David Laws

I thought David Laws’ resignation was dignified and full of integrity – as is he – but very sad to watch.

This matter is now for the authorities to investigate – and will take its course. David’s brilliance is a serious loss to our government and our country – particularly at this time of great need.

But outside of the proprieties or otherwise of David’s arrangements for housing and financing thereof – what I saw when I watched his resignation statement – was the personal pain of an individual who has not felt able to be open about their sexuality.

However progressive our laws are – we have not yet reached the point where young people feel completely free about coming out. Iain Dale has a very good piece in the Mail on Sunday about his own experiences and the difficulties of coming out to his family and friends – and coming from a small village. Yes things are changing – but these personal matters are still not easy for the variety of reasons that Iain sites.

We also know that homophobic bullying in our schools is still a major problem. 98% of schools have anti-bullying policies but only 6% have specific policies to tackle homophobic bullying. Six out of ten children experience homophobic bullying.

During anti-bullying week at the end of ’09, Nick Clegg said:

‘It’s a sad fact that looking or acting ‘gay’ can instantly make someone a target in thousands of schools across the country’.

‘Until we deal with homophobia in schools, we’re never going to stamp out wider discrimination in society’.

 
Both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives highlighted this issue in their manifestos. In the coalition agreement it appears thus: ‘We will help schools tackle bullying in schools, especially homophobic bullying’.

David Laws’ untimely and sad departure from the cabinet demonstrates how very far we still have to go and how very right the coalition is to pursue this issue – for all our sakes.

0 thoughts on “David Laws

  1. Complete nonsense – this was nothing to do with homophobia , but a man who wrongly claimed expenses and lied to cover it up. That is all – nothing else to see here. Nice attempt at smokescreen, Lynne, but no cigar.

  2. Edward, if you re-read what Lynne says she’s not saying David did everything right, but that it’s up to the relevant authority to make a decision based on evidence presented to it in due course. It is dignified of him to resign, but ugly to see trial by media. Politicians of all colours need to be fully scrutinised, but to apply punishment and hound people out of office before a proper formal investigation does not seem to me to be appropriate.

    I felt nothing but sadness listening to his resignation speech, as any wrongdoing or foolishness regarding expenses (where it seems the Government in no way lost out financially, and may have benefitted), comes secondary to the fact that this man has held a love in his heart all these years that he could not admit to even his wider circles of friends and family, let alone the wider public, constituents, colleagues, etc. My heart aches for him, as I know his story is a common occurrence across the country, people hiding themselves for fear of being “different”.

    I hope that in time the great strides we’ve made in acceptance and tolerance of people of different kinds will continue, and we will see public figures more able to be open about who they are. In that vein I am very happy to see Lynne actively involved and wish her the best of luck, and lots of support in her work.

  3. Quite so Edward. Has David Laws sorted his claim in 2007 when the rules changed, or later during the massively damaging expenses scandal when many were pillories and some lost their jobs for less, he would now be in charge of making Lots of largely unnecessary cuts now. http://bit.ly/9GE8DE

    Sir Iain Dale has rarely avoided using his gay status tendentiously. As a professional yorkshireman uses his birthright, so . . .

    I recall being bullied at school, many are.

    I bet the Laws cuts will affect people who are bullied disproportionately, which those who encouraged him – like the renowned bully David Cameron – sought as a society breaking entre to yet more attacks on ordinary working people, especially women.

    Lynn should hang her head in shame: “Woman is the nigger of the world” and should not instead become her kind’s oppressor.

  4. Excellent post. So many people in the party are genuinely heartbroken about David Laws. I so hope he can come back in the future. I wrote yesterday about how annoyed I was at Labour supporters on Twitter saying there were no issues about being gay today. I have an 11 year old daughter & have been shocked by how many of our friends say they couldn’t accept their child being gay. Unless we work on changing attitudes the next generation will be affected too. So glad you’re in charge of these issues. For first time in my life, there are Govt ministers I can trust. David Laws was one of them too.

  5. GoodMorning Lynne! I wish to express my sadness for Mr David Laws’ resignation, and wishing for him to come back soon feeling with a second life! and hope your party will not discuss about him again at next week’s Parliament – Bury The Past And Live With The Present! Thank you and Regards!

  6. Lynne, what you seem to be saying here with your last paragraph was that David Laws was bullied out of the cabinet because he was gay. I can find no evidence for this. The Telegraph have heaped opprobrium at numerous MPs over expenses – Peter Viggers (he of duck house fame) was destroyed by the paper, but he is heterosexual. So too for many other MPs (Hazel Blears, Tony McNulty)

    Surely the trouble with Mr Laws was that the LibDems have been the most sanctimonious and censorious regarding expenses – I had numerous l leaflets from you about only the LibDems were serious about clearing up politics; how the other parties had voted against your proposals to fix the expenses system. Mr Laws released his expenses with some fanfare in 2009 to show that he was whiter than white. It is the hypocrisy that people object to, not so much the original act, and certainly not his sexuality. The simple fact he the man paid 40k of public money to his partner. This is just as wrong regardless of the gender of the person you love.

    I worry that your attempt to conflate homosexual bullying with this incident shows a lack of understanding of the severity of homophobic bullying. Being victimised for being homosexual is repugnant, and led to (amongst far too many other incidents) the heart-wrenching death of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square last year. To claim that someone who, themselves admits, has done something wrong with public money and is then forced to resign is a sign of homophobic bullying looks rather like you’re looking in the wrong places.

  7. A guy who stole from his constitutents the equivalent of 2 years salary of his constituents and paid for by those constituents and constantly prtrayed himself as whiter than white deserves to be jailed not lauded as some messiah figure .
    Were he working in the real world where we work to pay those excesses we would be sacked instantly .

    Were it from the dhss he would have been jailed .

    A very clever man ? . Sounds exactly like Gordon Brown .
    A double first , in Economics , whoeeeee. Economists and weather forecasters .

  8. Whether or not David Laws was himself a victim of homophobia – it’s difficult to be sure. But certainly there is a great deal of homophobia in society, some religions such as Roman Catholicism as well as in the media. All this probably led Laws to want to keep his sexuality secret. Lynne is right to try and tackle the prejudice.

  9. “I thought David Laws’ resignation was dignified and full of integrity – as is he – but very sad to watch.”

    I do so agree with you, Lynne, on this.

    Leaving aside the money issue (which is probably the major issue of the two) I feel so very sad for him because he wanted to protect his devout family from any revelation that he was gay. If his parents are elderly (which, of course, they may not be) I admire his sensitivity towards them and his desire to avoid upsetting them.

    It is one of the most difficult things to do, to “come out” to family members anyway, but especially so if they have strong religious beliefs and would be able to accept one’s orientation very readily.

    I wish him well – when the financial side of it has been dealt with and the furore has died down I do hope that he comes back onto Government, the country needs his sharp mind. He is now faced with big personal and family issues to resolve and he should be left in peace to do this.

  10. From what I understand if David Law and his partner had a mortgage together then he could have claimed much more! I think for people of David’s generation it was not so acceptable to be gay and I imagine this has probably stayed with him. My understanding of the story was that he was originally claiming legitimately then the rules changed (not allowed to claim if living with a partner) and so if he had stopped claiming it might have led to suspicions. He made the wrong decision to keep claiming but I guess I can see why he did this.

    On a different note I don’t understand why politicians aren’t paid enough to stop the temptation to cheat. Seems mad that the people who are running our country, or protecting it or healing it are not paid as much as someone who is entertaining it.

  11. This situation would not have arisen if he wasn’t gay, or had felt secure enough to declare the fact. Laws is a casualty of the party battle. There are frontbenchers of all parties who have done far worse and remain in place. Almost any other action Laws could have taken would have cost the taxpayer more (barring not claiming at all).

    Is this about homophobia or expenses? It’s about both and neither. Somebody decided to take him out of the game and they succeeded.

  12. I’m in agreement with both the blog and comment (if not the tone) above.

    David Laws is very clearly a man of integrity, his dignified resignation was particularly moving. His statement revealed his personal anguish in the dreadful situation of effectively being outed against his will, but also his realisation that, in seeking to maintain his right to privacy, he had compromised himself.

    David was right to resign, he had broken rules on expenses. He furthermore sought to distance himself from his wrongdoing.

    I disagreed profoundly with David’s role in bringing forward cuts, and was dissappointed that he appeared to revel in the role. Despite this, it is clear to me, that no-one could question his dedication to public service.

    It is my sincere hope that he finds a peace that he deserves now, and that those around him recognise that he will need support and understanding. I hope his constituency recognise these 2 things, that he did not mislead to make financial gain, and that in David they have representation of a high calibre – to err is human.

    Finally, I hope that David, in time, makes peace with himself. Viewing his current adversity as what made him more resolute, with greater understanding and happier.

  13. Correction to my post above –

    “It is one of the most difficult things to do, to “come out” to family members anyway, but especially so if they have strong religious beliefs and would be able to accept one’s orientation very readily.” should read “would not be able to accept one’s orientation very readily.”

  14. bob, the relevant authority hasn’t accused him of stealing anything, it hasn’t returned a verdict yet. Do bear in mind that it appears the £40,000 of claims he made is being suggested as the amount he “stole” yet:
    1. Those claims appear to cover 2001-2010, and I gather the 2001-2006 period allowed claims where rent was paid to a partner, so the likely relevant figure is a lot less than £40k.
    2. If he had taken the alternative and rented his own flat in London, it would have cost considerably more than £700-950 a month.

    I don’t like what he’s done and it’s muddied his hands, but I do think we should wait for the formal verdict, rather than relying on the Telegraph which clearly has a vested interest in stirring up a hornets nest of venom to boost their sales.

    Interestingly I read that David was raised in a Catholic family. I suspect that may relate to his difficulties in coming to terms with his sexuality and admitting it openly. I think it’s wrong to disconnect his expenses from his sexuality as the two are clearly intimately linked. What is it about our society (and religions) where we scare people so much that rather than be themselves, they make unwise professional decisions. It’s very sad.

  15. An excellent peice but havent we all said enough now ? Mr Laws has done the decent thing & asked for some privacy. That would include us, lets all stop writing about him.

  16. I have already posted on this in your previous blog about schools.

    The slant being put on this in the press is nearly as dishonest as the act itself.

    if David Laws wanted to keep his sexuality a secret then that is entirely a matter for him. Had he not claimed “expenses” at all for his accommodation then this would never have been an issue at all.

    The fact is that he has stolen £40,000 of our money by diverting it to his partner who has profited from it. As you well know Lynne, were this kind of thing done by someone claiming welfare benefits it is highly likely that prosecution would follow.

    Again were excuses used in front of a magistrate like he did not think this relationship came within the definition of partnership it would take mere minutes to convict.

    You are all lining up to laud this man as some major talent. Needless to say we the voting public had never heard of him three weeks ago so we will have to take your word for it. But it is entirely irrelevant. You seem to think that the new definition of integrity is that you resign having been caught. Actually it is better defined as not taking money for yourself or your partner in the first place.

    Your government wants to give us the power to recall MP’s. Either his constituents should be allowed to do this immediately or he should resign his seat and go back to his other career. To be honest it would be far more shame worthy having to own up to being a banker.

  17. Homophobia is a serious issue that needs to be tackled. So too is the dishonesty and money-fiddling of our politicians.

    On the first count I have only sympathy for Laws. On the second count he deserved to be fired, and removed as an MP, not given a dignified resignation & self-referral to a gormless body.

    The bigger picture is that millions of us ordinary citizens fill in expenses every month in our own jobs. Dishonesty on this scale would result in dismissal and potentially a criminal record. A similar deception by benifit claimants would have equally severe consequences, even if it were the result of a mistake, since ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. David Laws can’t even claim ignorance. Likewise we the public are not fools: David Laws could have stopped claiming one item of expenditure without “coming out”‘ and it’s pathetic to imply this was difficult or impossible.

    What puts our politicians in such exhalted positions where basic laws, regulations and standards of behaviour don’t apply to them? I would like to propose that formal disciplinary action be taken against every MP and public servant who verbally supported David Laws this week for “bringing our government and parliament into disrepute”. While you may have good intentiond Lynne, you are undermining the rule of law, democracy, and public faith in these. You deserve a forrmal written warning for putting your sentiments and your party interests before your duty to the electorate who are your principals.

  18. His other options were:

    to move out and claim for his own place – why should we force him to do that?
    to come out and claim on part of a joint mortgage with James Lundie – why should we force him to do that?
    to tell James Lundie to forget about any help with the mortgage cost – not acceptable either
    to claim nothing, as lots of Labourites seem to be suggesting he should have done, just because he once had a lucrative job. That is saying that you can only have this sort of privacy because you’re wealthy.

    As has been pointed out endlessly, the cost to the taxpayer of the various options would have been the same, if not more had Laws been living alone. So it comes down to – what right did we have to tell him how to define his relationship?

  19. My understanding of Lynne’s comments is not that David was hounded out of office for being gay, but that this situation was moulded by his worry about being open about his sexuality, created by the unfortunate, but still commonly held view (particularly by some religious groups) that being gay makes someone inferior.

    Why did he not feel able to be open about who he was and his relationship?

  20. There are a huge number of comments from profoundly ignorant people here who seem wilfully to be ignoring the facts, probably because their minds were already made up in advance.

    The fact is that when between 2001 and 2006 Mr Laws started making the claim, there was no rule against renting from partners. When the rule changed to forbid it, had Mr Laws stopped claiming, then it would have been as good as admitting that James Lundie was his partner. So what, precisely, was he supposed to do? Just simply shouting that he stole £40,000 is just wrong and unfair.

    Being gay myself, I know how great the pressures can be both at work and in the family to stay in the closet. I lived in fear of homophobic bullying which was rife in my North London school in the 1980s and did not come out till after I left for fear of being ostracised. Not until the late 1990s did I come out at work – and that was in a comparatively liberal, free thinking environment.

    Straight people have NO IDEA at all about what pressures gay men and lesbians have existed under till very recently and still do in some areas, like professional sport.

    The Daily Telegraph wilfully continues to publish a photograph of David Laws’ partner on its front page, even though he has done nothing wrong in all of this. Personally I believe this whole episode has been motivated by nothing other than the desire of the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph – the tax avoiding Barclay Brothers – to destroy the coalition and stop it from making the rich pay their fair share of tax through CGT.

    I think it also indicates that when politicians are gay, then despite what people say about not being discriminatory, they are given a tougher time than others in the court of public opinion. It is one reason why I personally, although being politically engaged, would never have wanted to go into politics or a high profile profession.

  21. It really isn’t about his sexuality – it’s about his probity with public finance!

    When Labour Ministers did the same thing, they were rightly pilloried in the press – it should not be one rule for some and a very different rule for the rest.

    The basic rule of thumb should be – can anyone of the general public do this? If the answer is NO; then MP’s shouldn’t be allowed to do it either.

  22. PS. Thanks Lynne for being such a star of an MP and representing my home turf, Muswell Hill, as well as sticking up for gay people. Despite what people say, there remains a huge amount of prejudice against us – witness the whole ‘OK to ban gays from B&Bs’ furore.

    I was lucky to grow up in a liberal area of the country in a family for whom religion was not a big thing and who are totally accepting of my partner, with whom I have been for 19 years. Many people, David Laws among them, aren’t so fortunate. Those who say he was ‘lying’ about having a boyfriend need to think what they would have done had they been under exactly the same circumstances. Would they have really have come out publicly? Would they?

  23. Silent Hunter – Labour ministers made an actual profit by flipping their houses several times. They may have been exonerated for having paid CGT, but they profited from the taxpayer nevertheless. David Laws’ arrangement caused no profit to him.

  24. Silent Hunter – it is everything to do with his sexuality. It appears he didn’t specify his partner as his partner because he didn’t personally feel able to (coming out is often very, very hard for gay people) but if he had been able to be open, the taxpayer would have paid the same, if not more. It seems likely that he didn’t follow the letter of the rules, but he didn’t make a profit, and the taxpayer didn’t lose out either.

    It’s abhorrent to me that this man is being crucified as if he made money at the taxpayers’ expense, when all he was trying to do was keep his relationship private. It shows a lack of understanding of his position, personally, in suggesting this has nothing to do with his sexuality – it’s ALL about his sexuality!

    In talking about his management of finances, it’s very sensible to be renting a room rather than a flat, it’s a lot cheaper. You’re not going to be renting a flat in London for £700 a month.

  25. For those who here think that David Laws has somehow swindled money from the system: If he could have been comfortable about his sexuality, he could have registered his relationship, and had been entitled to claim even more expenses for his fair share of the mortgage instalments. And even if he didn’t, he could have legally have claimed more money from the tax payers; he could have declared his house in Yeovil his second home, and claimed expenses for its instalments instead of the rent of the apartment in London, and as he was paying those instalments alone, he would probably have ended with more tax payers money, all legally. Or he could have rented a separate apartment which, if you look the rent prices in Inner London, would probably have had a more expensive rent than the room he rented from his boyfriend. In any of these scenarios he would have won more money from the tax payers, but there would have been none of the fuss, because it would have been totally legal.

    So actually he’s being punished because he chose the alternative cheapest for the tax payers. Many MPs have claimed much more legally. There are clearly some problems with the legislations about the MP expenses. Couldn’t it just be changed so, that each MP would be entitled to claim a reasonable sum for living costs (which could be checked periodically to match the general level of living costs in Inner London), and that’s it.

  26. I’m finding all the Labour lines of attack on this to be totally abhorrent. The efforts to pretend that he was on the fiddle and that anyone who says otherwise is somehow using homophobia as an excuse are outrageous. But that’s Labour for you.

  27. Lynne, very good article. It seems the rules covering expenses are still grey (this has led to many new MPs sleeping on the floor of friends’ front rooms as they’re too scared to even claim for a Holiday Inn! in Hoxton). They should be made very clear and this should be the House’s number one priority, as this will help to restore trust in politicians. David Laws’ only ‘sin’ – as far as I can see – was to claim at all. No, I’m not saying that wealthy MPs should never claim for anything, but David is a wealthy man and I suspect the £900 rental change pcm was peanuts to him. Did he not already own a property in London, without the need to rent one? Might it be a good idea for the state / trust to house MPs if they live more than 80 miles away (the house/flat would go back to them if an MP retired or was defeated and he/she would NOT be able to claim for London accommodation)? David Laws is a very bright man (far more so than ‘St Vince’!) and is an asset – still – to the LibDems and Coalition Government. If he is cleared than I, as a Conservative, would like to see him back in government.

  28. I am well aware the points Lynne was making in the article, and agree that homophobia is a big problem in schools that we should all try and tackle. However, in this case there are many openly gay MPs in Westminster, and this comes down to a personal choices, not a cruel society. Indeed, the more prominent figures that do come out will surely help younger people going through issues with their sexuality.

    The Lib Dems have had a holier than thou attitude to expenses, maybe as John Rentoul stated in the excellent piece above, this will finally be put to bed now. Of that, we can all be thankful.

  29. Adam, I don’t think you’d find much enthusiasm among his constituents for recalling him – or if any did, the rest would vote him straight back in. They, naturally, have heard of him for more than three weeks, and would be highly unlikely to fall for the sort of spin you try to push in your post.

  30. Valerie – What labour lines of attack? Could you kindly link me to them as I have heard very little from labour politicians about this. Thanks

    Ben D – The fact that he could have claimed more if he’d been open is a parodox, not a defence.

  31. @Edward

    “However, in this case there are many openly gay MPs in Westminster, and this comes down to a personal choices, not a cruel society.”

    And you have to look at what level of press scrutiny of their personal lives they undergo as a result of being “out”. His family are catholics and presumably he didn’t feel he could tell them.Yet again, you fail to understand the pressure that gay people are under.

    And as for these repeated claims that he “stole” £40,000, he did not. From 2001 to 2006 he claimed less than he was entitled to under the rules. The rules then changed, putting him in a difficult situation. So what was he supposed to do? None of those who condemn David Laws have come up with an answer.

    Vast amounts of hypocrisy going on here today. I am sickened by some of the comments I have seen here and elsewhere, in the press. John Rentoul of the Independent should be sacked for being such a useless journalist.

  32. @ Edward

    The reason the Lib Dems have adopted what you call a “holier than thou” attitude is that, by and large, they ARE “holier” than the other parties and, while FAR from being perfect, are a lot less dependent than the others on dirty cash from vested interests. The Tories and Labour positively revel in a funding system that encourages donors to expect to wield vast amounts of influence once the party they have paid for enters offfice.

    Witness Lord Ashcroft’s post-election outrage when he found out that the party he paid for didn’t win outright and wasn’t following the policies he personally wanted.

    The Lib Dems’ position is based on their voting record in parliament as compared with the other parties. The Lib Dems have consistently voted for a cleaner, more open parliament and the others have blocked it.

  33. Edward – I’m talking mostly about Labour twitterers etc. etc.There’s been relatively little from Labour politicians, not unsurprisingly – Balls in particular was very coy (funny that).

  34. When the rules changed he should have stopped claiming or changed his living arrangements. Personally, I fail to see how any other response was correct. I understand that this may have drawn attention to his living arrangements, but his response was a clear breach of the rules.

  35. Valerie the problem is that you are making all sorts of assumptions about people seemingly because you don’t agree with them and resorting to personal comments about their posts.

    This is a blog that Lynne set up. it engenders good debate and some fierce opinions. Those opinions don’t amount to spin simply because you don’t like them. They amount to different opinions. To be totally fair to Lynne she does not come back with comments accusing people of being “Labourites” whatever that is (by the way I am not a member of the Labour party and am not bothered if you are a member of the Lib Dems or Conservatives although quite why that is relevant is beyond me, but I am a citizen of Wood Green and Hornsey which is Lynne’s constituency).

    I found the conduct of Labour MP’s in fiddling their expenses absolutely abhorrent and I am really glad that most of them have been firmly booted out of parliament. They used public money for their own ends. So has Mr Laws.

    And before you say it- somewhat sarcastic posts about Lynne- an elected MP who told us in her leaflets that “the Conservatives cannot win here” so vote for me, before jumping fulsomely into bed with them, are fair game. She is well able to defend herself.

  36. I agree with Lynne that this whole issue is overwhelmingly about the tragedy of yet another individual feeling so utterly conflicted when it comes to integrating their sexuality into their public image that they’re left with only an array of unsatisfactory or downright ‘bad’ choices.
    If the struggle can be so acute for someone as talented and successful as David Laws what is there to be assumed for so many others less advantaged and/or more vulnerable? Although it may be argued that it is precisely due to his talents, aspirations and success that David’s struggle was made even more difficult as he feared he stood too much to lose by the stigma of not being quite ‘normal’!
    For all the ‘good’ talk out there about equality of rights and treatment for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual and Transgendered people the bottom line is that the whole discourse gravitates around the word ‘tolerance’. We all know that we only use the word ‘tolerance’ for things towards which we may have
    negative attitudes, opinions or feelings. So just by using the word ‘tolerance’ one implies that there is something wrong with different sexual orientations or gender indentities. (needless to say this applies to religious beliefs etc, etc) I think we should introduce the word ‘respect’ instead when it comes to human diversity of every kind. We’re all entitled to our own life journey to precisely the same degree, no more and no less.
    I cringed at the revelation of the financial arrangement David decided to enter into in order to protect the nature of his relationship as it reminded me of a lot of ‘tampered’ arrangements of a kind going on in the Anglican Church when it comes to accomodating cohabitation with same sex partners of ordained clergy in a Vicarage. I had a close escape after experiencing the most degrading
    and offensive treatment over three days at a selection conference when I put myself forward for ordination in the Anglican Church (another self-righteous establishment posing as an authority in matters of ethics and conduct). For me it was worth it in the name of what I understood to be my ‘calling’ at the time. David undoubtedly was faced with some similar difficult choices in the service
    of his ‘calling’ to public service as a politician.
    What is very worrying in all this is that public opinion seems to be moving towards an increasingly irrational mindset of ‘black and white’ pronouncements about politicians and public life. It is as if we the ‘saintly’ electorate (who cannot even bother to vote in our majority) can only suffer to be led by the ‘blameless’ and the ‘whiter than white’.
    Speaking for myself, I only feel comfortable with entrusting hard decisions to real people who neither profess nor aim for faultlessness and perfection but who are dedicated to constant betterment and increased transparency in their lives. Who, when they err, they put their hand up (when they feel fully up to it), they make amendments, learn from their mistakes (and those of others) and carry on.
    I wish David strength and clarity while dealing with the consequences of his flawed decisions and a speedy come back, a lot wiser.

  37. This man was clearly a fool, if he could not understand the basic rules on expenses, and avoided to question these with the previous scandal, then he is 100% unfit for government, it is pointless trying to make out he was honourable, he needs to leave parliament for his cheating, if this was my expenses for my work, I would have been dismissed for gross misconduct.

  38. Adam – I don’t think I called you personally a Labourite (sorry!). What made me say spin was that you used the word “stolen” – can you justify using a word like that when any other course that Laws had taken (like moving out and claiming for a place of his own, or becoming a spouse-type couple and claiming part of a joint mortgage) would have resulted in the same cost to the taxpayer, if not more?

    I think spin is a slightly softer word than stolen!

  39. I find the defences of David Laws eerily familiar of the apologetic rot we heard from Labour during the last parliament:

    * MPs should be paid more then they wouldn’t be tempted to fiddle? I would understand if we were talking of unemployed benifit cheats but David Laws is a millionaire.
    * Wait to see what the committee says? Strange that David Laws didn’t wait to admit being dishonest, apologise and agree to repay £40.000.
    * It wasn’t really £40.000. See previous point.
    * David Laws couldn’t not claim without alerting his homophobic family/acquaintences to his sexuality? I’m sure most of us could have thought up a decent excuse. How about: “I’m a wealthy man who owns various properties and I want to save the taxpayer money” for starters.
    * David Laws could have legitimately claimed more money from the tax-payer. But he didn’t, he chose to live with his partner and he chose to be dishonest.

  40. @ Tim

    “I understand that this may have drawn attention to his living arrangements”

    “Drawn attention to his living arrangements”?????

    Yet again, someone who (I presume being straight) totally fails to realise what a difficult choice (often with devastating consequences) coming out can be for a gay man, especially one from a catholic background or in a high profile job. So he was supposed to move out from living with his partner, was he? Imagine if someone gave you an ultimatum: stop living with your wife/girlfriend, let yourself in for potential major problems and/or total split with the rest of your family or don’t claim expenses to which you are entitled by the rules i.e. by claiming for accommodation for both you AND your partner. What would you do, given your high moral standpoint on this? I await your response.

    You just have NO idea, do you?

  41. Ben D., Valerie, Robert C,

    You say “he could have registered his relationship, and had been entitled to claim even more expenses for his fair share of the mortgage instalments” and “any other course that Laws had taken […] would have resulted in the same cost to the taxpayer, if not more” and “From 2001 to 2006 he claimed less than he was entitled to under the rules. The rules then changed, putting him in a difficult situation.”

    If he wasn’t entitled to claim the £40k, then it was stolen.

    Compare his treatment with this example of a 20-week jail sentence:
    Benefit fraud http://bit.ly/boQfWG “Riley’s claim had not been fraudulent from the outset but she had failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions when she had started living with her new partner”.

    Or this one: “had Bradley not lied about her circumstances, she would still have been entitled to a similar amount of benefits”.

  42. @ Robert C

    It’s impossible not to be concerned about the difficulties gay people face daily and not one single person here has said otherwise. But Mr Laws’ behaviour does nothing to help. Ben Summerskill the Chief Executive of Stonewall doesn’t agree with you at all in the Observer today.

  43. @ Adam

    The point I am making is that his response to the change in expenses rules – which is at the heart of the issue – was conditioned by the difficulties and prejudice we face on an everyday basis, from society, the media, religious authorities and even family. It is very easy for someone who has never faced those difficulties to indulge in finger pointing without looking at it from the point of view of the person concerned. Many comments seem to display a wilful lack of empathy, even glee, at the situation David Laws has ended up in. One can only speculate as to the causes of that lack of empathy.

    As for Ben Summerskill, just because he is chief executive of Stonewall, doesn’t mean he speaks for all gay people. He is also part of a deeply political organisation which is very close to Labour and whose ideological agenda is that everyone should come out, or be forced to come out, whatever their circumstances.

  44. @ Robert

    I believe you are saying that David Laws was in denial about his sexuality, and as such denied that he was living with his partner, and denied that he was in breach of the rules. If this is correct, I can understand your point of view.

    So, I think that we would both argue that whilst he still did the wrong thing, he did this becuase he was in denial about his sexuality, and in large part this was due to the difficulties and prejudice that he thought he would face.

    Sadly, this still amounts to wrongdoing, as David Laws claimed expenses that he was not entitled to. The fact that he was entitled to expenses if his living arrangements were different is beside the point. He broke the rules. Period.

  45. Lynne, belated congratulions on your ministerial position in the Home Office.
    Let’s hope it’s not too long before David Laws is back in the Cabinet.

  46. Two issues lie at the root of Laws’ resignation. One is money and the other is homophobia. From all accounts Laws is independently wealthy and didn’t need the expenses money at all. His fortune was made in investment banking, an occupation which creams off the wealth of others. So if he’d thought more carefully about the bigger picture he wouldn’t have claimed any expenses money at all. Peter Tatchell was speaking on the Politics Show today, and said David knew the rules.

    Regarding the other point about homophobia, David Laws is a Catholic and was educated in St George’s College, a Catholic school in Weybridge. It’s likely he would have absorbed an attitude of shame about his homosexuality. Not only that, but low-level homophobia was, and still is, prevalent in the media.

    About 15 months ago the Daily Mail started featuring news about a gay couple who were about to adopt kids from a broken home in Edinburgh where the mother was a drug addict. The Mail mounted a sustained and vicious bigoted campaign to try and thwart the adoption. By the way it was simultaneously running a big TV advertising campaign, and this prejudice served to boost their readership. The PCC did nothing, as later with the infamous Jan Moir piece about Stephen Gately.

    Low level homophobia on the broadcast media is still quite common. Every week Jonathan Ross begins his BBC One show with lewd and homophobic innuendo about his gay house band http://goo.gl/Iyum

    Prejudice is even instilled in kids at an early age. Homophobic language and bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying in both primary and secondary school environments. Here again the media has done nothing to help kids. Iconic kids’ programmes of the past, such as Grange Hill did cover issues of racism and homophobia.

    People may be surprised to know that kids’ programmes today are very reluctant to mention the problem of homophobia and homophobic bullying, even though the issues were covered on BBC children’s programmes 15 years ago – but obviously not at the time David Laws went to school.

    As psychologist Emma Kenny said on a recent ITV programme about homophobia: “When things are hidden they can’t get dealt with.” http://goo.gl/RctT

  47. Michael Fourman wrote: “If he wasn’t entitled to claim the £40k, then it was stolen.”

    My point is, that he was entitled to claim that, he just claimed it on wrong grounds. If he had felt that he could be openly gay and had been in a registered partnership, he could have claimed the sum as his part of the mortgage instalments, which it de facto was. The problem isn’t that he wouldn’t have been entitled to claim expenses on housing, the problem is in formal details.