My view on the David Laws’s situation…

Whilst I do sympathise with David Laws’s situation and how hard it must have been for him to have covered up his sexuality for so long, he broke the law and on balance he should go. Certain things do not add up. Even though I believe he wasn’t claiming tax payer’s money in order to gain anything financially, couldn’t there have been another route to financing it through his own money seeing as he is a millionaire? Funding it through public money is hardly the most private way to go about it.

The stress of the cover up may be a reason for why he used the tax payer’s money. Regardless, remember Jacqui Smith? When she found out that her husband had been watching porn behind her back using her expenses (a very personal matter), this didn’t stop people and the press using it to fuel the fire. There was no real attempt to sympathise with what she must have felt like, the public embarrassment and also the news that her husband was using her money to watch other women. There was no consideration of her personal feelings, people didn’t care – she had broken the law. Whilst I am not claiming that Laws should face personal criticism as Smith did, it is just a useful comparison to bare in mind.

It is however, rather worrying that the newspapers have been looking for something to ‘out’ Laws with, and that this expense scandal has only just been published – looking as though it was something that the Telegraph had stored away for a rainy day. Newspapers outing people is not the way things should be. However, how do you write the story without mentioning it? Or are you saying that the newspaper should never have reported it? The fact is, this can result in the danger of using ‘special treatments’ if the newspaper has to bend over backwards to hide the truth – it is much like things such as all-women shortlists – people should not be treat differently as a way to overcome the prejudice around difference. The detail that Laws is a homosexual is important for the story, it relates to the controversy of how to define ‘partner’, it relates to why Laws even did it in the first place. I repeat, should none of this been reported? Is it really homophobic to report a case of fraud? But again, the timing of the ‘outing’ is concerning and something that should be looked into.

The fact is, this is politics. Sooner or later, especially in the current context, Laws was going to be found out. It puts the government in a hard position. If they are serious about trying to create an era of ‘new politics’ it is going to be hard to keep him. However, Laws acts as a clear bridge between the Tories and LibDems, as interestingly from the reports it looks as though Laws would have joined the Tories if they had a better record in terms of gay rights. My guess is that Laws will keep his job, but instead of this being beneficial for gay rights, I think it will undermine them.

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5 thoughts on “My view on the David Laws’s situation…

  1. Why do you say David Laws has broken the law? From what I have read it is far from clear that he has.

    The rules on this are vague, whatever people are now spinning in the media. Is his relationship with his partner that of a spouse? Given the privacy they have kept it is hard to know, but consider these points:

    1) A spouse is normally a public relationship that involves the pair of them being seen regularly in public together, attending official functions etc. From what we have been told this appears not to have been the case.

    2) He says they have separate social lives, which fits with the point above.

    3) He was a tenant before he was a lover. At what point did the relationship change? Did it ever develop into what would be classed as a full blown partnership?

    I don’t believe it is right for us to even speculate about these matters. They should not be determining whether or not his claims for rent were right and proper.

    Mr Laws was entitled to a second home funded at the public’s expense. His constituency is in Somerset. He has a lot more right to this than many MPs in Labour and Tory party who cynically claimed for self-enriching investments in the London property market at the public’s expense, despite living within normal commuting distance of Westminster.

    Mr Laws has claimed for a rate of rent that was apparently lower than the going rate, and this was the most efficient arrangement for the public purse as far as I can see. If he had his own flat, or they had openly set up a home together the costs would have been higher.

    Whether or not David Laws has savings from his previous career should not be an issue. To say that he is a millionaire and therefore should fund his costs himself is completely insane, and is the politics of envy writ large. He should not be subsidising this out of his own pocket.

    For me it is very simple. Did he benefit financially from this arrangement. As far as I can see the answer to this is no, and therefore there should not be any story here at all. This is not an example of the “old politics” it is an example of the old sanctimonious, gay-bashing fleet street gutter journalism.

    I have only met David Laws once. He was staying at the same hotel as I was at a Lib Dem party conference. Whereas many party apparatchiks elect to stay in the large and expensive conference hotels, I usually try to find somewhere cheaper. This was certainly that, and not a place I’d recommend. But there was David Laws, an already established front bench MP, slumming it with the rest of us. He was on his own, clearly a very private person from his demeanour, and definitely not someone who was likely to be “on the fiddle”. I know after the events of the past year and the quite appalling things other MPs have been guilty of, any attempt to claim that an MP has integrity is going to sound naive and hollow to many, but in this case my judgement is that David Laws has been severely wronged. I do not believe he owes a penny, and I think he was ill advised to issue the apology he did. Matthew D’Ancona – what qualifications does he have to opine on this by the way? – was already by 9am this morning on R4 claiming that the fact he was paying the money back implied guilt. What utter rot.

  2. Nigel,

    He has broken the law, and trying to wriggle out of it with discussions of what partner is defined as doesn’t work – look at this article for a very good outline of why he has broken the law:

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/05/30/why-david-laws-had-to-go/

    The Telegraph also, it has been shown, were never intending to breach that Laws was homosexual – it was Laws himself. Even if he didn’t benefit financially from it, he still broke the law. And I repeat something I said in my blog, i never implied that I felt he broke the law in order to ‘fiddle’ the tax payer, as you say it.

    The law is the law, yes, I feel very sorry for him to have to have felt he had to hide it for so long. But I just think its untenable to suggest that he has done nothing wrong when he clearly has, even if it wasn’t out of economic gain. This government is all up for responsibility, so its good Laws’ has taken some regardless of all the hyped up response from LibDems/Tories.

  3. I think it’s fairly obvious that the Telegraph held this story back to pull out against Laws at a different time, and they obviously took their opportunity once he became part of the coalition. That is the worst kind of journalism. If this had been released with all the other expenses scandals, I think perhaps there would have been a different situation? Maybe he would have stood down at the election, given the amount of the claim, but he wouldn’t have been so victimised. I say, yes, better that they hadn’t reported it at all than report it in this fashion. He certainly made a grave error of judgment, but I can see precisely how, incrementally, he got to this point, and I feel very sorry for him and how he has been treated here.

    Also, please, for the love of all that is holy, fix your apostrophes! Why on earth are you making “Laws” and “Tories” possessive repeatedly? Sorry, I normally suppress my SPaG nitpicking, but it was just too much for me.

  4. Yeah, there are questions around when it was released and why it was done so – I think that is something that needs more looking into.

    And I have amended that now, I think its all of them. Sorry, don’t normally do that so badly :S

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