by Richard Lutz
So, this is what it has come to…
Politician David Laws deceived us, the taxpayer, out of tens of thousands of pounds to hide the fact that he has a male partner. He said he did to protect his private life.
He has repaid the state close to £60,000 already. He admitted deception and misleading Parliament – which is us – when it came to his Commons expenses.
But if he had felt so appalled by his own misbehaviour during the 7 years he bled the state, why didn’t he just take the misbegotten expenses for lodging with his partner… and give it away to charity: to a charity that helps unemployed kids in Hammersmith; to families dying of thirst in sub Saharan Africa or to old folks who need cataract operations in India?
No. He took the loot, ripe for the picking, and abused our trust.
And now the former chief Secretary of the Treasury and Libdem rising star has been slapped with a mere seven day ban from the House – one day for each year he deceived Britain.
The Standards Commissioner found he was guilty of breaching rules including:
• Claiming ‘excessive’ rent for two different London properties compared to the market rent and the terms of his tenancy agreement
• Wrongly claiming £2,000 for building work which a tenant would normally not have to pay up front
• Claiming £2,249 for phone calls from his second home allowance
• Continuing to claim for a property in London despite it becoming his main home from April 2005
In all, close to close to £60,000 was involved.
Now it seems certain that in time David Laws, ‘expense account fraud’, will find his way back to a senior role in the Coalition. He’s a man who abused his privileges, ignored his responsibilities to voters, and turned his back on what is moral and proper.
How do we know he won’t do that again for another reason? He shouldn’t be trusted if he is given a senior financial role and is responsible for billions of pounds of public money.
But both David Cameron and Nick Clegg can’t wait to get their hands on him.
The PM said: ‘I think he has a lot to offer public life.’
Libdem Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘I’m sure we will see him back.’
And without a scintilla of irony, Education Secretary Michael Gove said he hoped ‘that we will all be able once more to make use of his talents before too long’.
Talents? Trust? Honesty?
Look at it this way: everyone has a right to privacy. But you don’t knowingly defraud the taxpayer, the public and, importantly, the voter, to hide what you don’t want publicised. That means we pay for his secrecy.
Latest news is that he may be investigated by police. The Scottish MP Thomas Docherty, said : “If anyone else had fraudulently obtained £50,000 and their defence was that they had done it to protect their privacy, then they would rightfully have had the book thrown at them.”
David Laws showed a moral (if a not a legal) crack in his psyche. He should be dropped from the Commons – not slapped on the wrist for a week – and ordered to stand down so someone who has probity on his or her side can get on with the job of representing the people in his constituency.
If The Hon David Laws is honourable, he would step down in the next five minutes.
Now, that would be public service.