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.