Daily archives: May 29, 2010

David Laws Does the Decent Thing

I am genuinely very sorry for David Laws, but he has done the decent thing and avoided a horrible protracted media exposure. He plainly broke the rules on not paying rent to a partner, and trying to hide behind quibbles on what constitutes a partner would not have helped.

Laws has now shown that he has a great deal more commonsense than many of the commenters on my earlier post and pretty well all other Lib Dem bloggers.


Indeed the knee jerk tribalism of Lib Dem blogs this morning was pretty disgusting.

This resignation sends out a good signal that any doubt on personal probity will not be tolerated. The parliamentary investigation into Laws’ claims will go ahead. I can think of no reason why there should now be any further public interest in press intrusion into his private life.

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Ahead of my Time – Eurovision


As usual, where Craig Murray treads, the rest of Europe follows in time. Of last year’s Eurovision song contest I blogged:

Last night I voted for Azerbaijan because I thought the girl was seriously hot.


Tonight I expect the rest of Europe will catch on.


In the end I voted for Armenia, as having an altogether better class of tottie.

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Gay Pride in Moscow

Warm praise to Nikolai Alekseev and the other organisers of today’s Gay Pride mini-march in Moscow. Having been banned for the last five years by Mayor Luzhkov, Putin and Medvedev, and after an appalling catalogue of political violence and persecution, activists managed to hold a ten minute street demo in Moscow today with nobody injured or arrested. This was achieved by posting false trails all across the web as to where it would be, and by activists buying new clean mobile phones in the last day to organise it.

Many congratulations also to Peter Tatchell, who went across to help and has become a tremendous advocate of human rights worldwide. Peter said of the banning of the march:

“It is the latest of many suppressions of civil liberties that happen in supposedly democratic Russia. Many other protests are also denied and repressed, not just gay ones. Autocracy rules under President Medvedev,”

It is also worth noting that the British Embassy refused to help, including refusing to host a gay social on Embassy premises to mark Moscow gay pride day. That is an appalling failure – typical of the FCO – to show support for the rights we are supposed to espouse.

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The Lords Mire Must Be Drained

It is very difficult to look at the dissolution honours list for the Lords without retching. Lord Prescott, Lord Reid, Lord Blair of Stockwell Tube Station? Then there are the Tory donors. Floella Benjamin is the only redeeming feature. Indeed, I hope someone can find Brian Cant and put him in there too.

But seriously, surely this lot, with so many of Gordon Brown’s backroom chums as well, stretch to breaking point the credibility of the Lords? It beggars belief that we still have this ancient stench-pit of corruption and patronage as an integral part of our legislature.

Nick Clegg has promised Lords Reform from this coalition, but Clegg deferred to the Tories by mentioning “grandfather rights”. The Tories are insisting that existing peers – or at least a large number of them – should remain members of the Lords until they die. So no democratic upper chamber until Ian Blair, John Prescott and John Reid peg it? Not to mention the new Tory peer 33 year old Oxford graduate Nat Wei? It is ludicrous.

Grandfather rights are unacceptable. The Lords must be swept away, and replaced by a democratic upper chamber with no unelected grandparents invited. Preferably elections should be by PR, but a fully elected upper chamber by 2015 will be over a hundred years overdue.

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David Laws Must Resign

I am among those who has been very impressed by David Laws’ performance in his brief ministerial career. And I have read carefully the Lib Dems blogs – which seem universally to be defending him, like this.



The difficulty is that the Commons rules stated quite unequivocally that an MP could not claim to rent a room in a home owned by their partner. In 2006 a specific amendment was made to make that crystal clear. Laws does not deny he broke the rules, and is paying the money back.

The point made by Lib Dems throughout the blogosphere is that, if Laws and his partner had owned the homes jointly, he could have claimed the mortgage payments. That is of course true. But Laws did not do that, and the rules are explicit that the alternative of paying rent to your partner is not allowed.

Laws’ explanation for his behaviour is that he did not wish to come out as gay. That is his right. Had he therefore not made any second home expenses claims, he would have forfeited £40,000 and deserved great sympathy for the sacrifice made to his domestic privacy. Nobody would have launched an investigation into why the very wealthy David Laws did not make a second home claim.

To “protect your privacy” by making taxpayer funded rent payments to your partner against the rules, was always going to be counter-productive. It also involved what I presume (and I do not know) is a further little lie to the Commons that he was renting a bedroom in his partner’s house, when it is surely more likely that they share one.

It is, to say the least, extremely unfortunate that this revelation about David Laws should come out at this moment – and the Telegraph’s timing opens a whole raft of other questions. And what Laws has done is less bad, for example, than Michael Gove’s second home flipping. But there is no point to the Liberal Democrats if we do not aspire to higher standards than Labour and the Conservatives, and it is deeply disappointing to see the LibDem blogs’ tribal rally around Laws.

Laws has just announced a public sector pay freeze. He is the man who would have to announce cuts next year that will inflict very real pain upon public sector workers, benefit recipients and public service users. Having a millionaire to do that is already difficult. Having a millionaire, who broke the rules on expenses claims and trousered £40,000 he had to pay back, to do that is simply untenable.

Laws should do the decent thing now.

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