Saturday, 29 May 2010

Laws for the Rich and Laws for the Poor

This morning I listened to Paddy Ashdown discussing the very recent disclosure that David Laws has been claiming expenses for a home owned by his partner. According to the Green Book that is against parliamentary rules. Paddy Ashdown's argument was that the word 'partner' is ill-defined and the relevant parliamentary authorities will give a judgement on the definition.

c. A domestic partner.

For Mr Ashdown to suggest it is the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner to define the word is insulting to the general population. We know the definition where the laws are concerned.

Week in and week out we hear about people, who claim benefits, being convicted of fraud because they were caught cohabiting with a partner. Do you think the judge would accept the defence of: "I did not reveal we were partners when I claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit because I wanted to protect my privacy. We are very private people and made the decision to keep our relationship private and believed that is our right." Can you hear any judge saying: "Auch that's fine then. Just pay back the money you've stolen from the taxpayer and that'll be the end of it." Of course not. Mr, Ms or Mrs would be labelled a benefits cheat and fined or imprisoned.

To say that he didn't consider himself in a partnership because they do not have joint bank accounts and have different social lives is quite unbelievable from an educated person. Many legally married people and cohabitees do not have joint accounts and happily live diverse social lives. I've never had a joint bank account in my life.

It is not my intention to judge David Laws but I must say Paddy Ashdown's contribution earlier today did little to help his case. The man may be excellent at his job and may well be able to earn far more in private business but it is his choice to be a full-time politician. To call him naive is plain stupid. If he did not understand the meaning of a word or phrase there were plenty in Westminster with whom he could have discussed the matter in confidence. If he doesn't trust the parliamentary system why should we?

To suggest that not even his friends and family knew of his relationship is absurd. Many of them would have known no matter how hard he tried to hide it and I'm surprised at him using his sexuality as an excuse, because that's what it is. Within the Westminster bubble it is quite possibly well known which MPs are gay. Does it matter to the public? Not in the least.

Just a thought - would Paddy Ashdown defend the alleged benefits cheat so fervently? Somehow I think not.


Antisthenes said...

The first time in my life I own up to being prejudice and make no apologizes for being so. What David Laws did was wrong the rules are clear but I do nor want him to lose his job for he is an able and astute Minister and an asset to the government and therefore to the country. To me he comes across as being basically decent and honest and he broke the rules not for personal gain but to overcome his obvious shyness and reticences to put his private life on display. Many other MPs and Ministers have done as much and worse and have not been punished. So slap him on the wrist and let him get on with his job and his life his exposure will have been punishment enough. Being not of his party another first defending a politician of another part.

JRB said...


Either he shows an individual sense of moral responsibility and steps down from his cabinet position.


Cameron /Clegg must show the necessary strength of leadership and address this issue if they are to be believed that they will tackle, head on, what the public perceives as the scandal and sleaze of expenses claims. They must act quickly and decisively, or risk losing all credibility amongst the electorate.

To some David Laws will be a sacrificial lamb, to others he will be yet another greedy grasping MP out for all he can get.
Either way, if public confidence in our MPs, our Parliament and our parliamentary system is to be restored, then he must leave the cabinet, and leave it now.

If, at a future date, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner finds he was in breech of the rules then his position as a serving MP should then be challenged.

Anonymous said...

Benefit cheats are punished severely by the courts.

There are notices all over the place asking you, if you know of someone who is cheating, to phone a dedicated hotline and dob them in.

Community Service is often used as punishment; sometimes fines to be paid out of meagre wages or benefits at a few pounds a week... a real hardship to someone living on the breadline. In the worst cases, where maybe thousands of pounds has been stolen, a prison sentence is sometimes used.

But we note that Baroness Udders, Jaquie Smith, The ignoble Lord Paul and many others have got away with, if they were aristocrats, nothing, and if they were commoners, being forced to stand up before a whole room of thieves and say sorry.

No paying back, no punishment.

If I thought that all that would happen to me would be that I would have to apologise to other criminals, I'd be down to the council right now lying my wee heart out.

But I'm only me, so I'd get banged up in Saughton for a 10 stretch, so I won't.

New politics... bottom.

muddypaws said...

For Mr Laws to try and suggest that his partner is not his partner is not only quite insulting to the general public, but quite insulting to his partner, for if he is not his partner who is he, the rentboy?

As to him keeping his job because he is otherwise a generally all round good egg and jolly good at his job.....well he should have owned up earlier at the height of the expenses scandal and he might just have escaped under the radar or have been forgiven, as it is his dishonesty, both to himself and the public shows him to be, however clever and capable, entirely unsuited to public office.

Indyanhat said...

"...does it matter to the public?",

Rosa, whilst I agree that many if not all of the public 'do not care' one way or another about peoples sexuality (what they do in private is no concern etc etc)

I am beginning to wonder if there is a case for excluding people who 'hide' their private lives from public life, based on the fact that many of those who live such a life are conditioned to hide and decieve those around them of their true nature (whatever that may be). Given that they do so, you have a possible problem with the mindset that becomes entrenched, that of if no one knows about it(whatever it may be ) then its ok!!
Living a lie is not in my mind a recommendation for being in charge of a country. Its not that I expect or want people to be whiter than white etc, it is more that I wish to be able to look at my elected representatives and SEE their transparency...if I can witness their even handedness in the treatment of all, then they are fit for purpose, hiding things from sight and then apologising is just not good enough in my book.

I have no axe to grind with the issues of homosexuality or lesbianism, all are free to choose their own pathway in my opinion, but let that pathway be open and fair to all others in the society which we inhabit, is that too much to ask for the freedoms that this society has enabled all to claim?

David Laws's case appears obviously to transgress the rules laid out for the MPs to follow (even a blind person could 'see' that), to claim after the events, he so carefully skirted around, that it was for the sake of privacy and he is sorry, is just laughable in the extreme.

As you point out no one on benefits would get away with such a motive and what is good for the goose is good for the gander!!!

In his case allowing him to 'pay back' the money would be a travesty, fining so rich a person would be a crime against all those who cannot 'buy' their way out of troubles of a similar nature, Jail is the ONLY option and a large fine of say the cost of his jail time at present rates (is it £40,000 a week or more now)and permanent disbarrment from public office!!! On the basis of, if you are going to tell us how we should live, YOU had best live to those standards as well, otherwise why should we respect the laws you pass for us to obey?

JuliaM said...

"Paddy Ashdown's argument was that the word 'partner' is ill-defined..."

This is what happens when most of your MPs are lawyers, or people used to hanging around with lawyers. They get so used to looking for loopholes that they forget how normal people view things....

Billy said...

The guy is at it...every gay person I know calls their other half their PARTNER.

Fraud is fraud. Another case for the police I think plus he should be booted out of the parliament for a start.

Oldrightie said...

"quite unbelievable from an educated person." We as a society revere educational achievement whilst ignoring the fact that or confusing education with intelligence. They are not one and the dame. Indyanhat could be my own brother except that his articulate style is far superior to mine.

Indyanhat said...

@OR I will keep that quote if you don't mind OR, '...could be my own brother' I thank you for that! We are ALL brothers and sisters against the tyranny of the state and I 'value' my family here very highly, long may we be related....

subrosa said...

I'm beginning to think the business about his relationship is a red herring Antithenes. Plenty must have known about it and I doubt if many cared. It's the character of a person which is important to me.

He's shown he has a devious character by not clarifying his situation with the relevant officials.

Such a pity I can't use being a pensioner as an excuse for some of my behaviour.

subrosa said...

I'm beginning to lean that way too John.

At least we will see how seriously Cameron and Clegg take the 'new politics' when they react.

Somehow I hear the 'We will wait for the decision of the Commissioner' in my head.

subrosa said...

Well said Tris. We'll see if the 'new' politics are any newer than the old.

Mad Dog McClane said...

I totally agree with JRB and totally disagree with Antisthenes. If he's ripping off the tax-payer then he should go, regardless of personal decency, astuteness and so on. If he does actually have these qualities they obviously have their limits, otherwise he'd said to himself, this is wrong, I shouldn't be taking tax-payers' money to give to my boyfriend. And I certainly disagree that somebody who's an asset to the government is therefore also an asset to the country.

As for Paddy Ashdown, it amazes me sometimes how ready politicians are to make excuses for each other.

Mad Dog McClane said...

It turns out that Laws is a millionaire.

Mrs M would be only too grateful for a few extra bob if I could convince HMRC that I rent from her my half of the bed (on a good night) and ¼ of our wardrobe as necessary to the fulfilment of my duties.

Strathturret said...

He was renting his partner back bedroom. Tempted to make a joke here! Bit like Jackie and her sister's back bedroom? The man's also loaded.

He should be sacked. I won't hold my breath here as Cameron applied different standards depending on whether someones face fitted when expenses first became an issue.

Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

I woudn't fancy Mr Laws chances up against a decent prosecution Advocate not with a defence such as he gives.....

(Gays should be allowed to deceive so as not to frighten the horses)

well more a mitigation of an admitted offence.

Given his present role and the importance of being an honest and fair person to gain the publics trust.

The best option would be for him to resign

Henry Wood said...

First of all Subrosa, thank you for putting the case against Mr. Laws so clearly. As you say, any defendant accused of unlawfully claiming benefits would receive short shrift if they told the court: "I did not reveal we were partners when I claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit because I wanted to protect my privacy. ... " (I've taken the liberty of copying it all to possibly use in future arguments.)

To Antisthenes, if Mr. Laws was so desperate to keep his private life private there was a very simple solution in his own hands: do not claim expenses, and he was rich enough to do that. What cost a few thousand pounds to keep the tabloids from your door? I really liked the way he was going about his job but to me he is now just another money-grubbing, well off parasite raiding the public purse because he thought it was safe to do so. Why do they do it? What are their plans for all these riches?

I'm also surprised he got his present job. Are there really no questions asked of prospective ministers along the lines of "any skeletons in the cupboard?", and if that was asked and he answered no, that strengthens the case for his dismissal.

subrosa said...

For me, it's far more insulting to his partner.

He had nothing to own up to muddypaws. All he had to do was to stick by the Green Book rules. He chose not to.

subrosa said...

Indyan, thanks for your comment. I can't pick any holes in it so I won't bother saying more.

Henry Wood said...

Well, he seems to be gone. That is a good sign from this coalition. There will not be the "hanging on by the fingernails at all costs and in the face of public opinion" so ably demonstrated by the last lot.

Sorry to see him go as he started off so well in his job but he made a very bad error of judgement.

subrosa said...

Very true Julia. Did you hear the pathetic nonsense from Ashdown? Saying Westminster would decide rather than the law courts we with which we have to abide.

subrosa said...

The story now circulating is that he would have charged the taxpayer far more for a pad in London than he's claimed.

That's his problem.

subrosa said...

I sit corrected OR. It's true that intelligence has nothing to do with education.

How did drug barons make so many billions when it's said few had any school qualifications?

subrosa said...

Oh Jon (McClane) politicians will always make excuses for each other, especially for those in the same party.

Nobody on Sky or the BBC had the courage to ask Ashdown if he knew that Laws' partner was a male.

Not that it matters. It's the deceit that matters.

subrosa said...

It will be interesting to hear what Cameron says on Monday. He's doing a Gordon and lying low this weekend - possibly in the hope it blows over a bit.

subrosa said...

But will he Niko? I think he'll hang on in there. After all Westminster is the best boys club in Britain.

subrosa said...

Well said Henry. I tend to agree with Indyan. If someone decides to enter public life they know the score.

He covered up something which, in modern society, wouldn't have been particularly detrimental to his position. Yet he continued to do it year after year and as I read on one site today 'he was so frightened to expose his sexuality'.

What a lame excuse. But of course that comment was from a gay website because, for some reason, people who are gay still feel they're victimised.

They ought to try being a pensioner - gay or not.

subrosa said...

Strathturret, sorry I missed your comment initially. I too think than since I wrote the post. The man has behaved deviously. But then he chose to be a politician and give up banking.

Alec said...

Seen this?

subrosa said...

Alec, thanks for the link. Makes my blood boil so it does. As I've said Laws for the rich...

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