A New Expenses Scandal For BritainMay 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.
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 In America, the policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which bans gays and lesbians from the military, has been repealed.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.