Why David Laws had to go.


10:00 am - May 30th 2010

by Unity    


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I have tremendous sympathy for the difficult position in which David Laws found himself.

Nevertheless, and regardless of his personal motives in this matter, its perfectly clear that he did breach Parliamentary rules, as they stood between 2006 and 2009 and, therefore, placed himself into a position that would inevitably become untenable at the point at which his living arrangements during the period became public knowledge.

And efforts by his colleagues and supporters to engineer an ‘escape clause’ by either salami-slicing the definition of what consitutites a partner or by suggesting that an element of homophobic intent may lie behind the Telegraph’s decision to run with this story is both deeply misguided and rather disingenuous.

Any questioning of the Telegraph’s motives can, I think, be quickly dispensed with. Of all the possibles motives that could lie behind the decision to run this story at this time, homophobia is, by some considerable distance, the least plausible.

The single most obvious motive here is simply that of trying to increase sales. In a shrinking market, the Telegraph did pretty well out of its MPs expenses coverage last year, lifting its average daily sales by almost 19,000 copies a day in the month (May) that expenses scandal broke, pulling 1.4 million extra unique visitors onto its website.

Since then, the Telegraph’s daily sales have fallen by getting on for 150,000 copies a day, all of which makes the decision to run a fresh expenses story a complete no-brainer.

As for Laws’ position in relation to the Green Book rules, as they stood between 2006 and 2009, the relevant sections are as follows:

3.3.1. Principles

You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or
services funded from the allowances.

3.3.2.

You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.

3.3.3.

ACA must not be used to meet the costs of a mortgage or for leasing accommodation from:

- yourself;

- a close business associate or any organisation or company in which you – or a partner or family member – have an interest; or

- a partner or family member.

Even if you swallow the argument that Laws did not regard James Lundie as a partner, within the limited definition of the term that was only introduced in August 2009 – thereby avoiding a breach of rule 3.3.3 – its perfectly evident from yesterday’s events that he failed to ensure that the arrangements for his ACA claims were entirely above reproach and, quite obviously, that arrangement has given rise to an allegation that someone close to him may have obtained a benefit/subsidy from public funds.

On that basis alone, Laws’ position became untenable no soon as the first copies of the Telegraph hit the news stands.

To make matters worse, however, the fact that Laws altered his living arrangements in August 2009, after the Green Book was amended to include a somewhat more specific definition of what constitutes a partner, for the purposes of claiming expenses against parliamentary allowances, will inevitably be viewed by some as indicating that Laws was aware that living arrangements could prove problematic, some ten months before those arrangements were ‘outed’ in yesterday’s Telegraph.

That he didn’t come clean at the time, nor take action to reimburse the taxpayer for the monies claims between 2006 and 2009 will be interpreted by much of the public as a ‘cover-up’ of sorts, a charge that is, in the ‘court of public opinion’will likely prove even more damaging as any breach of the rules he may be found guilty of.

Whether Laws can make a comeback, as Mandelson did, is open to question. As a member of of the junior partner in the coalition, his overall position is automatically much weaker than that of Mandelson, during Blair’s first term in office and I do fear that the continuing ambiguity surrounding his relationship with Lundie may cause further problems for him.

One possible interpretation of that relationship, given the very limited information available, is that it may have been a non-monogamous sexual relationship, a type of relationship that is far from uncommon in the gay community but, sadly, one that plays all-too-readily intothe tabloid press’s well-established, and wholly prejudicial, narratives on homosexuality and the their penchant for self-righteous moralising.

If there’s one thing you can predict with any certainty in this situation its that the News of the Screws, and other the Sunday tabloids will be spending the the new few weeks crawling all over every last detail of David Laws’ personal life they can turn up in the hope of tracking down an ex-lover or – even better – a rent boy who’s prepared to dish the dirt on Laws in return for 15 minutes of minor notoriety and a fat cheque.

Whether Laws has a future in politics depends as much, if not more, on whether that search turns up anything that the tabloids can use against him, as it does on the deliberations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Personally, I hope this is one occasion when the tabloids draw a blank.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


1. Silent Hunter

Er? . . . Was it because he took £40,000 off the taxpayer for rent in a flat already owned by his ‘partner’ – perhaps if I “rent” a room in my house from my wife; that would be ‘legal & above board’ for tax purposes?

I think not.

What makes it worse for him; is that he’s a bloody millionaire! . . . I doubt he would have missed the £40,000 over, what was it, 5 years?

It looks bad, because it IS bad.

2. Mitch Matthews-Dublin

Well you can’t expect me to contain my joy, after witnessing the best example of how not to crash and burn in politics?

I dear say David Laws was the most qualified person to reduce the deficit but reassure Danny Alexandra it doesn’t take a genius to make sweeping cuts to public services and raise taxes…. It just requires someone who is prepared to be known as the most hated person in government for say a generation or two; remember the chants of “Thatcher – Thatcher milk snatcher!”

As a left wing Lib Dem, I’m delighted to see the quick fall of the millionaire David Laws and offer this advice;

1. When live under roof with someone, eat, sleep and do everything else as a couple with that same person – don’t attempt to call it anything other than a bloody relationship.
2. When your utility bills are actually £38 each month – don’t claim the maximum of £150
3. When you want privacy, don’t falsify claims for expenses, just don’t make a claim or at least if you find yourself in government, don’t wait for the news to leak – just go to the Speakers Office with a cheque for 40k and explanation and leave at that.
4. The truth is you should encourage from Peter Mandelson another floored and dear I say it gay, high achiever and no doubt you will be back within two years, bigger, louder and camper.

Look I’m not against the coalition and in fact I wish them ever success, after all if Sinn Fein and the DUP can form working government, who am I to complain; but if you think running this country (basket case) is as easy as all that? Than dear David C. and Nick C. you are greatly mistaken.

3. Mitch Matthews-Dublin

Well you can’t expect me to contain myself, after we witnessed the best example of how not to crash and burn in politics?

I dear say David Laws was the most qualified person to reduce the deficit but reassure Danny Alexandra it doesn’t take a genius to make sweeping cuts to public services and raise taxes…. It just requires someone who is prepared to be known as the most hated person in government for say a generation or two; remember the chants of “Thatcher – Thatcher milk snatcher!”

As a left wing Lib Dem, I’m delighted to see the quick fall of the millionaire David Laws and offer this advice;

1. When you live under the same roof, eat, sleep and do everything else as a couple with same person – don’t attempt to call it anything other than a bloody relationship.
2. when your utility bills are actually £38 each month – don’t claim the maximum of £150
3. when you want privacy, don’t falsify claims for expenses, just don’t make a claim or at least if you find yourself in government, don’t wait for the news to leak – just go to the Speakers Office with a cheque for 40k and explanation and leave at that.
4. The truth is you should encourage from Peter Mandelson another floored and dear I say it gay, high achiever and no doubt you will be back within two years, bigger, louder and camper.

Look I am not against the coalition and in fact I wish them ever success, after all if Sinn Fein and the DUP can forma working government, who am I to complain; but if you thing running this country (basket case) is as easy as all that? Than dear David C. and Nick C. you are greatly mistaken

I think you are missing something important here. During the election campaign we had all of this sanctimonious rhetoric from Clegg about lobbyists. Of course it was a campaign and “cab for hire” was topmost in people’s minds, but Clegg – yet again – gave us this impression that the LibDems were whiter-than-white.

Yet we hear that David Laws partner is James Lundie, a director of Edelman, the worlds largest private PR company. So here was a man at the centre of government trying to keep private his relationship with a man who is paid to change government policy. I am not suggesting that Laws tried to influence government policy (other than according to the Coalition Agreement – that’s politics), just that his trying to keep his relationship with Lundie secret would look to the public as if that was what he was doing. This is the reason why Laws had to resign: not the money, not the fact that he is gay, but because his close relationship with a lobbyist.

Just one more thought. If the LibDems get their way and there is a statutory register of lobbyists, would Laws have had to declare his relationship with Lundie then? My guess is that he would have had to do so, and hence his private life would have been made public then. So the whole sexuality issue is irrelevant – Laws knew that the days were numbered before he would have to expose his private life.

As ever, the commentariat appear too close to the action to consider the bigger picture.

Warning, blatant self-linking:
http://imorlock.blogspot.com/2010/05/distraction-narrative.html

could laws be any more arrogant?
“such vital work which i feel all my life has prepared me for.” so, that would be independent school, king’s cambridge and banking. the old bred to rule over us argument.
“i cannot now escape the conclusion that what i have done was in someway wrong.” wow, don’t go over the top there with the apology. did this issue not arise for him when other mps were standing down or repaying their expenses. did he really go through the whole of the expenses scandal without ever thinking ‘oh, i wonder whether i really should have claimed to have paid rent to my partner?’.

7. Nick Cohen is a Tory

I hate to say this but I don’t believe the hide the gay partner get out. Catholic or not,, this is not the fifties. I cannot think one political commentator, blog or paper who would have made it an issue of Laws having a gay partner. In many ways it would have been a political positive. He is a lib dem, the most socially liberal of all the parties.

8. the a&e charge nurse

Didn’t Laws say something along the lines of, “I think I may have done something wrong” ……… THINK, you mean he still doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong?

According to the today’s Observer the rules are clear cut, and as others have already pointed out, rich men, like Laws, still seem quite unable (despite all of the recent adverse publicity surrounding expenses) to keep their homosexual or straight fingers out the cookie jar?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/30/david-laws-homosexuality-parliamentary-expenses

Now if Laws is being held up as a man of cast iron principle, or one of the ‘good’ guys – what on earth does that say about the rest, eh?

This little episode tends to confirm my long held suspicion – that it takes a certain type of person, usually one with a fatally flawed personality, who climbs to the top of the greasy political pole.
Blair, is perhaps the most obvious example of a man who lacks self doubt (to sufficiently constrain his excesses) or the type of sensitivity one normally associates with most ordinary people, although the list of co-nutters (Campbell, Mandy, Thatch, et al ) is a very long one indeed?

I remember some of the stuff Laws said when he was the LibDem Work&Pensions spokesman, so have no sympathy whatsoever.

According to the Guardian yesterday, Laws was/is so right wing that when he first joined the LDs Paddy Ashdown thought he was a Tory plant!

Something else I find striking. Despite committing fraud by claiming money for his partner, the Right Wing has sprung to the aid of one of their own. He has been painted as some kind of Saint, martyred by a vicious press. Dale was on R5 last night defending him, Cameron led the tributes to a fallen comrade, with IDS suggesting that he can come back into the fold after a while!!!! Exactly the same crime Peter Mandleson was accused of. Despite all the talk of ‘cleaning up politics’ and stopping abuses, while in opposition, now that they have restored their rightful place at the helm, they think all that stuff was just a storm in a teacup. ‘Right of Recall’ anyone?

12. Charlieman

@6 lowhouse: “could laws be any more arrogant?
‘such vital work which i feel all my life has prepared me for.’”

Well if you are going to be a successful politician, you need a bit of self confidence. And selective quotes from David Laws’ resignation statement have to be put in context. The quote above came from a paragraph that is half the length of the one in which Laws describes his responsibility to family, friends and constituents.

There is still an important background argument here, in the way that Laws expresses himself. In that David Laws believes that he can only change things as an elected politician or minister, he is letting himself and other liberals down.

13. skidmarx

If he’d wanted to hide the fact that he had a gay partner, not claiming the money to begin with might have been a more effective way to do so.
When the story broke Paddy Ashdown and Lembit Opik pursued the line that only the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner could judge whether Laws was at fault, so nobody else should comment. They still don’t get it, as CM Dave used to say.
I’m not swallowing the argument that paying rent to his boyfriend is OK because they had separate bank accounts. There are married couples of which this is true, not to speak of those in unmarried heterosexual relationships.
If it were not for them both having well-paying jobs, I’d be more reminded of the Not The Nine ‘O’Clock News sketch which ends with a defector being told “No boyfriend of mine is going out to work”.

“If he’d wanted to hide the fact that he had a gay partner, not claiming the money to begin with might have been a more effective way to do so.”

Precisely so.
His “excuse” makes no sense.

The guy is a neoliberal doctrinaire. Why anyone would feel sympathy for someone who made millions in a rotten neoliberal system only to then take to government once said system went haywire and announce cuts to public spending – all the while, Laws was pocketing 40k to which he wasn’t entitled.

Worst neoliberal doctrinaire wanker. An anti-social ideology spurred on by anti-social doctrinaires.

16. Charlieman

@15 olching: You have a bloke earning loads. He could carry on in the same same fashion.

He wanted to do more in life. He took on a job that pays nothing compared to his bankers job. Mathematics: millions versus £63,000 as a bankbencher. He would have expected to be a bankbencher in 2010. The General Election result was a freak and his appointment was a freak.

@charlieman:

How magnanimous of him to enter parliament, the government, and then announce the harshest cuts (which will direct affect millions of people across the country) in living memory! The guy is a doctrinaire who espouses the anti-social ideology that has caused this country, the world, grief.

He isn’t an asset to society, but a detriment. I’m glad he’s gone (even though the solution to these woes is to get neoliberalism out of government).

“This little episode tends to confirm my long held suspicion – that it takes a certain type of person, usually one with a fatally flawed personality, who climbs to the top of the greasy political pole.”

Quite….which is why having politics and politicians determining how we live our lives is such a bad idea.

“Quite….which is why having politics and politicians determining how we live our lives is such a bad idea”

There is so much wrong with that statement one does not now where to begin.

How about Henry Ford and his little gang of social thugs that would go round and inspect his workers houses to make sure they were living a life he approved of.

I could go on and on about all the weirdoes and nuts who have forced their workforce to adopt all kind of loony ideas and beliefs, but I can’t be bothered right now.

Needless to say, with all the fake libertarians, property rights always trump individual rights.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why David Laws had to go. http://bit.ly/bniilP

  2. hilary

    Why David Laws had to go. Rule is simple: if you want privacy, don't pay partner from expenses. http://bit.ly/bztjjg

  3. peterdcox

    RT @libcon: Why David Laws had to go. http://bit.ly/bniilP Excellent comment: Laws gives catholic bigots/right wing homophobes ammunition

  4. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Why David Laws had to go.: I have tremendous sympathy for the difficult position in which the now-ex Chie… http://bit.ly/9sCk5v

  5. earwicga

    RT @libcon Why David Laws had to go. http://bit.ly/aq3K0E < Good post.

  6. David Laws’ downfall is NOT a national tragedy. Seriously. It isn’t. « Tony Blair

    [...] Green Book: Read relevant sections as to why Laws had to go [...]

  7. The David Laws paradox explains why I’m on the left | Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] to keep him in a job. The message here is that it is better to be a prissy, priggish follower of rules than a man of any other virtues – which is a perfect recipe for [...]

  8. Bertromavich Reibold

    Why David Laws had to go. | Liberal Conspiracy: How magnanimous of him to enter parliament, the government, and th… http://bit.ly/bp1sKB

  9. The rule of Laws | FTdotcomment | FT.com

    [...] to keep him in a job. The message here is that it is better to be a prissy, priggish follower of rules than a man of any other virtues – which is a perfect recipe for [...]

  10. Jane Watkinson

    @hypnotic this is a very good article explaining why it wasn't lawful – http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/05/30/why-david-laws-had-to-go/





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