It’s been highly amusing and more than a little infuriating to see Liberal Democrat after Liberal Democrat contorting themselves into ever tightening knots of sophistry in order to explain away David Laws’ misdemeanor. Most laughable is the one put forward by the ever-risible Lembit Opik that this is simply a homophobic witch-hunt; most pathetic, the old saw that “he’d done nothing wrong”.
Well, yes he had because claiming 40 grand from the taxpayer to give to his partner is explicitly against the rules set out in 2006, and since taxpayers are rightly hopping mad about the whole expenses scandal it behoves the Liberal Democrats to wake up and realise they can no longer rely on their previous image of being cleaner than the others simply because…well, because they’re Liberal Democrats.
Laws’ own explanation is itself pretty evasive if you ask me. I simply don’t buy this “privacy” argument. How does claiming 40k in expenses protect his privacy? If he’d wanted to protect his privacy he could have, um, simply not claimed anything. And if anyone wanted to know why he was living with another man, was it beyond the wit of this “brilliant” man (with a double-first from Cambridge, you know) to use the old “I’m staying with a friend” line? Indeed, he could have used that to his advantage given his role as Chief Axe-man at the Treasury: “I stay with a friend when in London thereby saving the taxpayer, oh, let’s see, about £40k you know.” We might all have been impressed.
After all, no-one would have audited his sleeping arrangements, surely, and since it was unlikely he and his partner would be holding hands in the street nobody would have been any the wiser. Even if the press had caught a whiff of something, there would have surely been no public interest argument in outing an MP who has consistently voted for gay rights? Whereas an MP who claims £40k from the public purse to give to his lover whilst preaching a message of austerity? Well, you tell me.
As for his claim that he did not personally gain from his claims – privacy not profit I tell you! – there is also more than a hint of political wriggling. Granted he himself did not profit, but his boyfriend sure as hell did.
Laws wrote in his resignation letter that “I cannot now escape the conclusion that what I have done was in some way wrong.” In “some way”? In every way, mate… as wrong as Jacqui Smith who was villified, rightly, for pretty much the same infringement.