Let’s be absolutely clear: this has nothing to do with David Laws’ sexuality. It is about his failure to follow the rules on parliamentary expenses. These rules are very clear: “housing allowance must not be used to meet the cost of renting a property from a partner”. Mr Laws has no excuse for not being aware of these rules after years in which parliamentary expenses have rarely been out of the news. He has done a huge disservice to his party, the Lib-Con coalition, his constituents and the country and he should have resigned immediately.
The argument that Mr Lundi was not his partner because they did not have a joint bank account is risible. They had been living together in a stable
relationship for eight years. Nor is it any excuse to say- as Mr Laws’ apologists have – that the unlawful arrangement cost the parliamentary authorities less than if the minister had followed the rules. That’s what all the home-flipping Labour MPs used to say.
The inescapable point is that the secretary to the treasury, no less, has been caught violating the rules on parliamentary expenses. It is astonishing and a scandal that he remains in office. What authority can he possibly have overseeing austerity cuts in welfare and pushing through tax reforms designed to prevent tax avoidance? He has disgraced his office.
Some have said that David Laws should be exonerated because he was helping his partner and derived no personal financial advantage. But since when did helping lovers to buy expensive London property become a legitimate use of public funds? Benefits cheats would use the same argument – that they were benefiting their family not themselves. The rule is there precisely to prevent MPs feathering their family nests with public money.
It has also been argued that David Laws’ case is special because he did not want to reveal his homosexuality. But no one required him to “come out”. If preserving his privacy was his first consideration, then he should not have entered into this dubious financial arrangement in the first place. He should have paid for the accommodation out of his own pocket, not from his expenses, which opens the arrangement to public scrutiny. David Laws is, after all, a very rich man who made such a pile in the City that he retired at the age of 28. He could have bought the house many times over. Why risk his political career for nine hundred quid a month?
So – bang goes the New Politics. It lasted barely a fortnight. Respect for parliament was already at rock bottom, David Laws has diminished it further. What is it about politicians that they always seem to think that rules just don’t apply to them. Well, Mr Laws is about to find out that they do. And that his irresponsible behaviour has severely damaged the standing of his party in the coalition. The Tories have smelt Liberal Democrat blood – there will be no stopping them now. How many more David Laws are there in the party that has always claimed to be whiter than white, holier than thou?