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.
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.