shadow brief. He’s got the perfect credentials for cutting the public sector— he’s another millionaire.

  • paul barker 29th May '10 - 1:02pm

    During the election we spent a lot of time slagging the Labservatives for their sense of entitlement, their feeling that rules were for the little people, not them. Now we are doing it, we are the ones making excuses for our MPs & in so doing trashing the Liberal heritage.
    Come on Mr Clegg, its a choice between your principles & your friends, do the right thing & prove your worth.

  • gramsci's eyes 29th May '10 - 1:08pm

    Welcome to the nasty world of politics children.

    It’s terrible that the media are so nasty. Here’s a bit of advice as you try to defend by going wiggle wiggle squirm squirm we know what we are against. When in power you have got to know what you stand for.

    Grow up and look at the letters in the Mail and the Sun. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

    It’s called politics.

  • @ Jayu
    “Supposing he was heterosexual, and had a wife. Him and his wife had a very open relationship, and he had a long term mistress. Now let’s say he chose to ‘rent’ a room in his mistress’ home. In order to keep his private life private, he decides not to reveal the true extent of his relationship with his ‘landlady’. Would you still be defending him?”

    Do we know of David Laws lying to someone that he is in a personal relationship with, about the nature of his relationship with someone else? If not, how does your hypothetical scenario apply to the situation?

  • gramsci's eyes 29th May '10 - 1:22pm

    The alternative to should he resign seems to be that Nick Clegg should sack him. Are not ministerial appointments are the gift of the PM.

    A tricky problem for the marriage and so early during the honeymoon. You could not make it up. As Nelson would say “Ha Ha”.

  • Ray Cobbett 29th May '10 - 1:25pm

    Nobody can say that Laws was on the fiddle. He was entitled to claim for renting accomodation in London but not from a partner according the rules. Thus the whole case swings on whether living with somebody for almost 10 years amounts to a partnership or something else. Most people would opt for the former.
    Why didn’t he take Nick into his confidence right from the start before accepting the job? He might have known the mucky press would target him in much the same way as any other public figure. He really needs to be be judged by his peers and until then he should step aside and if cleared resume his post. The interim verdict must be that for a savvyy guy he has been remarkably naive.

  • Potion 1 all the way for me, no way should Laws have to go for this technical breach of rules when Labour ministers stayed after flipping their homes making them tens of thousands by avoiding tax and paying for refurbishments on expenses

  • @ jayu

    “Supposing he was heterosexual, and had a wife. Him and his wife had a very open relationship, and he had a long term mistress. Now let’s say he chose to ‘rent’ a room in his mistress’ home. In order to keep his private life private, he decides not to reveal the true extent of his relationship with his ‘landlady’. Would you still be defending him?”

    Ok, so is your point that this is the equivalent of lying to the person/people that someone is in a private relationship with, about the nature of their relationship with someone else? If you are, I really don’t see how it is.

    Or are you attempting to enlighten Lib Dems about some unfair prejudice you believe we have against heterosexual people?

  • Okay,
    My previous post seems to have mysteriously disappeared so I’m going to repeat it…..

    If a person who is in receipt of Housing Benefit did the same thing in the exact same circumstances, that is, claiming for ‘housing’ and paying his/her partner, that person would be tried for fraud, and considering the amounts involved a custodial sentence would be on the cards, there would be no excuses excepted and ignorance is no defence.

    The ‘three options’ given above are just insulting, especially given his position, to the people who are likely to lose their jobs in the current crop of cuts, not to mention those who are caught in the ‘crackdown on benefits’

    (If my other post suddenly reappears, sorry for the double post)

  • still can’t work out why he didn’t just claim for a second home in london and have this bloke stay there for free

    he has helped to create a mess that is needless

  • @Catherine,

    I think some other people on here would do well to learn from your application of a consistently principled response. Apart from you, I don’t think anyone else has addressed the double standards of:

    1) “I’m David Laws (or any other MP), I didn’t believe I was in a partnership under the terms of the rules and was therefore entitled to claim. It’s up to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to prove I’m lying/was wrong”. So the individual is innocent until proved otherwise.

    2) “We’re a local authority housing benefits team. We believe that you are in a partnership and are therefore not entitled to claim. It’s up to you, individual benefit claimant, to prove that you’re not lying/we’re wrong”. So the individual is guilty until proved otherwise.

    Rather than address this, people would rather fling accusations of homophobia, trolling or make illogical appeals to ‘the national interest’.

  • @ Peter

    Except your focusing on ‘the rules’ which is exactly what we complained about with all of the expense scandals… try and focus more on whether it is correct from a matter of principle. Did he incur a cost for living in London as part of his job (which he should, and is, allowed to claim for, whether he is in a relationship or not, just under different rules), and if so did he claim a reasonable amount for this cost incurred? The answer to both is yes.

    Who cares what rule it was he claimed under, if he didn’t claim anything that isn’t justified?

    Yes he is pointing out a matter of technicality on his definition of ‘partner’ and yes it is a bit dubious… but what about the reason for doing so, to maintain privacy over his love life and sexuality… it wasn’t done to try and cheat the tax payer out of money for expenses that were unjustified, which is what everyone complained about for other expense cases. The two are different, and I don’t understand why you have trouble seeing that?

    I also don’t understand why you keep bringing housing benefit in to the equation, what does that have to do with expense claims, they are different things completely, with no relevance to each other. I don’t bring up my employees pension or health benefit every time I try to justify an expense at work… because benefits and expenses are nothing to do with each other.

  • @ Peter… “… or make illogical appeals to ‘the national interest’”

    How is the national interest illogical? Surely it’s actually very important, logical, and the most relevant point right now considering the state of the economy and the country?

  • He has to stay, right where he is. No suspension. Anything else really would be a sell-out.

  • “The problem here isn’t about dishonesty,”

    Yes it is. Unless an MP has been dishonest, or acted in an unprincipled way, or been found to be incompetent, there is no reason to call for them to resign from their post. If he had been caught speeding would you ask for him to resign.. actually that would probably be more of a reason to call for it than having used a different rule to claim expenses he was entitled to instead of the rule which would have been more appropriate (and even allowed him to claim more).

    Why are people suddenly so quick to resort to quoting the ‘rules’ when this very action was decried by people when politicians did it to justify their expenses? What happened to the public’s previous insistence that it was ‘the principle’ which counted and not the letter of the ‘rules.’ Why are people now so quick to change their stance and display such double standards?

  • People at large will generally expect that if you are having a sexual relationship with someone you are likely to favour that person over humanity in general.

    Therefore if you are hold a position of trust, eg Chief Secretary to the Treasury, you should declare in your declaration of interests all the people you are having a sexual relationship with.

    Sadly David Laws must resign.

  • @Catherine – Nobody is hitting on whatever arrangement they might have had.

    It is much simpler than that: rule didn’t allow paying rent to a partner. If he didn’t want to acknowledge the relationship for privacy reasons he could just have not claimed that money, especially if we consider he’s a millionaire. There’d have been no story.

    But instead he decided to dodge the rule and pocket the money.

  • Of course he should stay. If Nadine Dorries can stay, there’s no question about it.

  • His position is untenable, he should resign immediately. He has only decided to pay the money back now that he has been caught out. His axe will have to go back into storage.

  • Nick Clegg should sack him and replace him with another Liberal Democrat, preferrably one who’s got a clear political identity as a Liberal Democrat not one who thinks he’s a Tory.

    I think David Laws in trying to defend his claims by using the defence ‘(that although they have been together since 2001) they’re not true partners’ is disingenuous crap.

    If it was Housing Benefit, he’d be facing prison so sack him.

  • Laws should be sacked immediately. As a gaymen it is horrendous to me that he should try to cover up this crime by suggesting he is ashamed of being gay. He has made money from fiddling his expenses. There is no excuse. His defence of hiding his sexuality makes it worse not better. It is offensive that anybody in the Lib Dems should peddle this nonsense.

  • That’s it…if it was a member of the public on benefits they would be in court!!!
    If he is not guilty then he should NOT pay the money back as this accepts guilt in the public’s eyes.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th May '10 - 4:41pm

    It is very easy to understand at a human level why Laws did not want to come out (just look at some of the homophobic comments that are coming from those who the LibDems chose to ally themselves with) and also why he felt that he should make some contribution to his partner’s living costs. And I for one don’t think that anyone should be hounded from office for acting as a human being. There will be plenty of other political reasons for seeking to hound Laws from his office in due course.

  • He wasn’t in a legally or financially binding r’ship therefore he has done nothing wrong. End of! And therefore he shouldn’t resign. He needs to use this to highlight to discrepencies in the system as a whole in which people on benefits are penalised for simply sleeping together despite having not yet undertaken a legal or financial commitment to each other. And for those crowing about If I’d think differently if he was heterosexual. No I wouldn’t because the system is just as vague and unclear.

  • This is all a bit odd and strange for me as a Tory to be lurking and posting here.

    However I think it should be fairly clear, if it was beneficial to not disclose then it’s a fiddle. If there was no difference through disclosure and what happened it’s no a fiddle. I have no doubt that this was not a financial gain question.

    I would be disappointed to see him go. Never thought I would say it but I think the Lib-Con coalition is good, and to lose him would be bad.

  • “As a gaymen it is horrendous to me that he should try to cover up this crime by suggesting he is ashamed of being gay.”

    I’m not aware David has made such a claim

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th May '10 - 5:01pm

    “As a gaymen it is horrendous to me that he should try to cover up this crime by suggesting he is ashamed of being gay.”

    Actually, I expect any minute we’ll be told he is not gay – he’s just a straight man who sleeps with other men …

  • @ Alex

    “I also don’t understand why you keep bringing housing benefit in to the equation, what does that have to do with expense claims, they are different things completely, with no relevance to each other.”

    Of course they have relevance. Both relate to how people claim money to pay their rent and/or mortgage costs. Housing benefit claimants are subject to rigorous investigation and policing of their personal lives. They can’t just say ‘but we’re not partners’ and expect to pocket £900 per month of taxpayer’s money. Some MPs, apparently, can say ‘but we’re not partners’ and believe it is acceptable to pocket £900 per month of taxpayer’s money. ‘Expense claims’ and ‘benefits’ are just labels – they are both ways in which money is (legitimately) passed on to help people with housing costs. The problem is those at the bottom have to jump more hoops and are subject to greater suspicion than those at the top.

    As regards ‘the national interest’, what would someone have to do for their removal from office to outweigh the national interest? It cannot be used as a convenient justification to excuse any breaking of rules.

  • toryboysnevergrowup’s summed up the two arguments defending David:
    1- “It is very easy to understand at a human level why Laws did not want to come out…”
    2- “… and also why he felt that he should make some contribution to his partner’s living costs.”

    Come on guys, why is it so difficult to understand that nobody has said anything about these two decisions?
    The only issue here is that after his legitimate choices he has decided to break the “no rent for partners” rule. He could just not have claimed that money. I don’t see how not having claimed lodging money would have jeopardised his privacy more than claiming to rent a room in a friends house for 10 years, dodging the rule and thus exposing their relationship to the light of an expenses scandal.

  • Stanley Theed 29th May '10 - 5:27pm

    Sadly I believe that David Laws should resign to save Nick Clegg or David Cameron the difficult decision to sack him which could only damage the coalition. If, subsequently he is cleared by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards of any breach of the rules I would hope that he is again found a suitable appointment in the cabinet. He is very talented and the cabinet will be that much weaker without him, but I think he allowed his desire to keep his homosexual relationship secret to cloud his judgement on what he should claim. The irony is that if he wished to make money, rather than put his talents to public service ,he could earn at least ten times the amount he currently receives, by working in the banking sector.

  • @ Peter:

    “The problem is those at the bottom have to jump more hoops and are subject to greater suspicion than those at the top.”

    I get the point you’re making and I completely agree with the statement above, but the difference between this case and a benefit claim – and especially the difference between this case and many of the previous dodgy expenses claims – is that there is no suggestion David’s motivation was to get more money than he was entitled to. Many of the expenses claims that provoked such outrage were obvious attempts by MPs to milk the system for every penny they could scrounge. In this case, David had a pretty straightforward way to claim a lot more money if he’d wanted to, just by using a different rule to claim under. If he’d been trying to milk the system that’s what he would have done (and if he had, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion as nobody would’ve batted an eyelid).

    I’m not defending the unnecessary (and for many claimants painful) rigidity of the benefits system. But the difference is that if David had sought advice in 2006 (when the partner prohibition rule was brought in) and had been told that his relationship qualified as a partnership so he’d have to stop claiming for rent, he would either have bought a different property and claimed for the mortgage, probably at much greater expense, or rented a flat nearby his partner’s – also probably at greater expense (you won’t find many flats in central London for less than £1,000 a month).

    To condemn someone for technically “breaking the rules”, when obeying them would probably have given him extra cash, seems ridiculous.

  • Would you lot listen to yourselves?! Not in a legally binding relationship?! What does that mean? Me and my girlfriend don’t have joint bank accounts but if I were to try and claim single persons discount on my council tax on that basis, I’d be laughed out of the place. The Lib Dems made a lot of noise about the expenses, so the best thing Laws can do is go. No excuses, no justifications, just go.

  • @Catherine

    I understand what you’re saying and, to an extent, agree. But ultimately the rules are what they are, and regardless of it being a ‘technical’ or understandable breach, it was a breach nonetheless. Benefit claimants are unable to claim ignorance as an excuse for breaking the rules – and I’m sure you would condemn that too – but that is currently how things are, and until they are changed, both those at the top and those at the bottom have to be seen to be living by the rules. If the Lib Dems come out guns blazing saying ‘this is bullshit, and you know what, so is the benefits system in regards to partnership rules, so we’re going to change it’, I’d have more time for their defence of David Laws. Unfortunately I don’t think they’d get that one past Ian Duncan Smith…

  • Those who claim he did not profit personally from this are correct, but his boyfriend certainly did. If he understandably wished to stay at his lover’s house, fine, but then you cannot claim. This whole deceit was created so that he could pay £40 000 of taxpayers money to his lover, if that is not scandalous what is. Resign.

  • @Peter

    I take your point about blazing guns, but even though we’re not shouting at the top of our voices I’m still hopeful that we will get the partnership rules changed. I dislike IDS’ politics as much as anyone, but he does seem genuine – as does Cameron – on ending the couples penalty. I’m actually concerned they’ll go too far the other way and start subsidising couplehood, which is just as much bullshit as penalising it IMO.

    I don’t often find myself linking to ConservativeHome, but in this case I found Martin Sewell’s article quite thoughtful and at least the example he gives of a widow’s pensions case he was involved in shows that not *all* DWP officials are blind to the complexity of human relationships. I hope the standards watchdog will take a similarly sensible approach to David Laws’ case. (I still think it’s ridiculous that there was even an issue about her pension or about David’s rent though…)

  • Paul McKeown 29th May '10 - 6:29pm

    Having read the article in the Times and the honest appraisal given by Laws of his own behaviour, I believe that everyone should wait to hear the verdict given by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards. I doubt that he will be totally exonerated, but the verdict will not be one of caught with his fingers in the till, but one of what an idiot, why didn’t he just tell us all straight. He will have to eat humble pie in public, a grand gesture would certainly help, but he, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and George Osborne are going to be able (and the public will expect them) to stand shoulder to shoulder with him and tough this one out. If this were so, I fully expect that if some pathetic Labour types were to have him recalled, that the electors of Yeovil would return him with a larger majority.

    David Laws, if you are reading this, please don’t let yourself down ever again…

  • toryboysnevergrowup 29th May '10 - 6:43pm

    Lander

    I didn’t say he hadn’t done anything wrong – just that i can understand what he did at a human level. You don’t kick everyone out of their job because they make human mistakes, especially when they show some degree of contrition – otherwise I wouldn’t expect many people would last very long in most positions. I fail to see why such standards should not also apply to politicians.

  • There seems to me little point in the shouting match that this thread has become. Labour supporters (plus some of the rightwing of the Tories) are going to say Laws is the antiChrist, and Lib Dems are going to defend him. Facts – such as: he could actually legitmately have claimed more money – have no weight in the minds of those who want to attack him.
    I feel extremely sorry for him – not to do with the money, but to do with the fact that he is clearly a very private man, who has had to see his personal life splashed all over the news, a personal life that it appears even some of his family may not have known about. The fact that a lot of us wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at finding out he was gay is nothing to do with it. It mattered to him.
    My view, fwiw, is that if the coalition throws him to the wolves, the Telegraph, Mail, Mirror etc will waste no time rooting around for more “dirt” to chuck at any Lib Dems they don’t like, so that they can be forced out too. They will probably keep rooting around if he doesn’t resign – but at least they will have less chance of getting their own way.

    This is nothing to do with right and wrong. It’s to do with political hatred.

  • Paul McKeown 29th May '10 - 6:57pm

    He had bloody well better not have resigned, unless there he did something genuinely unethical. The country needs him, he can’t take the easy route out, he’s going to have to eat humble pie and then to tough it out.

    If he does go? Disaster. The Lib Dems are blessed with four very capable figures, all of whom have very important cabinet posts. I guess either Cable or Huhne would have to take on Laws’ job, but then who would do theirs? Possibly Huhne to the Treasury, Clegg taking on Energy as well as political reform, but the Tory right wing, for whatever reason, dislike Huhne, no matter how sound his grasp of financial matters. Certainly the coalition government would have lost an important binding element.

    Grrrr…. don’t like this, if it’s true.

  • Paul McKeown 29th May '10 - 7:03pm

    @MrsB

    Absolutely correct. Journalists from the Heil and the Tory will be rooting around like swine with sh.t on their snouts.

    I understand that the Heil is just a yellow press, disgusting and extreme rightwing rantogram, but do the Barclay brothers not like Cameron, or what is the problem with the Telegraph, exactly?

  • Mrs B

    The fact is he abused the rules to pay £40000 to his boyfriend. All that guff about how he could have got even more is pathetic. You guys are twisting yourselves in knots to try and defend the indefensible, tribal or what?

  • Huhne moves to treasury and Martin Horwood from Cheltenham ( previously environment spokesman) is more than capable of taking on energy.

  • It’s obvious what he should do…..leave politics with his head lowered in shame.

    If he really wanted privacy he wouldn’t have claimed expenses. He’s simply greedy and clearly a liar. For those asking if he should be entitled to expenses….NO! None of them should. They earn more than enough for the job they do, average Joe has to pay their own mortgage or relocate for work, we have to fund our own transport and pay for our own luxuries regardless of our salaries. If they can’t live within the jobs funding then do what everyone else has to do – find another bloody job.
    Politicians are supposed to serve us, not freeload. I work for a charity and earn a rubbish salary in comparison to my blue chip days, I can claim expenses but never do, it’s stealing out the mouths of those I’m supposed to be helping!

    Remove ALL expenses and then we’ll see who really wants to do the job.

  • Ashley
    Posted 29th May 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    He wasn’t in a legally or financially binding r’ship therefore he has done nothing wrong. End of!

    What a load of rubbish. That’s like saying the single mum next door who sometimes has her boyfriend staying over should be OK to claim benefits, he has a partner (married or not) whom he is committed to, to suggest that it’s ok is crazy. This is typical twisting of rules to suit the rich. If this was an ordinary person they would be vilified in the press, yet these supposedly learned and trusted men of power back a cheat, while brainwashed sheep like you fall over to make excuses. You’re all disgusting. It’s not the people who refuse to work to blame for the decline in society, it’s those who are supposed to lead by example who should be held accountable. How can David Cameron & Co seriously suggest tougher stances on freeloaders when their entire coalition is as corrupt and sleazy as it is?

    Revolting. No wonder so many people are calling for another election.

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