Trying to find a bright spot among the depression of David Laws’ downfall

Well that was a depressing 24 hours, depressing in so many different ways.

I don’t think I’d describe David Laws’s forced resignation as either right, or wrong: it was quite simply inevitable. There was no way he personally, nor the coalition politically, could withstand the clamour for his head. Eventually he would have been dragged down by the explosion of self-righteousness that the right-wing press and Labour tribalists have let rip over the past two days. I find that depressing.

It is one of the ironies of coalition government that, as it brings together two different, competing parties – two parties which until a few weeks ago would have declared themselves to be utterly incompatible political enemies – so those who feel excluded from this government (Labour and the right-wing press) grow ever more vitriolic, ever more determined to fight it by whatever means they can. I find that depressing.

I won’t re-hash the defence of David Laws yet again. That he made a mistake is not in dispute; the interpretation of it, whether you view it as benign or malign, appears to depend upon your political colours. I find that depressing.

Those who have seized on Laws’ error of judgement have displayed an anger and outrage utterly at odds with the mundanely tangled facts of the case. Hack-journalists like the Telegraph’s Andrew Pierce have tritely tossed off allegations of “fiddling” and “fleecing” the taxpayer, even though they know Laws’ expenses claims were low, spent only on his living costs, and would have been perfectly legitimate if he were in a publicly open relationship. I find that depressing.

Most depressing of all, though, has been the lack of common humanity shown by Laws’ denouncers, such as the preening Ben Bradshaw. His mistake was self evidently driven not by any attempt for personal gain – else he would have claimed far more than he did – but by a desperately all-consuming desire to keep his sexuality private. Misguided? Almost certainly. Understandable? By anyone with an ounce of compassion.

The last 24 hours has shown parts of this country at their illiberal, mean-spirited, self-righteous worst. There is one bright spot, maybe: that David Laws will have the opportunity now to live his life without always having to look nervously over his shoulder. Let’s hope that means it’s a question of when, not if, he will be available to serve in government with distinction once again.

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75 Comments

  • Liam Fox was, if I remember correctly, found to have claimed money that he should not have claimed, but that he could have claimed the same money in a different manner. He is in the Cabinet. Perhaps Laws will be able to serve likewise?

  • Alastair Campbell 2 – Andy Coulson 0

    Alastair Campbell: Alive – David Kelly: Dead

    Alastair Campbell: Diaries Publication day – David Laws: Resignation day

  • @Tim – Actually I think you had Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State of Health in mind who paid for renovation of a cottage on second homes allowance and then sold it and kept the profits. No, wait… you’re probably thinking of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary who manipulated his second homes allowance to avoid paying stamp duty when selling a property. Come to think of it, given the ‘financial’ aspect, you’d be thinking of Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary and former Chancellor who told different councils his other council house was his true home to avoid paying council tax on either. I don’t see what that has to do to with David Laws voluntarily claiming an amount, less than he could have claimed had he co-signed the mortgage of a property, to cover renting a property from with whom he had an extensive relationship but not shared finances. The difference is that the cabinet ministers above all profited at the expense of the taxpayer, whereas David Laws lost out compared to other members, his boyfriend was paid rent and he is no longer in the cabinet.

  • Thanks Stephen, likewise have spent the past 24hrs depressing. Am very sad for David Laws, but hopefully he will get a well earnt break from the Westminster village and I am sure he will be back in office soon, his obvious sense of public duty.

    Kirsten – I also find Alistair Campbell hanging around like a bad smell nauseating. Reading extracts from his diary on the Politics Show he trashed all the contenders for the labour leadership. He has spent the past 13 years reinforcing the Blair/Brown rift. Q: Why on earth do the Labour party put up with it? Way too machiavellian for my liking : ¿
    Kotstr

  • paul barker 30th May '10 - 8:22pm

    As one of those calling for Laws to go quickly I hope I didnt come across as unfeeling & I hope the rumours that he is thinking about leaving Parliament arent true. Its no-one elses business of course, I just hope he doesnt rush into it because of all the media shit, they will soon find a new story.

  • A a lot of Conservatives, including those on the economic right, didnt want Laws to go and regret that he did.

    Remember who benefis from this? The Tory right?, Hardly. They had a Liberal democrat champion of smaller state, and lower taxes, who was more eloquant at expounded their cause then many Tory frontbenchers .

    The Labour Party benefited by the removal of a major cog in the wheel, thereby underminging the coalition. Note the way he stuffed them mid-week re cuts. He also made a monkey of them re Liam ‘zippy’ Brynes note. They are desperate for this to fail. The Browns/Campbells/Whelans and Co dont like losing and will use any means necessary to knacker Cameron and Clegg. Note Smeargate.

    A Lib-Con coalition that cuts taxes for the lowest paid and middle incomes, manages spending reductions carefully, provides more choice in education for the aspirational, improves the disfunctional welfare state and manages immigration better will be hard to beat. Especially if the Labour party is led by the deadbeats on offer at the moment. They are looking to level the playing field. This was the first instalment.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 30th May '10 - 8:35pm

    Hhhm- I won’t rehash the arguments for him going again either. Suffice to say:

    * As the cabinet politician responsible for raising taxes, reducing spending, cutting jobs and abolishing poor peoples entitlements ‘realpolitik’ did for him.

    * It is right that he is gone and wrong that coaliton spinners have all day been using the sexuality issue to try to put him on a fast-track to rejoining the cabinet.. Something that is faintly offensive to many gay people as witnessed by blog and TV comments today.

  • Feel really sorry for him! but he had to go!

  • There are rumours that the source of the story was a Lib Dem.

    If this is true, it is very important that this comes out, and that this person or people are discredited.

    We must draw a line under this kind of infighting.

  • Joe Donnelly 30th May '10 - 9:00pm

    So Mark Yeates your now an opponent to any coalition with any party? I’m guessing, as a Lib Dem, you support PR, the consequences of bringing in PR would be constant coalition government, something I personally would love.

  • That Liberal Democrats continue to defend the indefensible. I find that depressing.

    The argument that he was somehow trying to protect his private life and his sexuality does not stand up to scrutiny. Furthermore it is not a defence for his actions; that he is using this as an excuse, I find that depressing.

    If he was really only concerned about his privacy, why take any public money to help pay for this? I’m not saying politicians shouldn’t be entitled to some expenses payments, but they do currently get a salary of £64k per year; and he is also wealthy in his own right. He simply decided to exploit the expenses system just like many other MPs and has been caught out. I find that depressing.

    Even if he could have claimed more by going down the joint mortgage route, he chose not to. Perhaps there are tax implications that made the chosen arrangement more attractive? We’ve only got his word it was to do with privacy.

    That all his new millionaire chums in the Tory party are falling over themselves to defend him, I find that depressing.

    He was about to implement severe and savage cuts in public expenditure, with an almost gleeful look in his eye. The impact of these cuts will be to bring hardship to many families who will be lucky to earn 40k per year, never mind claim that much in ‘expenses’. I find that depressing.

    That Nick Clegg was so sanctimonious about Liberal Democrats and expenses, I find that depressing.

    Feel sorry for him if you want, but he simply got caught out working the system. It’s not the worst expense scandal and it shouldn’t be allowed to completely ruin his life and career; I do believe people deserve second chances after they have made amends and served their penance.

  • “and would have been perfectly legitimate if he were in a publicly open relationship.”

    If you are going to rehash the arguments then at least get them right. Post 2006 you couldn’t claim rent for renting a property from a partner or family member, end of.

  • “Remember who benefis from this? The Tory right?, Hardly. They had a Liberal democrat champion of smaller state, and lower taxes, who was more eloquant at expounded their cause then many Tory frontbenchers .”

    Exactly, which is why the claims from some quarters that the Tories are behind this are b******s. Trust me, we’re seething!

  • @Elizabeth

    “to inherit a homosexual genome and have a catholic family and education must be a fearful emotional burden”

    Is it having the ‘homosexual genome’ that is a ‘burden’, or Catholicism? Or perhaps a combination of both? How gratuitously offensive to gay people (Catholic or otherwise) and Catholic people (gay or otherwise).

  • Oh Steve… run along now, there’s a good boy.

    Here’s a forecast:
    1. David Laws resigns as an MP
    2. Everyone trumpets the Liberal Democrats’ zero tolerance of anything even vaguely irregular.
    3. David Laws co-opted as special adviser to the treasury at a fee of £250K p.a.

  • @SteveD – What rubbish! The definition of spouses or ‘partners who are living in a manner for all intents and purposes equivalent to spouses’ is intended to capture the kind of financial interrelations which David and James don’t have. They don’t have shared finances; financially there’s not much difference between them and a standard landlord/tenant arrangement.

    The only exception to this was David having extended his own mortgage for James’ benefit. That might be the decision which results in his being forced to pay back his allowance. However the points still stand (a) he claimed less than he could have had he been public about the relationship and co-signed the mortgage and (b) he did not (unlike Gove, Lansley, Clarke and Fox) personally benefit from his (potential) expenses irregularities, the end the 2006 provision was brought in to prevent in light of situations like the Labour MP for Glasgow East and (c) he does not appear to meet the implicit definition (there is no explicit definition) of partner, as anyone with legal training can confirm to you. He fails both the test of financial interdependence and interrelations and the test of marriage by public repute. He should have reported the matter to public standards when the ruling was changed however it seems quite obvious, in light of his desire for privacy, why he decided to keep his own judgment on the matter for which he’s paid a considerable price.

    He’s claiming less than he could have were he open about his relationship and co-signed the mortgage (he could have claimed, for example, what the Prime Minister claims; roughly double the claim he did make). He did so in order to avoid publicity about his sexuality. Nick was ‘so sanctimonious’ because none of our MPs had behaved fradulently with their expenses claims and that hasn’t changed now. The only man to have lost out by David Law’s arrangement compared to the scenario in which he either rented elsewhere or co-signed the mortgage was David Laws or his boyfriend.

  • Possible good outcomes from here (I’m not saying they are likely, just possible..)

    1. The Telegraph loses so much popularity anyone caught taking it seriously in future is immediately ignored.

    2. The Commission decides that David Laws acted entirely within the spirit of the law, or reasonably within the rules considering his circumstances, and half the people who coldly damned him for “breaking the rules” realise they were duped by a newspaper.

    3. Whatever else has happened by then, Laws is at least still an M.P. when the law is changed to enable the people in Yeovil to sack their M.P. They get a petition, they have their bi-election, and Laws wins it.

    4. It turns out David Laws was always too shy for high office, but he goes on to write books and articles that are so popular that no politician from any party can get elected/survive in office without offering to apply them. He has a longer career doing this than any politician in active office could have.

    5. Anything happens that causes Laws to be back as Treasury Secretary, in top form, before the more extreme cuts are hitting us all down here on the ground.

    I could probably think of some more, if I was wide awake, but I’ll just post these and see how the comments are going in here in the morning.

  • @Elizabeth – “I’m deeply sad for David Laws predicament; to inherit a homosexual genome and have a catholic family and education must be a fearful emotional burden.”

    Not to be funny but (a) while obviously homosexuality is linked to a person’s genome there isn’t such a thing as a ‘gay gene’; it looks as though it has more to do with epigenetic factors such as pre-natal testosterone and later developmental factors and (b) if you give it a thought there’s an obvious reason why homosexuality wouldn’t last long as an inherited trait.

  • @ Kirsten, I like your thinking there.

  • Tbh Duncan, I don’t think homosexuality had anything to do with this. It’s a convenient excuse. Of course, I’d have hoped that none of this had happened, but it has, and David Laws’ scalp goes some way to save the reputation of the rest of the party.

    Now let’s move on and get used to the reality that we we’ve stepped into the spotlight and given Labour a bloody nose in the process. They won’t like that, they won’t like that at all. So, learn how to be disliked – it’s actually quite entertaining.

  • C H Ingoldby 30th May '10 - 9:44pm

    Duncan, it’s a bit off topic but a genetic component to homosexuality could permanently exist as an inherited component through the mechanism of kin selection.

    Anyway, it is interesting that the Conservatives are being very supportive of Mr Laws. They obviously take this coalition seriously.

  • @Kirsten

    Have you actually made a contribution or just two rather bizarre posts?

    @Duncan

    It is not rubbish. This man is his partner, end of. David Laws says so himself. Not all partners/spouses have joint financial arrangements such as joint accounts, so that doesn’t wash. I’m beginning to think that, rather bizarrely, it is only David Laws who realises and accepts he has done something wrong. To listen to all his apologists here and elsewhere you’d think the man was some kind of saint.

    I’m glad you brought up the likes of Gove and the others, they should also not be serving in Government. It is a scandal that they are.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 30th May '10 - 9:47pm

    @Mark Yates 9:11pm

    “Having said that, it is quite astounding the many concessions the Tories have made in some of the social policies. It isn’t great, but compromises never are, I guess.”

    Oh the sad naivety of it all- how old are you and did you live through the early 1980’s? Don’t you realise Cameron is using you as cover to try to neuter his paleo-thatcherite wing (though that’s going well isn’t it..?) on the one hand and- on the other- to thoroughly implicate you in the eyes of the electorate in the savagery that is to come. Concessions on social policies?? Pah- wait till the regressive spending/ taxing and benefit abolishing measures start later in the year. IDS? He wants to lower benefit rates in real terms and compel people to work for their dole (that is ‘liberal’ is it not?) rather than raising the minimum wage in order to incentivise the long term unemployed to work- in localities where there are jobs of course: problem being the decisions taken by CONDEM will be adding to the dole queue in all these localities.

    Most Lib Dems have been conned. But not Mr Laws who is an economic Thatcherite whilst socially liberal (yes a contradiction in terms I know in terms of the inequality and power concentrations that inevitably result from unregulated economic liberalism).

    BTW the rumours I am hearing are that it was actually one of your fellow lib dems who grassed up Mr Laws: though I suspect it was on the Torygraphs database all along. Don’t know why they waited this long to spring the trap…

    Qui bono? Labour partisans would much rather Mr Laws had stayed in place and done his very Thatcherite worst: thereby damaging the lib dems possibly irretrievably for the decision to back Mr Cameron in a formal pact (for the cabinet jobs) rather than let the Tories govern alone as a minority administration and await the detail on the spending cuts to see whether they would be prepared to abstain or force a new election. That would have been the most probable route which Paddy, Charlie and David would have chosen (not sure about Ming). But then those three are liberals and social democrats: whereas Mr Laws and Mr Clegg are Tories- you cannot put a cigarette paper between Clegg and his ilk and the Cameroons ! Roll on Simon getting the deputy leadership and putting in place his ‘shadow ministers’.

    Two weeks in and a cacophony of mis-steps and incompetence ranging from the 55% parliamentary rebellion on the Tory backbenches/ the CGT division and chaos/ the QT fiasco/ the Cameron U-turn on the 1922 committee gerrymandering and now Mr Laws.

    “events dear boy events”. What a mess: I am almost scared to get out of bed these days for fear of finding that the sky has fallen in.

  • @CH Ingoldby
    It’s far more likely that the Tories are just as petrified as the rest of humanity at the thought of Boy George being in sole charge of the UK credit card

  • Good riddance to him. I just wish he were up in court. He’s a multi-millionaire FFS! Its sickening too to see the Tories line up to pay tribute to this thief at the same time they’re preparing to cut services and continuing to chase ‘dole scroungers’. Hypocrites, all of them. Lib Dem, Tory, Labour… the cesspit of London politics is stomach churning.

  • Stand by for total capitualtion over the Capital Gains Tax folks.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 30th May '10 - 10:07pm

    @Alix 9:54pm

    “What, you mean from further up this thread?”

    Nope- I am hearing it from a Libertarian Alliance contact from my UG days who works in London politico circles. I don’t agree with him on anything policy orientated obviously 🙂

    So people: who is your tribe? Goldfish saving tofu eating woolly or sharp suited dynamic brighter and briskier professional? Here is Christine Odone today in the Torygraph on the Laws situation and the Lib Dems…

    ****************
    “There are many happy faces today in the Lib Dem tribe. David Laws, you see, was a prime representative of one kind of Lib Dem; the other kind is cheering his downfall.

    I have written here before that my husband is a Liberal Democrat. He worked for Paddy Ashdown and Simon Hughes – he also knows, and admires, David Laws and Chris Huhne. From him I have learnt something of Lib Demmery and its divisions.

    On the one side, we have the hairy, woolly faction, the heirs to the “silly party” that once devoted an entire debate to the plight of goldfish kept in plastic bags at fairgrounds. These men went into politics in their youth, and probably could not survive (they certainly would not thrive) outside the party. They are suspicious of market forces and think liberalism is about social mores, not economics.

    On the other side stand the brighter, brisker professionals: the “Orange Book” brigade. From Huhne to Laws, members of this faction have made careers outside politics. Had they not given up their day jobs for the party, most could have made a fortune. (Paddy Ashdown, too, had a significant previous career – but no one makes a fortune from working for the security services.) This lot is economically liberal, believing that, so long as we have equality of access, market forces can be liberating for our economy and for the disadvantaged alike. They are big brains, and tend to put bonkers goldfish debates to one side (OK, they did talk some nonsense about geographically-targeted immigration during the election, but they’ve come to their senses since).

    It is this second faction that David Cameron and most Tories can do business with. What a shame that in David Laws, it has lost one major player. And how shameful that this should be a reason for celebration among the hairy, woolly brigade.”

  • As an ex-Labour-now-Liberal-Democrat-activist I feel very sad for the type of challenged Labour activist we saw during the election campaign and who are now populating boards such as this one.

    The Labour party does, after all, boast some very decent people who’d be ashamed at the somewhat infantile tactics these guys get up to. But hey-ho, get used to it.

  • @jim 10:06pm

    I fear that is a real risk.

    If CGT reforms do get sidelined then we should ask what the future of the coalition would be. Without CGT reform then the coalition’s tax reforms don’t become fairer taxation but simply reducing taxation (depending on how much one considers curbing tax evasion is likely to yield). The implication is that public service cuts would have to bear even more of the strain in the rebalancing of the public finances. I’m sure the Conservatives would be very happy. But it would pose serious questions for much Lib Dem support for the coaltition.

  • @Nigel Ashton

    Actually, I think this event, along with others in recent weeks, shines far more light on the Liberal Democrat Party, than it does the Labour Party. Perhaps it would be a good ideas to get ones’ own house in order, rather than ranting on about others?

    For every set back the Lib Dems have suffered since this ill conceived coalition, there is an excuse directed at the Labour Party. The unfortunate and uncomfortable truth for Liberal Democrats is that this is all entirely of your own making.

    If Labour engages in politicking over these issues and others: Lib Dems will do well to remember the attacks Nick Clegg has engaged in against the Labour Party; in particular, his rather bitter and personal attacks on Gordon Brown.

    However, it is actually far more than politicking to oppose and point out the damage this coalitions’ public expenditure cuts will do; or to oppose blatant attempts to rig both Houses of Parliament for self interest disguised as democracy or stability; or to oppose more taxpayers money going to Liberal Democrats despite already having the whole civil service working for you.

  • You must be pretty naive if you think labour has anything to do with this story.

  • Daily Telegraph now has dirt on Danny Alexander, they are holding on to some information.

  • @ Steve D “Perhaps it would be a good ideas to get ones’ own house in order, rather than ranting on about others?”

    That is a good point. Are you off to do that then, or are you staying here to rant on about others?

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 30th May '10 - 11:31pm

    Torygraph already out of the traps with claims now about Danny Alexander and CGT.

    I cannot work out what their motivation is as if this continues then the only two possible end results are (1) Clegg runs out of Tory-Dems and has to start appointing social democrat-dems or (2) the coalition collapses.

    Perhaps the DT thinks a snap election will lead to a Cameron majority this time: and “purity”. Have they not been listening to the Clegg-gangs policy pronouncements containing all that right wing red meat?

    Weird.

  • So this is what it’s like being in power. It’s sad. But it’s also good to be on course with so many positive policies and remember what does not destroy you makes you stronger. And when you are looking into the abyss, the abyss is also looking at you. Or: Dont let the Telegraph grind you down!

  • It is disturbing to me that people, such as this blogger, need to dismiss any criticism ir anger towards Laws as only coming from the Tory press and Labour tribalists. That itself, is a tribalists mentality in actuality!

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 30th May '10 - 11:49pm

    more detail is out

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/liberal-democrat-mps-expenses/7787519/Danny-Alexander-new-Treasury-chief-avoided-capital-gains-tax-on-house.html

    “The claims appear to undermine repeated claims by Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, that no Lib Dem MP profited from the expenses system”

  • A couple of contributors to this thread are labouring under the strange misapprehension that it was Alasdair Campbell who murdered Dr David Kelly. As much as I hate to defend Campbell against any charge whatsoever, this could not have been so. The hit squad who killed Dr Kelly was composed of trained professionals from some agency of the state or other, and those heard to speak had UK accents, which points to MI5. The ultimate order doubtless came from Cheney, with or without Blair being told beforehand. It certainly didn’t come from Campbell.

    Who benefits from this public lynching of David Laws by the Barclay press? Superficially, the Labour Party does, and so does the Tory outside right. But it could not have been for the advancement of either of those actors that the deed was done. Cameron was made Conservative Leader by the US elite. He jumped from relative obscurity to front-runner because the Republican pollster and psychological manipulator, Frank Luntz, ran a phoney focus group on “Newsnight” that suggested that Cameron was more likely to appeal to the electorate than David Davis (sworn enemy of the control agenda). I find it inconceivable that the coalition and its programme did not receive approval from the highest level across the Atlantic. So why has the US elite, through the UK media that it owns and controls, taken out a key figure in its puppet government?

    Here are some possibilities:

    (1) David Laws has exhibited Davis-like tendencies. He has told the Americans that he is serious about his civil libertarian views. He has indicated that he would refuse to support war with Iran. He has declined to attend Bilderberg meetings, and possibly the Bohemian Grove camp this Summer.

    (2) David Laws has refused to facilitate the asset-stripping of the UK economy by US corporate raiders.

    There is a sense that there was something that David Laws was about to do that Cameron’s US puppet-masters didn’t want done.

  • I see that Washington’s useful idiots are still busily trolling on this site. Amazing, isn’t it? These guys who affect to hate the rich are dancing from the strings of US billionaires.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 31st May '10 - 12:03am

    Senseco- 11:56pm

    vis a vis your proclamation upon bilderburg/ war with iran/ global zionist-lizard-blood-drinking conspiracies.

    If you promise to post me something of what you have been smoking I’ll give you my address….

    ps look BEHIND you

  • Rob Sheffield,

    I gave up counting your spelling mistakes at the end of the first line.

    Try harder.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 31st May '10 - 12:07am

    Senseco- I don’t need to: you are trying hard enough for several of me 🙂

    Now please tell me what you have been smoking…

  • Rob Sheffield,

    Hints on iedentifying a troll – No 94: accuse one’s opponent of anti-Semitism. Doesn’t have to be true, doesn’t matter if he hasn’t used to word “Jew” once, doesn’t need to be the remotest evidence for it. If the Labour Party is full of stupid bullies like yourself, Rob Sheffield, then whichever Miliband takes over is going to have hard, hard work making it electable. Don’t go away, Rob Sheffield. Please do continue. You are doing nice work poisoning your brand.

  • @CH Ingolby – I would reply to you properly but apparently the two paragraphs I wrote were ‘spammy’ (LDV; fix your f**king settings already). I don’t want to waste time re-writing the two paragraphs so they adhere to whatever unknown standards the spam bot monitors suffice it to say; no, despite societal examples of avuncular rearing the fitness cost of forgoing reproduction isn’t defeated by the benefits to fitness of additional parents for the relatives (we’re not ants). It seems more likely that it’s a sort of ‘spandrel’ and, as with current models suggesting schizophrenia might be an extreme case of neural pruning strategies which to lesser degrees are selected for due to creativity and intelligence benefits, male homosexuality might be an extreme case of higher than average testosterone levels (with compensatory hormonal changes) which to a lesser degree is selected for. As I said though, the smart money at the moment is on epigenetic factors such as pre-natal testosterone.

    @Rob Sheffield – I don’t mean to be funny but you’re posting on a LibDem activist website telling us what Christine Odone says LibDem activists are thinking. She’s wrong. The proof is right here. I am contributing in my own small way to proof that she’s wrong as I’m writing.

    @Steve D – “It is not rubbish. This man is his partner, end of. David Laws says so himself.” – I take it you’re not a lawyer. There is no explicit definition available for what the Green Book means when it says ‘partner’. Two standard tests of being unmarried spouses (a) financial interconnection and (b) public repute David and James fail, though the situation with David’s other mortgage might be what finally does him in (I can’t remember the last time I’ve extended my mortgage so to help my landlord can buy property). What Parliamentary Standards will/ought to look at is what the motivation for setting up the 2006 rule was. If it was to avoid the claimant materially benefiting from their claim then this plausibly does not fall under that ruling as David did not materially benefit from his rent being paid to James. If it was set up to avoid MPs doing friends and associates favours (which many rules are) then this is clearly a case to which it does apply. My understanding is the former is the point at issue and David’s culpability under the rules may ultimately hinge upon whether his mortgage extension compromises his financial independence from James. As far as his moral culpability I think the fact he was claiming (significantly) less than he would have been entitled to had he been public about the relationship and been a co-signatory on the mortgage. Your assertion, along with John Humphreys, that they /are/ partners because just say so or have in your head some rule that 9 years of sex or a shared bedroom a common law marriage makes suggests you’re either (a) not approaching this with due attention to the ambiguity of the term ‘partner’ as employed in the set of rules concerned (and instead wish to rely on a more vague colloquial understanding of the same) or (b) just being willfully obtuse.

    Folks, if you want to be disgusted check out the comments at the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/30/david-laws-homosexuality-parliamentary-expenses?showallcomments=true#end-of-comments

  • C H Ingoldby 31st May '10 - 12:36am

    Duncan

    ”no, despite societal examples of avuncular rearing the fitness cost of forgoing reproduction isn’t defeated by the benefits to fitness of additional parents for the relatives (we’re not ants).”

    We may not be ants, but biologically we follow exactly the same laws of evolution. There is a strong hypothesis that the benefits of additional parents for relatives has ‘defeated’ the cost of forgoing reproduction over the greater extent of the period that humans have existed. You can disagree with the hypothesis but you can’t state that it is wrong, you simply don’t have the data to do so.

  • @Red – an almost complete non-story. There was no CGT liability on that property whether designated as main residence or not.

  • David Allen 31st May '10 - 1:01am

    “Folks, if you want to be disgusted check out the comments at the Guardian”

    Folks, if you want to understand the difference between public opinion and wishful thinking, read something other than LDV.

  • Andrea Gill 31st May '10 - 1:02am

    To anyone accusing Laws of deliberately breaking the rules – these are the different versions of the Green Book, and IMHO the 2006 version just says “partner”. 2009 (one quoted on TV) is more detailed: http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/pay-mps/

  • Many people voted for the Liberal Democrats because of their stance on cleaning up politics. I always found this to be opportunism of the highest order. It was opportunism designed to take advantage of the natural disgust exhibited by Labour and Conservative supporters who were appalled at the way their representatives were behaving. If you really believe what you say about the Labour tribalists and the right-wing press then maybe you should reassess your prior beliefs about the Labour government and its corrupt expenses claims as they were formed by Conservative tribalists, Lib Dem tribalists and right-wing press. Where is the natural disgust that should be felt by the Lib Dem supporters.
    Mr. Laws has explained that he broke the rules in order to maintain his privacy. His explanation contains his admission of guilt. This is nothing to do with vitriol, illiberalism or self-righteousness. This is to do with hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of standing on a vitriolic, self-righteous platform to take advantage at the polls whilst illegitimately claiming money from the public purse. In any other walk of life the privacy that Mr. Laws wished to protect is unavailable when claiming such benefits.
    Our illiberalism is evidenced by the supposed fact that Mr. Laws did not act for financial gain, therefore we must be motivated by tribalism, homophobia or both. From the content of his statement, that he had already extended his mortgage in order to help Mr. Lundie buy his new flat, I’m not inclined to believe that there was no financial element to it but the sophists argument will point to the fact that the gain was not ‘personal’. To try and argue that he could have claimed more is an argument that your fellow Lib Dem supporters do not extend to others as has been demonstrated by the vitriol poured on Ed Balls over many of your pages, he and his wife Yvette Cooper claimed far less than the £40,000 they could have claimed but did make a profit on selling their house. This profit did not come from the public purse and they broke no rules but you would have a hard job finding a Labour supporter who was not seriously disenchanted with them. Mr. Laws however did break the rules, his partner did profit directly form the public purse and it seems that Mr. Laws thought that £40,000 was a trivial enough amount that it did not matter that he should take it in order to give him a level of privacy to which the rest of us are not entitled. You oblige us to accept this as an error of judgement, a mistake, motivated by an understandable desire for privacy. We are obliged because to not offer such understanding would expose us as lacking in compassion (I hope you at least had a little chuckle to yourself when you wrote this in an article accusing the rest of the world of self-righteousness). His own statement declares that this was not a mistake or an error of judgement, it was a decision.
    Your article and the sentiments contained in it are hypocritical. Do you really think that the stance of your party on expenses was any different to the one being deployed to oppose you? Why do you find it depressing in others and not in yourself?

  • Utterly unbelievable.If you want self- righteous look no further than the Lib Dems’ behaviour during the whole expenses saga.And even worse Clegg’s holier than thou “new politics” crusade during the election. I’m sure many areas were treated to Lib Dem leaflets trying to ride the expenses band wagon in the run up to the general election.So spare us the hand wringing, if anything you’ve been hoisted by your own shameless petard.Bare faced opportunism works in opposition, not in government.

    And naturally Tories are ‘indignant’ .You are now the same party, your fortunes are inextricably linked.The only person at fault for Laws’ downfall is Laws himself.

  • @RCM

    I’ve not tried to claim Labour, or any other party for that matter, is squeaky clean. My observations may appear as ‘ranting’ to you; but based on the information we have now regarding at least two Liberal Democrat MPs expenses, there is an issue for the Liberal Democrats to address. Just calling the Labour Party a ‘nasty bunch of shits’ as Nigel did, may make you feel better, but the issues still remain.

  • Over a week ago in a previous response to one of this site’s threads I described David Laws as a “Pecksniff”. I am astonished now at my uncanny prescience. How sickening it is to see his supporters in the media play the privacy card on his behalf. He did not show any respect for Liam Byrne’s privacy when he disclosed the contents of the personal note Byrne left for him and which the sanctimonious Laws then turned to cruel political advantage. I have no sympathy for Laws and I am delighted that he has gone.

  • Jonathaninoz 31st May '10 - 10:20am

    Very sad to see Laws go. Personally, I think he didn’t have much choice once this all came out. But I’m still sniggering at the sanctimonious but ludicrous Labour supporters who seem unwilling to countenance the suggestion that their party is in reality a small ‘c’ conservative party far removed from a progressive force. Perhaps (although I’m not convinced-yet) it is fair to bestow the title ‘progressive’ upon the Greens, but meanwhile only one of the three major parties that fought the election deserves that label, the Liberal Democrats.

  • @C H Ingoldby – (splitting into two because again I’m apparently ‘spammy’) The problem with ‘not having the data to do it’ is of course I don’t have the data; there’s no way to estimate the difference to fitness of your uncle being gay and being straight, particularly as we don’t have good evidence for which of many alternative societal and familial structural arrangements humans lived in for most of their recent evolutionary history (you may think we do, because you have been told that we do by newspapers, but that doesn’t make it so; rather like the gay uncle hypothesis). With apologies to Jerry Fodor for using one term he loves and another he says is now vacuous I’m going to use the following; ‘selected for’ means that something was actively fitness enhancing (understood for the sake of argument along gene-centric lines) and therefore has been actively retained by natural selection, ‘selected against’ means the opposite and is something which is so fitness deleterious that phenotypes which express it have been removed by natural selection and ‘spandrels’ which are biological entailments (of one sort of another) of features which have themselves been selected for but have not themselves been. As an example set; eyes have been selected for because of the fitness boost they give through perception, consequently growing scales over ones eyes is something which has been selected against in the surface world. The structural weakness of eyes is a spandrel; eyes have to be a structural weakness e.g. compared to skin covered by scales in order to work but this feature does not have any active selection in its favour and if ‘stronger eyes’ was a biologically possible ‘move’ to make then evolution would make it. In the case of cavefish such as the Astyanax Mexicanus there is no light so eyes are no longer selected for, and as vision is now non-functional scales over eyes are no longer selected against and the slight pressure against the structural weakness eye-having creates results in selection in favour of scales which grow over the dysfunctional eyes.

  • (Sorry, LibDem voice won’t let me post the second paragraph and I can’t be bothered re-writing the 500 words until they adhere to whatever unknown standards the spam detector uses. If you have a blog or an email address I’ll happily send them to you, otherwise suffice it to say: the benefits are minimal because they could be gained without the massive loss of not being able to produce offspring and are mitigated in a society in which (compared to now) fecundity is favoured over high-investment due to mortality rates. We can’t get good figures without known how societies and families were structured 100,000 years ago but the simple maths of 16 nephews = 8 offspring is not the true comparison class; the true comparison is between the fitness gain of a part time parent to those 16 nephews (in what we might assume is already a close-knit inter-related social group) in high mortality conditions versus the fitness cost of being unable to produce direct offspring (which the investment cost of raising might be borne of the group). The costs of homosexuality can be mitigated enough that it isn’t actively selected against however the idea that it has been selected for (the gay uncle theory) is naive adaptationist thinking of the sort that all the critics of evolutionary psychology go mental about.)

  • @MacK – The idea that the loss of privacy suffered by Liam Byrne in revealing the note is equivalent to the loss of privacy suffered by Laws who had apparently gone to extreme lengths to hide his homosexuality and for all we know may have been in the closet as far as his family were concerned is not only absurd it is downright offensive. That said I believe the Telegraph when they say Laws volunteered the fact that he and James were lovers and allowed them to publish it; this isn’t so much about the cost to him of his privacy it is about the question of whether or not he committed any wrongdoing in choosing his privacy over being absolutely transparent with his expenses where such transparency would forseeably have resulted in his claiming more, not less, on expenses from the taxpayer and was not clearly necessitated by the vague rules provided (which give no explicit definition of ‘partner’ but which give an implicit definition in the form of financial interconnection and marriage by social repute which David and James almost certainly do not meet). It’s not obvious that he should have reported himself to Parliamentary Standards back in 2006, in so doing destroying his privacy about his sexuality, when the rule was vague and the only outcomes would have been things either staying the same or his being entitled to more taxpayer money. In thinking about the matter I’ve come to the conclusion I would have done exactly what he did in the circumstances. If he’s at ‘fault’ it’s for choosing to live in the closet rather than being open about his sexuality but that isn’t a choice we can deny people the right to make.

  • I still maintain that David Laws did nothing wrong. They were NOT in a legally bound or financially bound r’ship. Unless they’d written a will, they would not stand to benefit or have any rights whatsoever if they suddenly became bereaved. I think he will be exonerated by the standards commissioner. What is clear though is that we need some real leadership in this country – and for Cameron and Clegg to actually stand up to this kind of nonsense from the press when it arises. Who rules Britain is the big question? The sight of our politicians (people we elected) constantly running scared from the unelected press barons is not a pretty sight. There’s very clearly an agenda here…

  • Seems to me its time someone called an end to the expenses farce. The only way the poison of expenses will be removed from the system is by abolishing all personal expenses. Treat it as a one-off, take the average claim and roll it into the salary. The low claimers will be rewarded and the high clamers justifiably punished. So long as Mps have discretionary expenses which they choose to use or not, the system will be divisive and unfair. The system was devised as a way to give Mps back door pay but it is well past the stage they are benefiting from that pretence at keeping down their pay. It is time to come clean over how much they are paid. Otherwise this will just go on and on and on…

    Laws had suffered harshly from this. Whatever you think about his attempt to keep his private life private, it was the expenses claim and rules change which tied him in knots. It happened to lots of others. If its flat rate salary you can do what you like with it. But the lesson here is that someone apparently quite sensible and an asset to a government cannot live with the expenses system. Ordinary people inside and outside parliament cannot live with the system. It has got to go.

    Oh, and its no surprise Tatchell is against Laws. Tatchell has always been against any gay man who chooses to stay in the closet. The reason is simply because the more get found out, the more people realise it is normal. But I have never approved of tearing up some families for that sort of political gain.

    For my money its time the political establishment took this as a test case, says, ok he made a mistake but so did all of us. Expenses are out, were abolishing them, they are just bad. Laws did no worse than anyone else: once he’s got his life back in order we want him back in government. Time to draw a line under expenses and the destruction it is causing right and left amongst politicians and in their public standing.

    By the way, for the inheritable trait brigade, its a big mistake to presume homosexual males do not have children, especially in a homophobic society.

  • Paul McKeown 31st May '10 - 5:34pm

    “Although coalition ministers continued to praise Mr Laws and suggested that he could mount a speedy return to the front bench, the chairwoman of his local party in Yeovil told The Times that he was thinking about whether to quit politics altogether. “I have told him not to do anything rash,” said Cathy Bakewell. “He is in a very bad place but must pull himself together and get out of this morass.” – from the Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7140799.ece

    Don’t do it, David. The party and the country need you. Don’t do it.

  • @ Steve D
    “I’ve not tried to claim Labour, or any other party for that matter, is squeaky clean.”

    Nor have I, some Lib Dems might claim that it is the case for themselves, but I have claimed all M.P.’s are human, and all humans are imperfect. I have a personal preference for liberal philosophy, not a notion that all Liberal Democrats are perfect. Please feel free to take up your point about who is “squeaky clean” with whoever said they were.

    “My observations may appear as ‘ranting’ to you;”

    I was quoting your use of the word ranting, on account of which I thought you might want to think about what you are doing here, since this is a Lib Dem web site.

    “but based on the information we have now regarding at least two Liberal Democrat MPs expenses, there is an issue for the Liberal Democrats to address.”

    I cannot see any attempt to avoid addressing it. David Laws has turned himself in to the PSC, and resigned his post at the Treasury. Danny Alexander has declared that he paid all the tax that he was legally required to pay. How much addressing do you want?

    “Just calling the Labour Party a ‘nasty bunch of shits’ as Nigel did, may make you feel better, but the issues still remain.”

    Is this not more likely to make Nigel feel better than me? Or do you think I am Nigel, and posting under two different names?

  • @RCM

    If you reply to a post from me directed at Nigel, I guess your own confusion could follow from that.

    With regard to this being a Lib Dem website; that’s fine but LDV allows and tolerates posts from others. I may not post something Lib Dems like, but I try to make a point and have some basis for my comments. I am certainly not a troll here. If you just want to discuss things with Liberal Democrat members you have the forum area here to do so.

    The reason I have posted here is because I actually share some political views in common with Liberal Democrats and wanted to engage with Lib Dems over issues I currently feel strongly about. I’m not going to re-hash them again but the 55% proposal etc. I hoped to find Liberal Democrats also concerned about the direction their party is going in; some do, but it appears many don’t.

  • @ Steve, I don’t have a problem with you being here, I know this part of the website is not exclusively for Lib Dems, but it certainly was not clear that your previous remark was directed at Nigel, the whole thing is posted as one paragraph following an @RCM.

  • @RCM

    A touch of confusion on my part as well. My original comment at 10.30pm yesterday was in response to Nigel calling the Labour Party nasty shits. We then corresponded from there when you picked up on my comment about getting ones own house in order!

  • Steve Griffiths 2nd Jun '10 - 1:23pm

    Stephen Tall refers to a depressing 24 hours; I have been increasingly depressed since the appearence of the ‘Orange Book’ and the unceasing drift to the right of the Lib Dems. I have been hanging on (just) around the party, through recent policy changes and was left holding on by my ‘finger nails’ at the annoucement of the Con/Lib Dem Coalition, but David Laws’ resignation in connection with MP’s expenses, is probably now just too much.to stay. For 40+ years I have fought the Tories at local and national elections rather than see them in power, and I don’t recognise this party from the Liberal party I joined in the 1960’s. David Laws is an excellent constituency MP and he helped a long-standing friend of mine achieve justice, who lives in the Yeovil constituency, but I simply cannot support his ‘Orange Book’ ideas. I now find myself as a radical reforming politician of the libertarian left, with no party to belong to; other than the still existant Liberal Party. And that is probably the road to nowhere.

  • Steve Griffiths,
    one of the tragedies of modern politics is the eternal flip flop from one side to the other. The whole machine goes into reverse until it has gone too far, and then is shunted back in the opposite direction. If you identify yourself with the left or right, then you are willing this ridiculous ping pong to continue. What do you intend the lib dem party to achieve? You say you have been fighting tories for decades, so are you saying that in reality you have always been happy to support labour as a left leaning party but it happened to be unpopular where you live? Or do you also have issues with labour? I have always supported liberals, a complicated thing to do in most constituencies, but not because my own favourite party happened not to do well where I lived. Do you aspire for the libs to displace labour and replace it as one haf of the duopoly which controls government, or do you want to widen the field of who runs the country? I supported the first Thatcher administration as the right move for the country at the time. By 97 we desperately needed to get rid of them. The right thing to do now may not be in 5 years time. Or it may.

    The liberal party has a very difficult course to follow at the next election. It will succeed only by making a distinct voice for itself and using whatever power it gets to further its own aims, as best it can. I am pretty well convinced that working with labour now would be pretty much impossible. Not just the mathematics, but because of an automatic unwillingness for the incumbent labour administration to change tack and accomodate a partner. If the libs had declined the coalition, Cameron would have gone it alone. Is this truly what the libs wanted to happen? It is a great risk to attach the libs to the conservatives, but it is an equal risk to refuse to take part in a government where there is enough common ground to work together. To refuse the coalition would have been to refuse to exercise political power once it had been won. What sort of basis is that for a party? If we were now in the middle of a boom, things might be different. The conservatives would probably still be aiming to cut. But we are not in a boom. Cuts are required. It is this which presently bridges the difference between the parties.

  • Steve Griffiths 3rd Jun '10 - 9:40pm

    Well Danny you appear to have been doing a bit of flip-flopping yourself over the years, if as you say you have always supported the Liberals over the years, but supported the first Thatcher administration. I did not. I believed then, as I do now, that the Keith Joseph style hard moneterism was not the right medicine for the country. Thatcherism always seemed to me to be a kind of judgemental suburban predjudice and the only similarity I share with Thatcher is that we are both conviction politicians.

    I believe now, as I did when I joined the Liberals, that parties should be represented in Parliament in proportion to the votes cast. This does not mean that the left and right of politics would cease to exist after a proportional representation system had been introduced. There was a great deal of talk around the time of the Liberal/SDP merger about the creation of a so called ‘radical centre party’. Almost by definition such a thing does not exist, but the recognition of a centre and wishing to govern from it, implies that there political positions on either side. The political spectrum is always there whether you or Nick Clegg choose not to see it. And since you ask, I am happy for the Liberals to replace Labour as the main left of centre party, having fought them too for 40+ years.

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