Reshuffle round-up: it looks like good news for Swinson & Laws

There’s been plenty of reshuffle chit-chat overt the past few weeks, much of it speculative. However, the Sunday papers appears to included some pretty well-sourced information which went beyond the usual space-filling ‘who knows?’, and appears to suggest good news for both Jo Swinson and David Laws — both of whom enjoyed strong support in our recent survey of members’ preferred back-bencher promotions.

First, The Observer reported that David Cameron’s reshuffle will bring whips back to the fore, with an enhanced whips office incorporating both old-handers and young-turks to help the Tory leader re-assert a grip on his increasingly assertive back-benchers. The paper also notes the return to ministerial office of David Laws, a move which the Mail says would be supported by the public according to one poll:

The poll finds strong support for Mr Laws being given a job that would allow him to help Mr Osborne pull the country out of recession – for example by simply being given his old job back, or by being allocated a ‘roving’ brief that would include an economic portfolio. A total of 44 per cent of voters agree with the idea compared with 16 per cent who disagree. Among Conservative voters, 55 per cent want Mr Laws to help Mr Osborne – close to the 62 per cent figure recorded among Lib Dem voters.

That said, the poll is by new-and-largely-untested polling company Survation; and the question appears to have been worded in such a way that those who voiced support for David Laws may well have felt they were expressing dissatisfaction with George Osborne.

Secondly, The Independent also reports the Laws-to-return theme, and says he will have a non-voting seat at the cabinet, most probably within the free-ranging Cabinet Office department. But it adds some insight into other potential Lib Dem moves:

Jo Swinson, Mr Clegg’s senior ministerial aide, is expected to be the most high-profile Lib Dem promotion in next month’s reshuffle, with a move to replace Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office. Ms Swinson, who co-founded the Campaign for Body Confidence, would take control of the equalities brief, although Lib Dem strategists are keen that she also get a grip on law and order policy. Ms Featherstone is expected to remain in government, having impressed Mr Clegg in the past two and a half years. Lib Dem ministers believed to be vulnerable include Andrew Stunell, the Communities minister, and Lord McNally, the Justice minister.

Reshuffles are mostly just an excuse for Westminster ‘who’s up/down’ gossip. It certainly looks like my hope of single-party departments is unlikely to see the light of day.

The one substantive policy-related aspect to the reshuffle (assuming, and I do, neither George Osborne nor Vince Cable is moved) is the fate of transport secretary Justine Greening, who has vowed opposition to a third runway at Heathrow which would impact on her Putney, Roehampton and Southfields constituency.

A straight job-swap with, for instance, Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt – whose job it will be to receive the Leveson Report on media regulation — would potentially solve two headaches for David Cameron. However, it will open up another front of opposition with the Lib Dems, which strongly oppose Heathrow expansion.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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61 Comments

  • My personal view is that David Laws should not come back because what he did was wrong and it sends the wrong message to the voters yet .

    What have Stunell and McNally done to deserve being sacked?

  • If John Swinson, as Nicks most senior aide, has neither predicted or prevented some of the most egregious cock ups of the last couple of years, it’s hard to see the basis for any promotion .

    As for Laws, whatever the Mail says today, look forward to the “Gay Expenses Cheat rewarded for theft” headline tomorrow .
    Laws COULD have been doing the behind the scenes roving brief anyway, so I’m not sure why a ministerial post (and salary) is required

  • …It’s Jo Swinson. Not John, Redndead.

  • A return of Laws would be yet another political own goal for the Libdems.

    The guy was found “Guilty” by parliament for various breeches, he was also suspended from the commons for 7 days {not something to be taken lightly} How many “former Ministers” in history have faced a suspension????

    It flies in the face of libdems promise to clean up government, which included their “right to recall” which we hear is also about to suffer another U-Turn.

    There will be a field day in the media if Laws is returned to the front benches, Numerous Articles of an MP who fiddled his expenses alongside the latest scandal of MP’s argument with HMRC, arguing that they should be able to use accountants to submit their Expenses and it should be tax deductible.

    Cameron would be loving it, not only would he gain a right wing supporter for his cabinet, but he would also be dealing another blow to the liberal democrats political reputation.

  • Morgan Inwood 27th Aug '12 - 3:11pm

    On the issue of David Laws, what was mentioned in the press is that he would be putting out the fires across Whitehall and would be involved in Coalition Policy Making thus leaving Danny marginalized. If Jo is moved to the Home Office, where would Lynne go?

    Jeremy Hunt possibly at Transport, shudders. He should be on the Backbenches.

  • @jedibeeftrix

    If the public opinion you are referring to is from that recent poll, carried out by a virtually unknow, I think if you look closer at the data, the approval came from Conservative and LidDem Supporters, funny that.

    And when you consider the real Polls, A majority of the electorate is not supportive of either Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives combined 😉

  • Simon Bamonte 27th Aug '12 - 7:05pm

    Bringing laws back will just be another instance of us shooting ourselves in the foot. If a man was claiming housing benefit and saying he lived at property A, while really living at property B, he would have committed benefit fraud and in my work I have seen people doing just this, claiming for much less than Laws, who have been sent to prison for 6 months. If he had not told the entire truth about expenses of £40k in the private sector, he most likely would have been sacked. Laws’ “punishment” was being suspended from Parliament for a short time and having to repay the cheated expenses. Ideally he should have been sacked completely and a by-election held. We’re supposed to be better than this. Clegg talks about “zero tolerance” for average benefit cheats, but does the opposite when there’s an expenses cheat in his own party!

    So the next time one of our party bigwigs start talking about “cleaning up politics” and “restoring integrity”, their argument and right to hold the moral high ground will disappear the moment someone says “David Laws”. It seems we finally ARE like Labour and the Tories: we have MPs who tell the plebs to act one way, while acting in the opposite manner themselves. The people “leading” our party are indeed now hypocritical and think the rules we all have to live by don’t apply to them.

    Will the last LibDem in government with principles please stand up?

  • Simon: very well said. We need to do so much better.

  • Leviticus18_23 27th Aug '12 - 9:23pm

    http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/Plymouth-single-mother-jailed-pound-44k-benefit/story-16385837-detail/story.html
    Member of public commits £44k worth of fraud and goes to prison for 6 months.
    David Laws gets away with it.

  • Oh dear, again we hear the name of Laws. Why are the LD so keen on this expenses cheat – and he was found guilty remember although he was given a generous benefit of the doubt based on a sob story. It still does not explain why his claims for living expenses dropped rapidly as soon as the had to provide receipts.

    Even if you, generously, give him the benefit of the doubt, his return to a ministerial position should be considered impossible at this moment. Remember he hid this situation until after the election and the electors have therefore not been given a chance to pass judgement. Again another case of his underhand actions. He comes across as an unlikeable and arrogant man.

    This decision will do the party no favours, except with the Tories and should be opposed at all costs – lest the party be accused of hypocrisy

    I also think Swinson is a pretty feeble figure, I have seen her interventions in debates and not been very impressed. She is also unlikely to hold onto her current seat

  • Richard Heathcote 27th Aug '12 - 10:32pm

    David Laws coming back would really just prove that the party is no different to Labour or Conservative in providing backing to dubious characters in politics. Its how many people will see this and it makes a mockery out of the new politics we where supposed to be seeing.

    The other thing that makes me laugh is the suggestion of unfair treatment of Nick Clegg and how his character is being decimated by the press, I read a hell of a lot more nasty stuff about Gordon Brown when he was Prime Minister yet that seems to have been acceptable.

    I find the Lib Dem party to be just as Hypocritical as the other 2 parties and I think come the next General Election there will be no moral high ground to occupy

  • I think the attraction of Laws for some Lib Dems is that he’s high profile and links up with the Conservative party fairly naturally. Personally, I think this is almost as much of a problem as the expenses issue. People really don’t want another millionaire talking about making tough choices.
    Even if you support him, the truth is that in a basically unpopular government Laws is a soft target.
    Stick him on question time with Will Self or another former high profile Lib Dem supporter and the results will be very uncomfortable to watch. I’m bot that certain that even Tories will show him much quarter.

  • Grammar Police 27th Aug '12 - 11:28pm

    Just saying; but if Laws had declared his relationship with his landlord when the rules changed and made it declarable, he could have legitimately claimed more than he did in expenses.

  • Grammar Police

    Not that again please – if is the big word. The fact is he didn’t declare it and he couldn’t have maintained the same arrangements and claimed the money. Theoretically he could have done so but it would have meant changing his living arrangements.

    This has been gone into so much in the past and still we have his defenders on here. I think he was very lucky not to be prosecuted, but he wasn’t and I will have to accept that. What is far more difficult to accept is that someone like this is considered worthy to be a Minister

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Aug '12 - 1:33am

    bazzasc

    Oh dear, again we hear the name of Laws. Why are the LD so keen on this expenses cheat – and he was found guilty remember although he was given a generous benefit of the doubt based on a sob story.

    Are the LibDems keen on him?

    It seems to me the right-wing press are keen on him, so keep trying to push his name and make out he’s oh-so-very-clever. If people read it enough times they tend to believe it. Reality is that he’s being pushed because he’s on the extreme economic right-wing of the LibDems, and Tories and Tory-supporting press outlets like that. Would someone who is clever but on the left of the party get treated the same way? No. Is it a matter that LibDems really like Laws, or is it that when they have to think of a name they think of his because his name is continuously being pushed forward by the media?

    Laws seems to me to be typical of someone who thinks he’s clever and is treated as clever simply because he’s swallowed whole the “more free market competition is the solution to everything” line. I’ve seen nothing coming from him that is more than a stale old rehearsal of that line. Indeed, a lot of the stuff he’s written seems alarmingly simplistic, Personally I think someone truly clever now is someone who can see through and question the orthodoxies of the political right instead of just saying “me too, but I don’t like the Tories because I’m gay, so I’m a LibDem”.

  • Kevin McNamara 28th Aug '12 - 1:48am

    Lynne has handled her Home Office brief incredibly well. Moving her from there would be a mistake. Jo should take up Scottish Secretary, if she is to be promoted.

  • Tom Snowdon 28th Aug '12 - 8:30am

    David Laws should NOT be brought back. How many times did we see this under Labour ? A minister resigns for wrong doing, then bounces back into government after a short cooling off period. The public will see this for what it is. Apart from being found guilty of cheating on expenses, and the example this would set of rewarding bad behaviour, do we really need another right wing, free market “tory” mouth piece in government ?

  • Two points. First, the suggestion that there will be a field day in the media if David Laws returns to government is not at all probable, for the media (whatever its faults) is grown-up enough to accept, as did the House of Commons committee which adjudicated on Laws at the time, that whatever he did was not done with a view to personal profit.
    Second, this is a Coalition government in which the number of ministers for each party is more or less fixed, so the net number of Lib Dem ministers in the government is going to be much the same after the reshuffle as it was before the reshuffle. The scope for bringing in to the government further LD MPs is thus very strictly limited, and we should not therefore be surprised if the only changes to the LD team – the recall of David Laws apart – are at a distinctly junior level (Parliamentary Under Secretary or Assistant Whip).

  • Hello everybody, Laws claimed LESS money than he could have done had he been open about who he was living with. He was entitled to claim MORE money than he did. The motivation was not financial gain, so what on earth are you all going on about? I find your posturing utterly ridiculous , given that you fail to mention shocking serial house flippers like Ed Balls who have got off scot free. How about redirecting your opprobrium at someone who deliberately deceived in order to make financial gain rather than someone who didn’t.

    No, the problem with Laws is that he suffers from the endemic neo-liberal conformism that is rampant in the Tory party, which insists that any market based solution is always inherently better than any public sector solution, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. That is the reason why I would not want him anywhere near government.

  • So what is the Liberal Democrats attitude now towards the right to recall?

    You certainly made a big fuss about it before the last General Election, I do believe that it even made it into the coalition agreement.

    So what has happened to make you change your minds and go silent on the issue?

    Could it possibly be anything to do with the fact, that once you entered government, it quickly became apparent, that Liberal Democrat Ministers were caught up in a policy that was highly likely to affect them.

    As someone else previously pointed out, David laws, hid his expenses scandal, whilst it was rife in the media and MP’s were being ousted, He even came on air claiming to be holier than though, and yet 2 weeks after entering office, the mud sure hit the fan.

    Laws has not been tested by his constituents like other MP’s have been who were caught with their fingers in the till.

    Laws was “suspended” from parliament, but he has not yet been tried by the public.

    Then there is the fiasco with Huhnes.

    So come on guy’s. Be honest now, what is your position on the right to recall, any of you brave enough to give an opinion

  • @ Matt

    “Laws was “suspended” from parliament, but he has not yet been tried by the public.”

    If the posts made here are anything to go by, being “tried by the public” is going to result in grave injustice. Why not recall Ed Balls et al instead. They are far more deserving of this kind of witch hunt. Or is it because David Laws is an easy target because he is gay?

  • Bill le Breton 28th Aug '12 - 9:47am

    May I write in support of Andrew Stunell? He knows his brief as well as if not better than anyone else in Government, having served as a councillor in Chester and Stockport over thirty years and having advised hundreds of councillors and would-be councillors first as an employee of ALC and later ALDC.

    As a minister, he has delivered Liberal Democrat policy in a way that is closer than most to Liberal Democracy in principle and as set out in the 2010 manifesto.

    He has never sought to climb a greasy pole, never sought the limelight, never betrayed a friend or colleague (to my knowledge) and never failed to answer the call of someone in his ward, his constituency, a fellow councillor near or far, or a fellow party member. I don’t doubt for a moment that he has been a loyal and supportive colleague to scores of MPs.

    He is unchanged from the person I first met in 1981 when ALC held a conference in Chester and he put on an event and personally greeted every attendee.

    In a just world he would not be pushed aside.

    Perhaps those who share my views should e-mail their support to the Chief Whip.

  • @RC

    “If the posts made here are anything to go by, being “tried by the public” is going to result in grave injustice. Why not recall Ed Balls et al instead. They are far more deserving of this kind of witch hunt. Or is it because David Laws is an easy target because he is gay?”

    You certainly directed that question at the wrong person, because I am as gay as they come and in a long term relationship, although not civil partnership.

    Actually what Laws did reinforces my point and opinions of him.

    I have to declare my partner as my partner to the DWP and his income is taken into account for what I can and can not claim for.

    If I was to pretend I was a lodger and claim housing benefit, I would have been comitting fraud and prosecuted, and rightly so.

    So please don’t pull the gay card, because US gays actually find it offensive

  • furthermore.

    “Why not recall Ed Balls et al instead. They are far more deserving of this kind of witch hunt”

    If you implemented the policy that you promised to do so, then his constituency would be able to if they felt he was guilty of something.

    What is your opinion of the right to recall, you seemed to avoid answering that part of the question

  • Matthew Huntbach

    As is often the case I find myself agreeing with what you say

    RC,

    I find your post, especially the last part, quite offensive. I don’t care what Laws’s sexuality is – it seems it was his own family that had the issue.

    Let us get clear he was not entitled to claim at all due to his personal circumstances ie living with a partner, and that is before we get onto his ‘mistakes’ on claiming large amounts of varied expenses which dropped dramatically when receipts were demanded.

    he was allowed to claim more, but only if his personal situation was different so it is of no relevance to the issue. Just as if I lived separately from a partner I can claim housing benefit, but not if I live with them. I could, of course, say I am not in a relationship with the person and then use a defence of ‘I would be claiming more if I lived in another house’ but surely that is having a large piece of cake and eating it.

    As to the findings of the Parliamentary committee – they need to be responsible for that decision. personalyl I found it very lenient and inconsistent with the fact he did gain financially from it, which was shown when he repaid the monies. However, I will accept that decisionnbut it should not then also be used as a vindication for bringing him back – essentially he was still found guilty.

    I would also reemphasise the point I and Matt made earlier – he waited until after the election to come out with this thus not allowing the electorate to have a say. He even went further to portray himself as a ‘clean’ candidate. That again should preclude him from holding office, at least in this Parliament. This should be especially supported by a party that supports, but is yet to implement, recall elections.

    Finally, the less relevant point to this argument is that he is also really a Tory – have him as one of your cabinet members if you want but it will only help alienate further the electors from the left and make a rapprochement with Labour more difficult

  • @ bazzasc

    “he was allowed to claim more, but only if his personal situation was different so it is of no relevance to the issue.”

    No, he was allowed to claim more on the basis of what his personal situation ACTUALLY was. The fact that he was allowed to claim more is the absolute crux of the issue, because he did not do what he did for monetary gain. He actually lost out financially because he did not disclose the nature of his relationship.

    @ Matt
    “You certainly directed that question at the wrong person, because I am as gay as they come and in a long term relationship, although not civil partnership.”

    Well, for that matter, I too am gay but at least I recognise that the situation of David Laws would probably have been brushed over had he been straight and living with a female partner, as has been the case with Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. But because he is an ex-banker and living with a “male lover” (scandal, shock, outrage), the very fact he claims public money for his “lifestyle choice” (not my term) is deemed as somehow outrageous per se. Basically, it is taken as being aggravating circumstances.

    I repeat, David Laws did not gain financially from what he did, so there seems no logic to the case against him.

  • Richard Swales 28th Aug '12 - 12:38pm

    I am not an expert but my understanding is that he would not be allowed to pay rent to someone he was in a marriage or married-like relationship to (if I paid rent to my wife, effectively I would be paying rent to myself). As I understand it, Laws and his partner did not have shared finances or a bank account, there would still be concepts like “your share of the electricity bill”. Is “a married-like relationship” just a coy way of saying “someone you are shagging”? Or did some more damning information come out later on? I know he paid money back in the hope that the story would go away, but I think that was unwise as it now looks like an admission of guilt.
    The comparison with housing benefit is not valid as that (rightly or wrongly) is governed by extremely strict rules which are not comparable to the rules in force for MPs at the time.

  • @ Bazzasc

    I’ve only just mentioned this jewel of a phrase in your posting.

    “I would also reemphasise the point I and Matt made earlier – he waited until after the election to come out with this thus not allowing the electorate to have a say.”

    “Have their say”? You really have let the cat out of the bag, haven’t you? So you’re saying they should have made up their minds about whether to vote for him based on his sexual orientation.

  • @RC

    That is utter nonsense, why are you over playing the gay card? His sexuality has nothing to do with it, neither myself or Bazzasc has even suggested it, in any way shape or form.

    And please answer my previous question, Do, you believe that the Liberal Democrats should still be pushing for the introduction of the right to recall, as they promised before and after the election

  • And why do you keep saying that he did not gain financially????

    The rules clearly state, that you can not claim rent on a property that is owned by your partner or relative.

    Mr Laws was not a joint owner of the property and mortgage of his Partner Mr Lundie, therefore his claim for rent was against the rules.

    There is no different shades of grey.

    The rules are the rules, and they must be adhered too.

  • @ Matt
    “And why do you keep saying that he did not gain financially????”

    Because he didn’t. Had he registered Mr Lundie as his partner with the parliamentary authorities, he could have claimed even more money quite legitimately under the rules as they stood. Therefore, he didn’t gain financially.

    It is quite simple, but you refuse to recognise this key, central fact. It is not a question of shades of grey. It is a clear, fundamental point.

    As for “playing the gay card”, I am simply pointing out that he appears to be receiving discriminatory treatment which ignores this fundamental point that he didn’t make any financial gain. Meanwhile others who did make financial gain in a very significant and calculated way, like Ed Balls, seem disgracefully to have been let entirely off the hook.

    I am all for recall in principle, but what exactly are the criteria going to be for a recall? If they are based on this kind of populist, ignorant witch hunting then it is going to create more problems than it solves.

  • I am also concerned about David Laws “returning”. It would seem to be hypocritical and contradictory. Also, I do not recall there being a specific question on this matter in the Voice survey!

  • How could he have claimed more money if he had declared his partner?

    Please explain where you get this information from, because as I said previously, you can not claim Rent for a property owned by your partner, and you can not claim the costs of a mortgage unless you are named on the mortgage papers. obviously. So how do you figure he could have claimed more????

    You say the likes of Edd Balls have been let off the hook, but your party is in government and it is your party that promised to introduce the policy of right to recall.

    Balls constituency can not hold him to account “unless” your party delivers on it’s promises. It is quite simple really.

    And the only reason they are back tracking and wont introduce the bill, is purely because their own “former” ministers and big hitters in the party would all be caught up in the policy.

    It is Hypocrisy in it’s worse form.

  • RC

    ED Balls is also a disgrace but as far as I know he has npt been suspended by Parliament for not being forthcoming with the truth when he made his claims.

    I think Matt has summarised the position quite well and I suggest you go and have a cold shower

    By the way I take great offence at you insinuating I am homophobic – as I said before this was more a problem with Mr Laws’s own family. What my comments had to do with his sexuality I fail to see and by usig this argument you further weaken your, already weak, argument

  • Tony Dawson 28th Aug '12 - 4:32pm

    @matt:

    “I have to declare my partner as my partner to the DWP and his income is taken into account for what I can and can not claim for. If I was to pretend I was a lodger and claim housing benefit, I would have been comitting fraud and prosecuted, and rightly so.”

    matt, ‘fraud’ is the obtaining of pecuniary advantage by deception. What David Laws chose to do was to obtain a pecuniary disadvantage by deception. So, quite rightly, the HoC hauled him over the coals for breaking their rules. But there it ends.

    Any reasons for not bringing David back into government start and end with his political approach and the ‘balance’ of the Lib Dem Cabinet delegation.

  • @Tony Dawson

    maybe you could explain then how he could have possibly claimed more if he had declared the partnership???

  • Tony Dawson 28th Aug '12 - 6:32pm

    “matt 28th Aug ’12 – 5:26pm
    @Tony Dawson

    maybe you could explain then how he could have possibly claimed more if he had declared the partnership???”

    Very simple:

    He would have declared the London house in which he was living with his partner as his ‘main home’ and claimed expense payments for the mortgage of his Somerset home as ‘second home’. The only reason he didn’t do this is that it would have ‘outed’ him. This was accepted by all parties in the House of Commons committee which considered the matter. Had he been thought to be fraudulently benefiting, his penalty would have been far worse.

  • Tony Dawson

    The decision of the inquiry is up to them – in the end they found him guilty and suspended him. Personally I think he should have got a stiffer penalty but that is up to them

    He was also found guilty of paying above the market rate to a partner and also claiming for maintenance etc which would not normally have been payable by a renter.

    He fails to mention that his partner’s mortgage was being part-paid through his taxpayer-funded contribution.

    Why did he also try and portray himself as being ‘clean’ when he was clearly not

    If you look at the conclusion from the committee it was said there was ‘no evidence’ that he was trying to gain a pecuniary advantage but that is different from saying he was exonerated of the charge. The breaches were also considered serious in the conclusions

    As to his Somerset home then he may have been able to claim more but in the end what he was doing was giving taxpayers money to his partner, instead of receiving it for himself in lieu of payments on his own property, especially seeing what he was doing with maintenance payments etc.

    I fail to see how this behaviour can be aligned with the role of a minister of the crown, especially seeing he kept the information hidden until after the election and made a point of his expenses claims

  • @ Tony Dawson

    “He would have declared the London house in which he was living with his partner as his ‘main home’ and claimed expense payments for the mortgage of his Somerset home as ‘second home’. The only reason he didn’t do this is that it would have ‘outed’ him. ”

    But your statement clearly shows in itself that, that is a breech of the rules.

    You can not claim rent on a property owned by a partner, or mortgage payments for which your are not the borrower.

    They could have rented out the mortgaged property to another tenant and then “joint” rented another property together in london and Laws could have claimed his share of the rent, and that would have been within the rules.

    We can not have one set of rules for parliamentarians and use of the public purse and then apply a different set of standards to the normal general public who claim state benefits

  • Tony Dawson 28th Aug '12 - 9:35pm

    @bazzasc:

    ” it was said there was ‘no evidence’ that he was trying to gain a pecuniary advantage but that is different from saying he was exonerated of the charge. ”

    It is a good job you’ve never sat on a jury. Where there is ‘no evidence’ then people are not guilty. So they areexonerated of that particular charge.

  • @ Tony Dawson

    “It is a good job you’ve never sat on a jury. Where there is ‘no evidence’ then people are not guilty. So they areexonerated of that particular charge.”

    And yet he was found in breech of the rules by the standards committee and as a result was “suspended” from the commons.

    How does that suggest in any shape or form that he was exonerated?

    I did ask the question earlier but nobody bothered to answer, how many former cabinet ministers have been suspended from parliament before? surely Liberal democrats do not view this lightly, and if they do so, then i am sorry but they would deserve the electorates future disgust and distrust

  • @Tony Dawson
    “matt, ‘fraud’ is the obtaining of pecuniary advantage by deception.”

    To be precise, it is (from the Fraud Act 2006):

    2 Fraud by false representation
    (1) A person is in breach of this section if he—
    (a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
    (b) intends, by making the representation—

    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss

    Fraud by failing to disclose information
    A person is in breach of this section if he—
    (a) dishonestly fails to disclose to another person information which he is
    under a legal duty to disclose, and
    (b) intends, by failing to disclose the information—
    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss

    “It is a good job you’ve never sat on a jury. Where there is ‘no evidence’ then people are not guilty. So they areexonerated of that particular charge.”

    But if he admitted to passing the payments to his partner to pay his mortgage, thereby making a gain for said partner, how would it have been possible not to come to a guilty verdict?

  • Tony Dawson

    re: the no evidence point

    This is not relevant to the guilty/not guilty as matt pointed out. He was found in breach and the ‘evidence’ point deals with his motivation. The view of the commission is that the evidence was not there to say he tried to gain an advantage and this was used in determining the severity of the punishment. You could also argue that there was no evidence he was not trying to gain an advantage so you could look at it the other way.

    As this was not a court of law the same rules do not apply, personally I would have liked to see him in front of the beak but that is another story…….

  • Richard Harris 29th Aug '12 - 7:48am

    Wow! Clegg is an artist at screwing up a message. I was almost interested in his call for taxes for the rich (until I saw it was temporary), but was completely switched off when I saw that Laws was coming back. If this is the start of your new launch then I really feel for your members and supporters,

  • Richard Harris 29th Aug '12 - 7:51am

    Just to add, discussion about the rights and wrongs of the case are largely pointless – public perception is all the Libdems should be concerned about now, and Clegg re-using staff associated with scandal is not helping.

  • Richard Harris

    I agree that too much discussion of the rights/wrongs are pointless but there is a view that he did very little wrong and that it was just a minor indiscretion. This should be challenged strongly as it is the justification used for allowing him to come back.

    Public perception, for those who care, will be negative; it gives Labour another target and last, if not least, the guy is economically very right wing

  • @bazzasc
    “This should be challenged strongly as it is the justification used for allowing him to come back.”

    Shouldn’t it be challenged full stop – regardless of whether he is right, left, middle?

  • Chris_sh

    Of course

    He should not be allowed back full-stop – perhaps in the next Parliament if he is reelected and you are generous of mind.

    The bit about him being right-wing was badly expressed and was in relation as to why the LD would want him back so badly that they end up looking at best hypocritical

  • @RC

    “If the posts made here are anything to go by, being “tried by the public” is going to result in grave injustice. Why not recall Ed Balls et al instead. They are far more deserving of this kind of witch hunt”

    IIRC, the expenses scandal was brought to the fore in 2009 therefore Balls’ constituents DID have their say & they chose him to represent them again.

    IMO< bringing Laws back into the cabinet would be a huge mistake but crack on Nick & do what you always do – ignore the activists & electorate at your own peril.

  • Richard Swales 29th Aug '12 - 9:29pm

    So is the situation as follows?:
    1) If he had been married/in a civil partnership he would have been able to claim the joint mortgage payments on the property they would own together.
    2) If he had been not sleeping with his landlord he would have been able to claim rent.
    3) As he is/was sleeping with someone to whom he was not married he was not entitled to any money at all.

    Sorry this does look like lifestyle discrimination to me, albeit against cohabiting couples rather than gay couples per se.

  • @Richard Swales

    “So is the situation as follows?:
    1) If he had been married/in a civil partnership he would have been able to claim the joint mortgage payments on the property they would own together.”

    No that is not the case at all.

    You have to be named as a joint borrower to be named on the mortgage, and you can not claim mortgage payments for a mortgage that is not in your name.
    And you do not have to be married/civil partnership to be able to have a joint mortgage.
    At the end of the day, the property in London was owned By Mr Lundie and Not David Laws, it was not jointly owned.

  • Richard Swales 29th Aug '12 - 10:25pm

    @Matt
    That’s my point, he didn’t jointly own it because he wasn’t in a marriage-like relationship,

  • @Richard Swales

    Well yes he was in a marriage like relationship, it’s called cohabiting, exactly the same as me and my partner who have been living together for 13 years

  • Richard Swales 30th Aug '12 - 12:33pm

    @matt
    If they are in a marriage-like relationship, which by definition involves joint financial arrangements as well as just living together, then why didn’t they buy it together taking out a joint mortgage? Perhaps his partner already owned it, but in that case (even assuming David Laws wasn’t a politician able to claim it some way) he would still have been paying something to his partner whether they called it rent or share of mortgage or whatever.

    However you put it, there is no justification I can see for being willing to pay someone’s rent, being willing to pay someone’s share of their couple-mortgage, but not being willing to pay a penny to someone who is living with a partner they don’t have joint financial arrangements with. I don’t believe you or anyone else would be arguing in support of such a system if it didn’t involve David Laws/a Lib Dem/an orange-booker/a same-sex relationship – delete as appropriate.

  • Living as akin to marriage does not necessarily have to mean you have joint financial arrangements.

    If the financial arrangements were joint, there would not be an issue.

    Akin to marriage, means in relationship living together and you have joint financial arrangements like Utilities,

    I really do not see what is so difficult to understand, the rules stated you can not claim money for rent paid to a partner, or for mortgage payments on a property that is not owned by you.

    It really is that simple.

    Take a couple living akin to marriage where the female is the sole tenant/owner of the property. If her partner was on benefits he could not claim housing benefit to pay his partner, he could only claim for his share of the rent, if he was named on the tenancy agreement and was liable for *X* amount of the rent
    The same rule applied too, if the partner owns the house either outright or mortgage, she could not charge him rent which would be paid for by benefits.

    This has nothing to do with it being a Liberal Democrat or David Laws in particular or any other member for parliament for that matter.

    It is quite simply, the rules which are set out by government, regarding expenses rules.

    You do realise that the rules set out for the general public when it comes to claiming money from the public purse are even far stricter. And yes I do believe that ALL MP’s should really have the same standards applied to their expenses paid from the public purse as to those of the general public

  • Richard Swales

    I think you are trying to be too kind to him

    If I understand you are saying that in effect he was in a ‘marriage-like’ arrangement and that in this sort of case he should still be able to claim even if he is not on the mortgage as he is contributing to the household expenses? You then seem to make a point of mentioning same-sex in your final paragraph, again suggesting homophobia whic is both incorrect in both mine and Matt’s case and for him especially so I think. Why did you need to say that?

    The problem you have with this argument is that:

    i. Cohabitees are not allowed to claim if they are in a partnership with the person they are living with. This is the rule like it or not and is common for welfare payments as well

    ii. He was actually pretending not to be cohabiting with a partner and so your point is moot. He was actually pretending that it was a simple landlord/lodger arrangement so I cannot see how is discriminated against?

    If he wants to be able to live with a partner and claim their expenses as his own then he could have said so openly and campaigned for a change in the rules. This is entirely coherent and may be the right thing to do – it should be the same for welfare as well though

    This fact is that this was not the case though as he was actually pretending the opposite and thus left himself open to being accused of acting fraudulently

  • Richard Swales 31st Aug '12 - 1:23pm

    No, I’m saying he wasn’t in a marriage-like relationship, he was simply living with someone and I see no reason why he should be disadvantaged for that both relative to people who do all major financial deals in joint names and relative to people who are simply renting a room somewhere.
    No, my last point (that nobody would argue for this being the right system) gives a number of possible reasons for why someone might argue that for this case only with the instruction to delete as appropriate.
    His landlord-lodger arrangement wasn’t discriminated against until he owned up. His cohabiting arrangement was.

    As for the housing benefit safety net, I would support payments made to people (beyond what they have previously paid in) to be put on a repayment system similar to that for students loans, which would remove a lot of the need for all this “fraud” prevention and discrimination against marrried people (for whom it is much harder to claim to not be living together).

  • @Richard Swales

    “No, I’m saying he wasn’t in a marriage-like relationship, he was simply living with someone and I see no reason why he should be disadvantaged for that both relative to people who do all major financial deals in joint names and relative to people who are simply renting a room somewhere.”

    We have an opinion that there wasn’t a marriage like relationship, it doesn’t make it a fact. For example, I may (at a push) re-mortgage my house if my wife wanted to buy a property for buy to let, but I sure as heck wouldn’t remortgage for some one who I was renting a room from.
    It should also be noted that prior to the introduction of receipted claims he was claiming up to £150 pm for utilities, after the introduction that dropped to £37 pm (perhaps more in line with a room let?). It was also reported that he had been claiming for other items prior to the introduction of the new rules (e.g. service, maintenance and repairs), these claims stopped post rule change.

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