Innocent or guilty, there is no case for Laws to resign

I’ve read, and listened to, a great deal of comment about David Laws today. Rumours are currently circulating that Laws has resigned from the Government. If so, I think it’s a great shame, a great injustice and a great disservice that’s been done to the British people.

Let’s take the absolute worst case scenario: that Laws knowingly broke the rules, saw himself and James Lundie as partners, chose not to admit it and took the money.

If that were the case – and Laws says it isn’t – the public purse will have been no worse off as a result of his actions. He will have done no more than hundreds of other MPs did in the last parliament and less than many: technically broken the rules, but with no intent to defraud. He should be treated no differently to those other MPs – pay back the money.

To suggest that Laws should be treated more harshly not because he did anything wrong, but merely because his case came to public attention at a different time, is poor justice indeed.

That’s if the worst interpretation of his actions is true. If Laws is right that he and James Lundie weren’t partners as defined by the parliamentary rules, rather than as defined by random journalists and pundits, he’s simply done nothing wrong.

Understandably, the Lib Dem’s political opponents have jumped on this – Labour have got to grips with the business of being in opposition very quickly, and fair play to them. Attacking the Government is what oppositions do (despite all the fine words about being constructive and not opposing for the sake of opposing – but no-one really believed that, did they?).

But we on the Lib Dem side shouldn’t be seduced into giving our opponents any more credibility than they deserve. Nonsense spouted by a thousand people is still nonsense, and it doesn’t get any less so when the thousand-and-first spouter comes along.

Some are suggesting there’s an element of homophobia, or at least prurience, in the outing of a part of his life David Laws wished to remain private. I’m sure that’s part of it, but I’m not convinced it’s a big element of the attack.

Others will point out how it’s all more than a little tribalist. We’re all predisposed to give the guy on our team the benefit of the doubt, and to assume the guy on the other team is guilty until proven innocent.

There’s a lot to that. It’s important that Laws to be treated in the same way as other MPs who fell foul of concerns over expenses in the last parliament – that the case be properly judged on its merits.

Should Laws have to apologise and repay the money, or should he be cleared of any wrongdoing? Those should be two alternatives if we want to avoid an unfair witch hunt – but then a witch hunt is exactly what our political opponents welcome.

If Laws has resigned, I can only hope justice is done and he returns to the Government soon.

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68 Comments

  • Andrea Gill 29th May '10 - 6:41pm

    “Attacking the Government is what oppositions do”

    Funnily enough Cameron had a slip yesterday where he started attacking “the government” before correcting himself…

  • You political types (any party) need to understand that the public is not prepared to put up with ‘one rule for MPs and another for the rest of us’. This man has a cabinet vote on Britain going to war. A member of the Armed Forces would have been court-martialled for this. Furthermore, Laws loudly trumpeted his ‘honesty’ on expenses. He’s a dishonest hypocrite. The fact that he is talented is beside the point. Surely you’re not telling us he’s irreplaceable? And if you don’t like witch-hunts, then don’t employ witches. It’s not hard.
    And I am fed up with this ‘technically broke the rules’ rubbish. I read the old guidance to MPs on expenses. It was very short and clear. Expenses were to be for things ‘wholly, necessarily and exclusively” for the conduct of one’s duty as an MP. Which rather rules out duckhouses, and porn movies, and paying your lover (whatever gender).

  • Sorry Iain, but I think you are missing the point. Laws was prepared to compromise his integrity to keep his private life private. This time it was cheating on expenses, what else, what next? In 2006 he had a decision to make. The rules regarding payment to partners had changed. He could have decided to be open about his relationship with Lundie, and stop claiming the expenses, as the new rules dictated, as the mortgage was in Lundie’s name solely. Or he could have decided to move out of home he shared with Lundie and rented from someone else. He could have decided to continue to rent from Lundie, but pay him from his own pocket, not the public purse. Or he could decide to get deeper and deeper into his web of deceit and continue renting from Lundie, and make a claim from the public purse, which he wasn’t entitled to.

    Doesn’t it make you wonder how such a highly intelligent man as Laws, could choose the worst option possible?
    He has to resign. There is no question about it. And to use the argument that the last lot were worse, isn’t an argument, ever.

  • Rick,

    I take it, therefore, that you don’t expect your wife to contribute to paying off your mortgage?

  • I should add, that Laws did opt for the second option. In Sept ’09 he moved out of the home he shared with Lundie and rented somewhere else. Right around the time the Telegraph was going big on its expenses expose. So he obviously realised the situation would be one that would be hard to defend, at that time.

  • David Laws will be someone responsible for helping to put thousands of public sector workers out of work, the great majority of which would not even earn £40.000 per year, it is inconceivable that he can remain in his post. I am not one bit concerned about his homosexuality, that is not the issue here and it was not a secret, I remember reading this somewhere recently, before this news broke. What is shameful is that he is seeking to excuse himself from his blatant dishonesty by using his homosexuality, he should stop, he is making the situation worse.
    Where is this new era of politics promised by Cameron and Clegg? In fact where is Clegg and why is he not giving a statement? Why is Downing Street trying to lock down and kill this story?
    Ever since they have formed a government we have had megalomaniac Cameron trying to gerrymander parliament and force a 55% rule through to protect himself and Clegg and then he tries to dictate to the Tory’s own 1922 committee, we have seen Laws and Osbourne cocking a snoop at parliament by announcing the most important policy changes to press conferences and not parliament.
    This coalition (If that is what it is) is beginning to crumble before our eyes, this is just the start, there will be many more.
    “New politics? What New Politics”?

  • It’s a question of what is allowed to be paid for. My point was ‘paying your lover from public funds’ is not allowed. Sorry if, for the sake of brevity, I lost the meaning. What lovers do or don’t do with their own money is totally up to them. Personally, I married a divorce lawyer, so I’m well aware of what the law allows!

  • Iain, if that is the case then there are an awful lot of ex-ministers who would have a case for wrongful dismissal. Take off your yellow tinted specs, you know that he has to go.

  • Sorry Ashley, you cannot have it both ways, these same Tory and Lib dem MPs defended the right wing press attacking Gordon Brown and took the benefits and the ballot box.
    They had better get used to this, they are now in government, they should expect it.

  • Marjory,

    Presumably, therefore, you think it is right that a handful of billionaires and generals in North America should dictate who we can and cannot have in government?

  • Rumours are rife that David Laws has resigned. With regret I hope that this is correct. I greatly respect David Laws, admire his acuity and intelligence. But the expense claims show a significant lapse of judgement and I say this as a well wisher.

    David Laws is said to have claimed “…up to £950 a month for five years…”. He has had ‘a relationship’, by his own admission, since 2001. I will leave aside the complication of two rooms in two properties and what happened in late 2009.

    The wrongful act is not to do with David Laws’ sexuality. Rather, it is about the proper choice to make when faced with ambiguity. That choice tells you a lot about a person’s judgement and I am afraid it counts.

    David Laws chose to make, or continued to make expenses claims when the nature of his relationship with landlord/friend/lover/partner gave rise, in his own mind, to a degree of ambiguity.

    Why? Because public money was involved and the highest standards of probity should be the aspiration, even if not always achieved.

    If Laws had not made a claim (or indeed had stopped claiming), this matter would be an entirely private one.

    I wonder also which of these ‘secrets’ is a more uncomfortable fact. That David Laws has a close relationship with another man, or that his partner/lover is a PR lobbyist?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th May '10 - 7:47pm

    Alix

    “Resigning now is just caving in to the media circus and is illogical. “

    No more so than announcing he was going to give the money back, surely?

  • He’s gone.

    The relish with which this country savors weakness is disgusting.

    Good luck David. I hope Jeremy or Chris have the same balls as you in keeping boy George in line.

  • David Laws should live by the rules of integrity and honesty that he argued for before he took office. If he attacked others for their assumed abuses of expenses then he should resign. If the words ‘spirit of the rules’ as opposed to ‘technicality of the rules’ ever passed his lips he should resign.
    By his own admission he interpreted the rules so as to protect his privacy. The very fact that this ‘interpretation’ needed to be made implies some bending of the rules was being contemplated, this is against the spirit and the technicality of the rules. The fact that it could be possible that he may have cost the public more by being up front and honest about his situation begs the question. That he did not claim money he was entitled to does not give him to any licence to claim that to which he was not. The relationship he has with Mr. Lundie would be judged a partnership by any other benefits agency and probably also for purposes of disposal of common assets if they were to separate under common law.
    The Liberal Democrats campaigned on a platform of a ‘new politics’. They claimed to be the alternative to the corrupt old parties. The very utterance of such words should alert people that their integrity were questionable. If these words are to be meaningful at all then David Laws should resign. He should also offer himself up for recall by his constituents in the spirit of the rules that he intends to make law.
    As I type he has just announce his resignation. I hope that his realisation of his reponsibilities will remind those of you, including the co-editor of this site who was earlier interviewed on BBC News channel, that your defences of his wrongdoing are duplicitous and hypocritical.

  • Keith Browning 29th May '10 - 7:55pm

    Why do we not get front page expose on the Bilderberg group, which is a far more sinister organisation?

    Ken Clarke is one of the organising team and Peter Mandelson and George Osbourne are both members of this secret club that attempts to rule the world.

    Why no expose on the operations of arms manufacturers and their connection with our political system?

    Of course we know the answer?

    I suspect this Coalition has caught these shadowy groups off guard and has also surprised them by its initial success and popularity with the people of the UK.

    Their control on the most controlled group of people outside North Korea (the British people) is in danger of slipping. I think we will see a systematic targeting of liberal minded politicians over the coming weeks, with number one on their hit list being the Prime Minister himself.

  • Danny Alexander to take over.

    Can’t help but feel that the very strong Liberal Democrat influence on the Treasury just lessened.

    Ultimately, its the Labourites baying for blood who will suffer from that (with the rest of us).

  • Walter Meikle 29th May '10 - 8:04pm

    David Laws has to resign he knew what hw was doing was wrong just as all the othet MPs knew they were fleecing the public purse, but Laws is now in a senior position in a coalition government that promises Honesty ,Integrity and Fairness, he should have come clean when the expense scandal first broke instead he chose to hide iy hoping not to get found out.
    His excuse that he did not consider Lundie to be a partner because they did not share a bank account is not only feeble but ludicrousw, he has been in a sexual relationship with Lundie for about 10 years and was rewarding him with £950 per month of public money.
    As a grass roots Lib Dem member I am appalled that after all that was said in the lead up to the General Election
    we again have to winkle out those MPs who hope to evade the consequences of their expense fiddles.
    If Laws doesn’t have the deceny to resign the Nick Clegg should sack him.

  • Walter Meikle,

    Look at the strings attached to your body and see where they lead. If you are as you claim, a Lib Dem member rather than some species of troll, then the North American owned media has got you for a sucker.

    (1) David Laws claimed less for his accommodation than most of his colleagues.

    (2) David Laws broke no rules.

    (3) In 2006, the rules changed to forbid payment of rent to a “partner”. Mr Lundie was not a “partner” within the meaning of the expenses rules, because his relationship was insufficiently aligned to the husband/wife paradigm.

    (4) I will not take lectures from ignoramuses decrying those who rely on technicalities and ambiguities. Either he broke the rules, or he didn’t. If there is an ambiguity, then he is entitled to have that ambiguity interpreted in his favour. We can’t just say: “I don’t like that. Naughty, naughty. Resign!” Or is that what you are proposing? As soon as we throw away the rule of law in this country, as you and other in these threads appear to be calling for – even if it is just for MPs to begin with – then we are finished as a civil society. “I don’t like what X did” is not the same as “X broke the law”.

    BTW, I think I may be on record as saying that those MPs who are being prosectuted for fraud are perfectly entitled to plead Parliamentary privilege. If they committed no crime, then they are entitled to walk free, whatever we may feel about their behaviour.

    Now, let’s put this all in perspective, shall we?

    Last night on “Question Time” John Redwood said that he had entertained “great misgivings” about Cheney’s war in Iraq, but voted for it “out of loyalty to my leader”. That really made my blood run cold. A Member of Parliament commits an act of great wickedness out of loyalty to his leader! It puts anything David Laws might have done ratther in the shade.

  • Welcome to government.There’ll be a lot more where this came from.

  • Stuart Mitchell 29th May '10 - 8:49pm

    It’s silly to claim that Laws has been hard done by. Many Labour (and Tory) politicians lost their front bench jobs or seats because of the espenses scandal. The Lib Dems took great pleasure in capitalising on all that. Live by the sword, die by the sword. For a senior government member to have to resign in disgrace after less than three weeks must be some sort of record. I do hope the coalition will now drop all that sanctimonious guff about “the new politics”.

    I can’t believe that people are having a go at Labour for all this. It was the Tory press who did for Laws. Do you seriously think Cameron will be sad about this turn of events, or do you think he’ll be having a jolly good laugh about it with his chums from the Torygraph? If I were a Lib Dem I’d be treating my new “friends” wth a little more circumspection from now on.

  • Ryan M this is not “labourites” baying for blood, the labour party is now Her Majesty’s Opposition, it is their job to oppose and if the situation were reversed then the Tories and the Lib Dems would do exactly the same. I realise that this may be a new concept to many Lib Dem supporters, however I think you may need to get used to this because the level of scrutiny is unrelenting when you are serving in government and Nick Clegg made much out of both the Conservative and the Labour party’s expense scandals, especially during the general election campaign and Nick Clegg stood on a platform declaring undeviating honesty right there on out TV screens in our lounges across the nation.

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg have described David Laws as an “honourable man”, how on earth can they say this? All this talk of a “New Era” of politics, it is clear that the pair of them still just do not get it, comments like that are only going to serve to alienate the public even more. David Laws is not an honourable man, he deliberately withheld information about his expenses, he lied, he was deeply disingenuous and duplicitous, he has been caught fiddling his expenses and he has been doing this illegally since 2006.
    Knowing what he was doing, he still put himself forward for this job, a job where policies he was helping to develop would put hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Where please tell me is the honour in that? Laws is an incredibly rich man, a multi millionaire he could have bought a home for himself and his partner to live in, yet he forced the the British taxpayer to subsidise his partner’s mortgage, this is not the actions of an “honourable man”.

  • Mark Yeates, ever heard the saying “two wrongs do not make a right”? The more you try and justify this the worse you make it.

  • I have just watched Nick Clegg waffling on TV, sorry but his arrogance is absolutely “breathtaking”. Talking about integrity and honour, sorry but David Laws has not displayed integrity, he fiddled £40.000 and gave it to his partner to subsidise his mortgage, it was wrong, wrong, wrong. Clegg justifying this is a huge mistake, would Nick Clegg have come out and been so effusive in his comments if he was describing a labour politician caught doing this while in government? Or a Conservative pre climbing into bed with the them? The more I see of Clegg the more arrognat he seems and the more I dislike him for doing what he has done.

  • @mark yeates
    You just don’t get it do you? The Lib Dems have been most accusatory and self-righteous of all parties in the expenses scandal.That means a) the media will be out to get you on the very issue of expenses now you are in government, and b) you will be judged by your own sanctimonious words while in opposition.

    You wanted to be treated like a ‘proper’ party, now you’ve got it.

  • “So we have MPs criticising The Daily Telegraph and wanting to call in the police, as if shooting the messenger is the answer to this mess.”

    “….we have MPs plaintively insisting that whatever they have claimed has been “within the rules”– rules written by them. That defence may give legal cover, but it is all too redolent of, “I was only obeying orders”. What matters is not what the lax rules have permitted, but where an MP’s moral compass points, and whether we can face voters and defend our use of taxpayers’ money. Many will struggle to do so. …..”

    Both quotes from Norman Baker MP (Lib Dem), 10 May 09 in The Daily Telegraph. Probably the most telling words are “face voters and defend our use of taxpayers’ money. Many will struggle to do so. ” and that is probably the reason he has to go.

  • I am a constituent of David Laws working in the public service, hence the pseudonym. I have met him and have consistently been impressed by him, not least since he has been in Government. Let’s wait for the Parliamentary Standards ‘watchdog’ to pronounce before making any more ill-informed remarks. Some of the comments being made have all the traits of a lynch mob and quite a few are clearly defamatory.

  • This entire spectacle has confused me somewhat, if I’m being honest. I have felt both angry and deeply sympathetic at the same time, which I found odd. When I stripped away the personal and emotional aspects of the issue i.e. David Laws desire to keep his sexuality private, which he is entitled to of course, I realised that I was wrong to feel sympathetic.
    When it comes to the law, which would seem to indicate that Mr Lundie was Law’s partner, one must treat the subject objectively. I think it is abhorrent that David Laws has been so visibly ‘outed’ by the press but that is not the issue and shouldn’t be part of an argument for or against. I would have the same opinion whether he had been with a woman for nine years or, as it turned out, a man. Having watched Clegg’s statement and listening to Paddy Ashdown on the radio I find it more insulting – as a gay man – that they are using Law’s sexuality as an excuse for his actions. I believe politicians should be entitled to privacy but David Laws has had two opportunities to escape this. Firstly, he could have acted after the laws were changed in 2006 and secondly, when the expenses allegations were breaking in ‘The Telegraph’ last year.
    His sexuality isn’t an excuse and in fact it isn’t even important as far as I am concerned. So he was in a long-term relationship with a man? So what if Mr. Lundie had actually been a woman, and his mistress? Matters of law should be treated as objectively as possible and I find the Lib-Con defence of David Laws based on his sexuality insulting to me as an out gay man.
    Ultimately, this is a matter for the Commission to preside over and I hope they will look at the issue as objectively as possible. Though I do think that the Coalitions handling of this incident has proven that even ‘New Politics’ are not above the ‘old spin’ of Labour.

  • Tony Heartsease 30th May '10 - 5:52am

    I see Iain Roberts’s line of argument, but there is one factor that needs to be added in. The “expenses troubles” were a feature of the last Parliament, and the general election this month was meant to herald-in a new era of squeaky-clean representation. David Laws should, before the election, have come clean and paid-up voluntarily. (I accept that this wasn’t a money issue, but a goodly portion of the public won’t see it that way.) If he’d done that, and found some mechanism to protect his private life, he’d have a legimate claim to remain as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. All Parliamentarians were supposed to have “got it” – the message, I mean, that absolutely everything financial has to be above board and out in the open.
    I’m not in a position to know what went on in our Parliamentary party during the Telegraph revelations. But I would have hoped that the then Chief Whip would have leant on all our MPs to examine their past and current expenses claims, and their consciences, with a view to putting everything into order voluntarily, in terms both of money and transparency. I would have hoped too that all MPs standing for re-election would have been required to sign some declaration that their past conduct would not bring the party into disrepute.
    Mr Laws’s sexuality is, or at least should be, utterly irrelevant to the issue, but his failure to get to grips with it in such a way that he and the party and, yes, our coalition partners too, don’t suffer horrendously damaging publicity makes his resignation proper and necessary.
    Even so, my heart goes out to him, and I hope in time he can get his highly promising political career back on track.

  • All this talk of Law’s criminality is so much tosh! For a start the Commons Green Book is not the ‘law’. Secondly, what Laws has done is to pay rent for the rooms he was living in while in London, which if he had paid to anyone else would have been totally within the rules and claimable. He did not own the properties or have a mortgage on them. He was paying rent. He was also claiming some £950 per month (not per week), which for London is dirt cheap. His mistake has been to pay it to someone who could be said to be his ‘partner’ (and that term is unclear for the purpose of the ‘rules’). He has not financially benefited personally. Yes, he made a mistake, which he has accepted. It would have been sensible to have checked with the Parliamentary authorities that these payments were allowable under the Green Book. However, that judgement has still to be made. But either way, it is not a hanging mistake – something that the ‘let’s burn him at the stake’ school of thought should remember.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 30th May '10 - 9:16am

    As David Laws has acknowledged that what he did was “in some way” wrong, I’m not sure that it helps for his apologists to carry on claiming otherwise.

    Incidentally, his resignation statement sounded to me as though he was thinking of standing down as an MP. It may be that he no longer feels he wants a career in politics.

  • @ Mark Yeates.

    Mark please stop accusing anyone who disagrees with David Laws and his expenses scandal as “homophobic”, as far as I can see on here, no one has made one single homophobic remark. It is also impossible to out someone who was already known to be gay. I knew this, I read it previously to this and to be honest I could not care less. David Laws maintains the reason why he did this was to keep his private life a secret, I simply do not believe him, I think this is an excuse and another lie, how can he keep a secret something that is already known publicly? If he wanted to keep his private life “private” that is different from “secret”, I have no problem with him keeping his life private, I don’t want to read about him anyway. However, if he really did want to keep this private, then he should have adhered to the rules, if he had, then we would not now be having this conversation.

    It is staggering that he seems to see nothing wrong in what he has done, yet he and the Lib Dem party led by Nick Clegg have stood on a platform pointing a finger at others in other parties. This is something you are never going to be able to do ever again.

    He knew when he took office that there was this problem, yet he still did it and that is doubly duplicitious, it makes a mockery out of this “new era” politics.
    How can he, a multi-millionaire take almost £1000 per month to subsidise his partner’s mortgage? He has been a member of a government that in under three weeks have already put over 15.000 people out of work and this figure is set to soar with just these crazy £6.25 billion cuts, you do realise that your party is going to be charged with putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work?. Who is going to give them £1000 per month to subsidise their mortgages while they look for another job? Especially if they find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, they cannot do a job, so they will be forced to don high vis vests and go and pick litter up from the roads to earn their dole money if Duncan-Smith and the Tories the Lib dems have joined get their way?
    If you think this is about homophobia Mark, then I am afraid you just misunderstand the whole situation.
    There is so much ill feeling towards what the Lib Dems have done and David Laws was not holding Osbourne to account, that much is obvious, if he was the Lib Dems would have stuck out for a more cohesive and balanaced deficit reduction and not joined the Tories in putting this country on the road to a “double dip” recession, if not a full blown depression. I take it you have heard the warnings from the Chamber of Commerce this morning? Gordon Brown is going to be proved right and actually so would Vince Cable have been proved right if he had not turned coat and took the Tory shilling.
    I cannot ever remember feeling so badly let down by any politician than I do about Vince Cable, he was one man I trusted, liked and respected, now look at him. Talk about gutted!
    How many natrual labour voters lent the Lib Dems their vote because of where they happened to live? How many of them will carry on doing this now we have the one thing we did not want in office, a Tory government? This David Laws business is only going to compound this issue, and in marginal Lib Dem seats this is going to be keenly felt. Sarah Teather is another person I was shocked to see sneak in and take a government position, she of all people next to Vince would have been another I would have placed money on to bet would never have done what she done and Sarah onlyhas a small majority.
    It is integrity that has been severely damaged in the Lib Dem party and this is not something that can be easily restored, now people will quite rightly think that the Lib Dems “are just as bad as the others” and they will be right, this is also a serious blow for politics in general.

  • It is not a question of being an apologist but one of balance and fairness. Yes, he has said that he did wrong but it is the level and degree of culpability that needs to be kept in mind, coupled with the lack of personal profit or, seemingly, any intention to profit. For Laws to stand down would be a personal tragedy but also a public tragedy for this country. Parliament has its fair share of mediocre politicians (some of pugilist tendencies end up being enobled); Laws is not one of them.

  • Oh for goodness sakes. I really have heard enough of this nonsense.

    David Laws is NOT dead, he was caught fiddling his expenses to the tune of £40.000.

    David Laws is NOT a great loss to this country, people would have been hard pressed to name him before the general election. He is just another politician caught with his snout in the trough, only this is much worse because he is a multi millionaire and need not have done what he did and besides that he had every opportunity to sort this out when the expenses scandal first broke.

    Let’s be real here, I am laughing at these ultra serious faced like Simon Hughs and arch right winger Ian Duncan-Smith appearing on TV talking in hushed tones as if David Laws has died, it is ridiculous and as for David Cameron and Nick Clegg both “leading tributes” to him, is utterly appalling and nauseating. Not only that, they are leaving the door open for his return? Are they serious? Not 3 weeks into a government where they have both professed to “clean up politics” and “make MPs accountable” and this is a “new era” of politics? And they are leaving the door open for a man who has fiddled the taxpayer out of £40.000. If you or I had done this in benefit claims we would be facing prosecution and a possible jail sentence.

    If you or I had fiddled our expenses in our jobs we would have been sacked instantly and would the company who sacked you then lead tributes to you and also leave the door open for your return?

    Are these politicians for real? Do they ever learn? Are they listening to us?

    I give this ill thought out, rushed through marriage of convenience a year tops before it falls in a pile of sleaze and mire, this was a test of the new government and they have comprehensively failed, after all the talking they could not do the walking and it really is as simple as that.
    Cameron and Clegg “are not the Messiahs, they are just arrogant little boys”.

  • I have read people describing David Laws as a “numbers man” an able man of “figures” and a loss to the country?
    A numbers man that cannot even keep his own books straight and misclaims expenses to the tune of fiddling the tax payer out of £40.000 is no great loss to this country.

  • Well Marjorie, I hope you feel better for that. How very sad. And how wrong. I suggest you look at the facts before you judge so harshly and condemn in such intemperate tones. How precisely has he “fiddled the taxpayer” by paying rent for living in a property that was not his own? Rent that would have been a legitimate claim had it not been to his ‘partner’. This is not in the same league as MPs who were claiming for mortgages that they no longer had, or for duck houses etc. If he had not being paying rent to his partner he would presumably have being paying it for somewhere else and been able to claim quite properly and with none of this fuss.

  • Firstly I must say that I voted Libdem this time just as I have My entire adult life, I have never indulged in tactical voting, I’ve always followed my principles.

    I was overjoyed with the results of the election thinking we’ll finally get PR, I truly believed Nick when he said we’ll have a ‘new kind of politics’ as opposed to the ‘old politics’, I even smiled when he said “there they go again”

    When the coalition was formed with the Tories I had my doubts but I thought it would be a means towards the end, ‘we can handle them’ I said to myself… then the cuts where announced, cuts which are to start this year, we have a referendum on AV instead of PR, serious doubts now appeared. and now We have this David Laws affair right on the back of the Welfare reform announcements.

    I work for the CAB and recently one of my clients was in a very similar situation as David but in her case it was housing benefit that was claimed, she ended up paying back the £500 that she wrongly claimed (unknowingly she said) , she was also fined and now has a criminal record.

    As you can probably gather I’m rather disillusioned at the moment as it seems to me there are rules for one set of people and rules for another, the ‘old politics’ haven’t gone away and the quip “there they go again” now rings very hollow.

    But the most galling of all, it’s the response of bloggers and posters here, willing to forgive and even praising a man who, in any other walk of life would very probably be charged with fraud

    Tomorrow I’ll go back to the CAB and face dozens of people worried over benefit reform panicking that they may lose some or all of their benefits or workers concerns over their jobs after the cuts wanting to know their rights, one client, having lived through the 80s said ‘here we go again’….. I just could help thinking of Nicks ‘there they go again’….
    so yes your right I am very disillusioned

  • Precisely. Let’s see what the Standards Commissioner has to say.

  • Leveller, feel better for what exactly? How sad, you write? Who for? David Laws because he got found out? How wrong? Me? Why, where am I wrong?
    The rules clearly state that since 2006 MPs were banned from claiming allowances paid as rent to their partners. David Laws has been in a relationship with Lundie since at least 2001 when he moved into Lundie’s flat and claimed rent allowance and Lundie’s flat was stated as a second home in his expense claims.
    David Laws even extended his own mortgage to help Mr Lundie buy his new half a million pound home. Just because they had separate bank accounts, does not mean they are not partners, I have a separate bank account to my partner. For David Laws to somehow suggest that they did not live as partners is deeply duplicitous.
    For David Laws to state that he did not benefit financially is untrue, of course he did, had the taxpayer not picked up the £950 per month bill for him he would have had to pay this amount out of his own pocket.
    If David Laws did live somewhere else and claimed rent for that residence then this would not be an issue, so it is you that is wrong.
    I do not particularly think it “honourable” or very pleasant to now see Mr Laws using his family and his partner as an excuse for something he knows fully well was totally wrong.
    If the same scenario was repeated by someone one benefits, would you and others be so “liberal” minded in your response to them? The fact is that if this scenario was repeated by people claiming benefits they would be stripped of them, made to pay them back, fined and probably imprisoned as well, so please spare us this public hand-wringing sanctimony, it just doesn’t wash, the more you try and excuse what this man has done the worse it actually sounds and it also smacks of hypocrisy.
    I was incensed to learn how much Margaret Moran had ripped the taxpayer off for and you would not have found me making excuses for her, so why should we for David Laws? Just because he went to a top school and was a privileged person BEFORE he bet his way to making himself richer and more privileged?
    This is rank hypocrisy and it stinks of political corruption and because Nick Clegg made such a big issue out of this very thing, urging people to leave the old politics behind, this is in fact going to set politics back and do untold damage to ALL parties, or are your yellow tinted blinkers stopping you from seeing this?
    Last Friday David Cameron promised to: “rip off that cloak of secrecy” around government, so we could see exactly where our tax pounds are being spent and hours later he is “leading tributes” to David Laws and calling him an “honourable man” and “hoping to see him back in government soon”, please tell me where this is ripping off the cloak of secrecy.
    It absolutely reeks of double standards and rank hypocrisy!

  • Iain Roberts, paying rent to partners is NOT a grey area and has not been ever since 2006, when claiming allowance paid in rent to partners or spouses was actually banned.

  • Oranjepan that post of yours is highly amusing.
    I trust you would have the same opinion of someone caught for cohabiting while claiming single person benefits? It doesn’t matter that they live in the same house, they can all just say they were renting a room in their boy/girlfriend’s house and then the taxpayer can pick up the bill?

    Six words……..Wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Good to see that the class war is alive and kicking, Marjory, and that you can see things so clearly through your (presumably) rose-tinted specs. The Green Book says:
    “PAAE [Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure] must not be used to meet the costs of renting a property
    from yourself; a partner or family member (including a spouse or civil partner) ….”.
    “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.”
    Being “in a relationship” does not necessarily make the person with whom you are having a relationship your partner.
    This is nothing like the Moran case and Laws would have been able to claim PAAE for somewhere else he was renting, so that point is very relevant. There is no loss to the taxpayer (unlike benefit fraud). A technical breach of the rules at the most. As I said before, let the Standards Commissioner rule on it.

  • Steve Wilson 30th May '10 - 5:02pm

    Meanwhile on Friday a Norfolk mother, Sarah Riley, was imprisoned for falsely claiming £10,000 in housing benefit over a period of 7 years after negletting to inform the authorities that she had started a relationship.
    Jailing her for 20 weeks, judge Alasdair Darroch, told her he accepted that prison would be devastating for her but said: “This is a very large sum of public money and there was dishonesty going on for a long period of years.”

    He accepted her relationship with her partner had not been stable but said: “I’m unable to avoid a prison sentence.”

    Roberts, get a grip.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 30th May '10 - 5:37pm

    “Whatever I or you or the law states, David Laws says he was of the opinion that he wasn’t in a relationship.”

    As a matter of fact, he said he had been “involved in a relationship” with Lundie since about 2001.

  • Leveller, I think it is you that it is wearing blinkers. You all seem to think because I am some others object to David Laws actually breaking parliamentary rules and claiming allowances and paying them as rent to his partner when it is specifically been banned since 2006, we are either homophobic or operating some kind of class war, please stop being so utterly puerile. I am neither, but I am a taxpayer and I have witnessed a dreadful misuse of taxpayers money from ALL three political parties and I object to ALL.
    I would like to know id when Osbourne and co put my daughter out of work, she will be able to lie and say she is living in as a single parent in a house with her partner and they can BOTH claim as single entities and BOTH fleece the taxpayer, not only this , they can then BOTH claim for their utility bills etc.

    Is this acceptable Yes? Or No?

    This is called accountability, it is what BOTH the Conservatives and Labour have had to endure, get used to it, you are in government now, there will be a lot more of this to come.
    It is my guess that there are others in the ConDem coalition government who have also fallen into the trap of thinking they will never be in government and so will be in a dilemma today. Do I feel sorry for them? NO, these are the rules they force us to live by, they MUST lead by example and while we are at it, can one of you Liberal Democrats please tell me what Nick Clegg was waffling about on TV last evening, when he was in the process of calling David Laws a person of integrity?
    Why didn’t Clegg come straight out and apologise for misleading the British people during the election campaign by depicting his party as the new party of politics who were “not like these two”? Or did Clegg actually know about Laws? If he did, this should send a chill right down your spine, because it will come out and if it dies this is the end of Clegg and probably the end of the coalition too.
    Now I have studied body language, I have a degree in psychology and let me just say that I did not like the pasty cold clammy look of Clegg on TV last evening,this may be because he was acutely embarrassed by Laws, or it could be something altogether more serious. We will see!

  • What really gets me is how two faced bothe the general public and the media have been.
    Throughout the whole MP expenses story they have continually stated that regardless of the rules it is the principle of the matter that counts. MP’s who didn’t technically break the rules were hounded for ripping off the tax payers… and in my view rightly so too. Many of the MP’s who paid expenses back did so having not broken the rules at all, but did so because there expenses were seen as ‘unfairly claimed’.

    Now we have a case where David Laws claimed expenses that are entirely reasonable in terms f the amount and what they were used for, yet he may (stress may and not did) have fallen foul of the rules by claiming in one way instead of another.

    In no way has the tax payer been put out of pocket in any way which is unfair, or that, had he declard his relationship, they wouldn’t have been paying anyway. But all of a sudden it isn’t the principle which counts, it’s the technicality of the rules. How do they justify this U-turn?

  • @ Marjory “For David Laws to state that he did not benefit financially is untrue, of course he did, had the taxpayer not picked up the £950 per month bill for him he would have had to pay this amount out of his own pocket.”

    You don’t actually seem to understand the facts here.

    Had he not wished to hide his relationship, he would have been eligible to claim a second home expense. Had he not been living with him he would have been able to claim expenses for living somewhere else. 2nd home and rental expenses are picked up by the tax payer regardless of the relationship status of the MP, just being in a relationship does not automatically mean he isn’t entitled to expenses incured by having to be in London for part of his Job.. simply because it is a real expense they incur from having to be in London to do their job. You seem to think that the tax payer payed something unusual here.. they didn’t, the tax payer pays for every MP with a distant constituancy to stay in london… whether this is with their partner or not, they are all entitled to it. You may disagree with this, but you can’t disagree with it for one person only and accept its ok for the others.

    Unles of course you are saying that because he wanted to keep his reltionship private he doesn’t deserve to claim any expenses? That seems a callous and petty view to take, especially given the circumstances of his relationship to both the person he was living with, and his friends and family… what you are saying is he should have to come out to his friends and family to be able to claim for expenses that every other MP is allowed to claim for, who are you to make that kind of demand of someone?

  • Alex, with respect I think it is you that does not seem to understand the facts here. It matters not how much he claimed, the fact is he claimed for something he should not have claimed for and more seriously, he knows he should not have claimed.
    There is NO grey area here, since 2006 the rules have been clear, MPs have not been allowed to claim allowances for rent paid to a partner or spouse or close business associate etc, David Laws was living with a man he was in a relationship with since 2001. What is so hard for some of you to understand about this? David Laws actually extended his mortgage in order to give money to his partner to help him buy a new house, he then went on to claim allowance on rent, he did wrong, Clegg knows it, Cameron knows it, judging by the comments on here and elsewhere, most other people know it and above all David Laws himself knows it, if he did not he would not have resigned and he would not have to pay back the £40.000 he took from the taxpayer.
    If he had rented a separate abode and claimed rent for that, no matter how much, he would not have broke the rules. Why should the taxpayer be forced to subsidise the mortgage of Mr Laws’ partner? This was just arrogance and greed and people have had enough of it. How in all honesty could Laws help to draw up cuts and put hundreds of thousands out of work, while claiming almost £1000 of taxpayers money per month for his partner? It is obscene and it is just plain wrong and highly offensive to all those people he is going to hurt, not to mention the poor, sick, disabled and vulnerable, I dare say they would like a nice little amount like that per month towards their rent and utility bills.

    There is simply no excuse for this and what about his partner being told he was not really his partner? He has been having a relationship with him since 2001, how hurtful is that?
    Laws was not sorry he did this, he was sorry he got caught and sorry he had to give his job up.

  • Paul McKeown 2nd Jun '10 - 6:01pm

    @Marjory

    I see you use the term, “ConDem,” at which I consigned your whole post to the waste-basket as partisan ranting. The whole affair is no more nor no less than a cunning stunt from Alistair Campbell, and of no long term significance whatsoever. You may listen to said stunt-man for your propaganda free political information, but I prefer less biased sources.

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