I feel this whole situation proves that, that while legal by letter of the law, many in this day and age still feel terrified by the prospect of coming out, a matter proven by David Laws.
Firstly, I would like to say that I applaud the Telegraph for its expenses story last year, it seemed to cut out all of the nonsense that we would get from any ‘official enquiry’, and exposed all of the politicians who abused the system we had by profiteering and wasting money that had come from the people who elected them into office. Certainly this is best shown in the cases of expenses claimed for Moats, Duck Islands, and Pornography, all of which abused the system in a way that quite clearly wasted the tax payer’s money, and funded personal habits rather than accommodation and food. The difference between these and David Laws is that he fell because he wanted to keep his sexuality a secret and did nothing more than that, somewhat disproportionate from any of the other abuses I have already mentioned.
I would like to make 2 key points about this affair:
1) He claimed £40,000 from 2001, but this action only became ‘illegal’ from 2006 onwards. £40k is an inaccurate figure for what he claimed against the rules, and I believe its irresponsible reporting to suggest otherwise. We will have to wait for the inquiry to see how much he claimed legitimately.
2) He could have quite easily put his own name on the mortgage, and claimed a lot more than what he actually did without breaking any rules at all. Rather than claiming co-habitees mortgage with his partner (which would have netted him £200,000+ by now) he paid rent to him as a non-family member. The amount paid (£970 a month) was less than the average going rate of £1200 for an apartment that size, so in actuality he saved the taxpayer money.
That, however, would have meant coming out and acknowledging his relationship to the public and his own family. This is something he clearly was not comfortable doing. Instead what it seems he’s done is worked around the paperwork to keep his relationship secret, rather than fiddling his expenses to cheat taxpayers.
Neither he nor his partner have gained financially from the arrangement, when compared to the alternative legitimate arrangement, it almost seems negligible. No-one will remember this though, everyone will remember that he resigned as a casualty to the expenses scandal and his reputation will be tarnished for many years. I’m not saying he didn’t break the rules because he did, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as reported by certain members of the press.
It is an incredible shame that David Laws, one of the most talented members of the coalition, who could have ensured cuts that (I feel) we need without crippling public services, had to go because of a pathetic sting by the Telegraph who decided to sit on this information for over a year until he had a cabinet job. I somewhat doubt that 3 weeks into the new government they just happened to work this story out. Those who were outed during the scandal have been forgotten (hopefully because most resigned), however every time they do it now it seems like a much bigger issue because it’s a stand-alone story, not part of this package that affected all MPs nationwide. I am quite worried that they are going to use this to their advantage. Any day of the week they can see a politician in the public eye, who they potentially disagree with politically, trawl through their expenses and find a skeleton in the closet. The Telegraph potentially have the power to dismiss anyone from the government at any time. This is not in the public interest.
We have just had the general election where the electorate have judged those who have cheated the system, an example best shown by ex-home secretary and MP Jacqui Smith. Politics and the country as a whole should now start afresh and put the expenses scandal behind us, before any more unnecessary casualties like this are repeated.