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A New Expenses Scandal For Britain

May 31, 2010

David Laws was the Treasury chief secretary as part of our new and shiny coalition government – until this weekend, that is. The Daily Telegraph, the paper responsible for lighting the touch paper for what became the MP expenses scandal of 2009, thereby leaving any vestige of trust in our MPs in the dust, has struck again. The Telegraph revealed that he had claimed £40,000 pounds over eight years to rent a room in two properties in London. In 2006, a rule was brought in where MPs were forbidden to lease accommodation from a partner.

David Laws at a press conference making a resignation speech

The Telegraph had not revealed details of the other party involved, but by Saturday, Mr Laws made a statement of resignation where he ‘outed’ himself. He said he made the claims, not to profit, but in order to protect the privacy of his partner and himself and to conceal his sexuality. I have to hand it to him for having possibly the most original excuse I’ll hear for many a year, but I found myself scratching my head. Raiding the public coffers leaves a rather large paper trail, does it not? You may as well have put a flashing blue light over your head with a siren. The fact that it has since transpired this man is a millionaire makes you wonder why he couldn’t have put a hand in his own pocket to pay for the rooms. That would’ve kept everything in the family, as it were, and no one would’ve been the wiser. Certainly not his parents and friends, from whom he was trying to conceal his true identity, because like it or not, it’s still difficult to be true to yourself if you are gay. At least here in Blighty we don’t put people in jail for it anymore, but as my mate, The Ever Gorgeous Dez™ pointed out as we were surrounded by guitar playing Zebra Finches at the Barbican the other week, homophobic attacks are increasing in East London. And because it’s not my world, I have Scottish Rab to thank for doing his bit to raise awareness of this happening all over the world by posting links to the Pink Paper on Facebook. For instance, in Malawi, two men were sentenced to spend 14 years in separate jails for making a public commitment to marriage in a symbolic ceremony. After an international outcry and an intervention by the UN, they were pardoned. However, the president made it very clear that although he’s pardoned them on humanitarian grounds, he doesn’t support the behaviour. In America, the policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which bans gays and lesbians from the military, has been repealed. Fellow blogger Sarah Baram writes about this in more detail.

What I have found interesting about this case is the reaction of the great British public. Back in the day, the revelation of his sexuality would’ve been a big deal, but this time, it’s not been the main focus. Instead they are quite rightly focusing on the taking of money from the pot we all pay into, especially from a man who is more than able to afford to pay for himself. He would’ve been one of the people in charge of steering us on the SS Austerity through the choppy waters of the global recession and our national debt. We would’ve had to forego an awful lot to try and set this country right again. We also know that if we were on benefits, or welfare, for instance, and we broke the rules regarding that, we’d not only have to pay back the money, we’d be in jail faster than you can say jack rabbit. Again and again, it’s the unfairness of it, that these people are living in a parallel universe and that they are effectively getting away with it. He’s paying back the money now, but who cares about that? He shouldn’t have done it in the first place, the muppet.

The thing that’s wound me up the most is that politicians from all sides have banded together to give tribute to him and wax lyrical about his great talents and his integrity, like he’s a great statesman who just died. Leaving aside his personal problems, he used our money, not for us, but for him. Not good enough, Mr Laws. I kept hearing about his intelligence and that he has a double first degree in economics, like that’s supposed to mitigate his behaviour. His brain may be golden, but his common sense is pure blancmange.

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6 comments

  1. Yep Pie,
    The one word that’s missing in all this, and that those in power are keeping very quiet about is “thief”.
    Surely knowingly taking something that isn’t yours is theft? If it were you or I that were caught with our hands in someone elses purse, “theft” would be the word they would be using, no?
    Sooooo let me understand, this is the Public Purse and polititians can just dip in and use as they fancy but somehow it’s not “theft” when applied to them?
    It begs the question: David Laws was being devious and sneaky, and clearly after 8 years it’s not possible to even begin to say “oops honest mistake” in any shape or form.
    If he hadn’t been “done” by this newspaper how many more years could this have continued? (you don’t want to know the answer to that question, it would raise your blood pressure too high)
    I’d like to see 100% accountability and the letter of the law applied to *everyone*, and for “the privilaged few” to be apparently above the law to actually SERVE the same jail sentance that would be dished out if you or I did this.
    It’s not about gay or straight,(that’s both a smokescreen and his private business in this instance) or that he could afford it… it’s ALL about deception, dishonesty, deceit and putting his own interests first instead of people he was elected to serve.
    He should be paying back the money with interest, he should be paying a hefty fine for each year this was illegal as well, AND he should be in jail doing a lengthy stretch for fraud.
    Apparently he has a brilliant mind for economics, let him do the sums and count the cost of his errors.. and his criminal record.
    If he were as brilliant as his colleagues claim then I think he is even MORE accountable, he knows full well that what he did was dishonest.
    Can you not tell tht I couldn’t agree more with this post? 🙂


    • You’ve made it loud and clear!

      The worst thing about this is he’ll be back in the cabinet within a year or two, once the fuss has died down. Peter Mandelson is a prime example of this practice of bringing back the ‘brilliant minds’ with no apparent contrition for their transgressions. Why bother to teach the future generation right from wrong when the adults at the top make a mockery of it? They’ll always look after their own, Kiwi, they’ll always look after their own…


      • They’ll look after their own all right and THEN crow loud and long if they see anyone else (preferably beneath them in the pecking order) put a foot one millimeter out of line. Hypocrisy in overdrive.
        The people at the bottom of the food chain always loose, it’s the one thing that people in power like to keep the exactly the same no matter the politics, regime or society.
        That’s what sucks.


        • It does. And it’s depressing. Still, if we make efforts within our own environment to make things better in spite of that knowledge, which I know you do, then it’s a life well lived.


  2. But they always apologise and pay the money back. After they’ve been found out.

    How long do you reckon before he’s back? Six months?


    • I’d give it a year, personally. My mind tends to be foggy on these things, but I think there was a gap of at least two years in each instance of Peter Mandelson’s return to cabinet. Because we must remember he came back from the dead, not once, but twice. As they seem to like this man so much, his ressurection will probably come much sooner.



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