We want LAWS!! not Law….


I write this week from a dark place, a place where the mob riots, pitchforks and flaming torches ready… a place where only the head of David Laws will assuage some.   The Telegraph outed David Laws – firstly as gay, in effect, and secondly for an expenses problem in connection with £40,000 worth of expenses paid to his partner.  This has been prohibited since 2006.  David Laws has apologised, given a full and detailed explanation and has offered to pay it back.

While I amused myself, over refreshed on twitter last night by making remarks about Ali Baba and the 40,0000 thieves…and noted that I would soon be ‘orf for 40,000 winks’, I woke this morning sober, refreshed as opposed to over refreshed and, after a coffee and a few Marlboros, thought about the issue.

Firstly, in the absence of any further revelations – some think that there is more to come – David Laws’ explanation seems reasonably credible to me.  The Law is a bit woolly in terms of the definition of ‘partner’ and Laws maintains …

“At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as ‘one of a couple… who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses’.

“Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses – for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.

“However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.” (BBC)

I have absolutely no problem with David Laws being gay or, rather more importantly, with his wish to keep private matters private.  Why should he have disclosed his sexuality?   It is no-one’s business but his own.  I can understand, because there is still a group of people in politics who are ‘gay intolerant’, that Mr Laws may wished to have kept his sexuality secret and this is more than likely to have accounted for his interpretation of the rules in terms of the 2006 expenses revisions.

I do not think he should resign.  He has offered to return the money, given the interpretation of the rules alternative to his own, and he has reported himself to the watchdog.   I understand that had Laws claimed for his own rent or purchased a flat the cost to the taxpayer would have been even higher.  The fact that he is a millionaire is irrelevant.  He has already given up salary and compensation far in excess of anything a British government can afford to pay ministers.  How many of us give up our freedom to earn or wish to serve our country by being an MP.  I don’t.  I’ll do what I can, as most will, in other ways.  Being an MP is pretty heavy on the soul, I would have thought.? Hopefully, most MPs will enjoy the parody, the knock about – but how many of us could handle a campaign of vilification in the press?  Criticise and vilify when merited.  Is it really merited on the FACTS here? On the facts as reported so far – I don’t think so. I did not vote for the Tories or the Lib-Dems, nor, obviously, a coalition.  On purely practical grounds it would be unfortunate if Cameron or Clegg were to take the opportunity to be ‘tough’ by sacking Laws.  It would be unfortunate to lose a man widely regarded as clever, thoughtful and honest -  doing a job which the Coalition government says needs to be done.  It would be unfortunate if the government, not exactly over blessed with intellectual and economic talent, had to find a replacement.  I think that Mr Laws should tough it out.  The mob and the press will just have to wait for their first bloodied corpse.  Unless, of course, there is more to this than has been disclosed and meets the eye.

And so.. to the House of Lords.

Long overdue for reform – although I would go further than reform and welcome complete abolition , replacing a second chamber with elected ‘senators’ who will bring experience and expertise to scrutinise the work of The Commons.  We have a long and not always honourable history.  We do pomp and circumstance better than any in the world  and it is important to feel British.  Unfortunately, some of us feel that all the geegaws and baubles, The Lord, The Sirs, The Rt hons this and The Rt Hon that are all a bit undemocratic, all a bit old fashioned for a modern democracy and…frankly…all a bit f**king daft.

I have no interest in titles. If a grown man wants to call himself Lord Fuckerlugs of Spalding On Seaside, that is just fine by me.    Thankfully, there are some wonderful people who do great work with no thought of reward or  of getting a daft ermine gown and a ludicrous medieval title.  Some even decline.  Lord Prescott told us all solemnly some time ago that he had no interest in the Lords and would not accept a peerage.  He has and got his yeterday.  Again.. this is fine by me.  He will just have to accept the ridicule which goes along with it.

The issue isn’t about titles.  It is about substance.  How are we going to fit in 800+ peers, with more to come?  I thought Cameron said Big Society, not Big Government?  We seem to have more has beens and worthies than ever running the country. The Tories say they have to create more peers to outnumber Labour peers?  What happens when they lose the next election and Labour has to create even more.  At this rate, they’ll be holding their sessions at Wembley. The country will be crawling with ‘vermin in ermine’!..

It really doesn’t matter to me at the end of the day that some British people revel in all this nonsense – it is harmless.  What is not harmless is unelected peers governing us.  This has, surely, to come to an end?  We’ll see how many has beens and worthies want to be ‘senators’ and do good work, without titles.  I suspect, not quite so many. We shall see in time.

All the best… toodle pip

Have a good Bank holiday.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly Postcard… but I must see a man about a Dukedom… Fergie says she managed to get me an introduction.   Must rush… Can’t keep the Palace waiting, can one!

Baron Charon of Rioja-on-Sea.

10 thoughts on “We want LAWS!! not Law….

  1. The Mr Laws business is rather unfortunate since he must have known about this money when he was offered a government job. Whilst there will be some politicians out for their first scalp – (and they are not all necessarily on the Opposition side) – I tend to agree with you that he should be allowed to remain in post provided that the money is repaid. Interesting to see Alastair Campbell having a go about Mr Laws on Question Time! Personally, I would like Mr Campbell to shut up for a while.

    The House of Lords and what to do about it? They have been discussing it for the last 99 years when the Parliament Act 1911 spoke about replacing it with an elected chamber. I had some discussion about this on the ObiterJ blog recently which may interest some of your readers:

    http://obiterj.blogspot.com/2010/05/house-of-lords-reform.html#comments

    The creation of many new peers in the near future – all with grandfather rights – will set back proper reform for many years. Proper reform must be a change to an elected second chamber (a Senate) with powers similar to the present House of Lords. Certainly not less than an 80% elected second chamber with the 20% unelected being “crossbenchers”.

  2. My issue with the Laws story is that I can’t help but think the really discrete thing to do would be to skip the expenses system entirely.

  3. Whatever’s done about the Lords, I’m absolutely against calling it a “Senate”.

    First, although I’m far from anti-American I think that would give the impression the US is our ideal constitutional model, which it isn’t necessarily. We already have a Supreme Court now, and I reckon that’s enough Americana in place of Arcana.

    Secondly, isn’t the idea of a Senate a bit ageist and sexist?

    http://latindictionary.wikidot.com/noun:senex

    I know the current name is a bit sexist, but it’s not ageist, and at least it’s traditional. I’m not sure there’s any reason to change its name except the Clegglike faith that new is good.

  4. The Telegraph have gone way over the top on this one.

    For a start, David Laws’ £40,000 claim was since 2001, and the rules were only changed in 2006. Therefore, he was within the rules for 5 years and transgressed for only 4, so he’s surely only liable for approximately £17,000.

    Tonight, he gave a very honourable departing speech.

    Compare that to Darling’s flipping, CGT avoidance and his clinging to office, declaring his innocence all the while.

    Darling should be ashamed of himself.

  5. OK- here we go again. Expenses problems. I really do think it is time to draw a line under this matter. All politicians who took money in contravention of the spirit of the rules or the rules stand up, pay it back plus interest and lets move on now. We cannot afford to lose the brilliant mind of David Laws to this nonsense during a global financial crisis. Someone has to teach Osborne and keep him in check! Charonqc time to put this blog to some good use and start a petition to reinstate Mr. Laws. Lets see if we really do have a new politics!

  6. Apparently Laws is financially secure. Whether for the whole period or the latter year[s] he did not have to put in a claim. If he did it in ignorance we know that`s no excuse[defence]; if he did it knowingly then greed overcame fear. The argument for returning the [ill gotten] gain is fatuous. When a weeping 66 year old first time offender has returned [an overclaim of] £26K to the DHS three weeks after “interview under caution” and she has consequently pleaded guilty at the very ealiest opportunity she`s still convicted. In this case[a amonth ago] she was given, contrary to the Guidelines, a 24 month CD.

    His resignation was certainly the decent thing to do. After all he now has a unique place in the Guinness Book opf Records as the minister with the shortest period in office.

  7. jp – i have the same thoughts on the business. one of my clients was accused of claiming housing ben while renting from the father of her children. the amount was about the same as laws (fine name). it was decided that she hadn’t – but had i not done her case pro bono she would have been paying back that money for ever. she was an unemployed mother of four. same rule for them all???

    nothing personal about laws, but if he really wanted to protect his privacy, perhaps just renting somewhere else and not kicking it back to his boyfriend would have accomplished his aim rather better. sorry – it’s a really crap excuse. and they claim he is brilliant? totally fucking naive (at best) sounds nearer the mark.

  8. Quite right SW. I really don’t see what this got to with privacy or the man’s sexuality. The rules changed, and no doubt all MPs were told that they couldn’t claim for rent paid to a partner or spouse. Those who had been doing so should have stopped.Laws didn’t and has now been found out.

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