The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Why Laws Had To Go

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 31, 2010 @ 09:49

I'm sure we'll see this again, regardless...

I have been pretty strident with my arguments regarding why David Laws had to go. Until now, none of them have been posted here, though I posted these comments elsewhere.

I’m surprised at just how poor the judgement of my fellow Lib Dems has been. That many of us couldn’t see what was blindingly obvious because we’re loving being in government, or distracted by other agendas, however unsettling the “outing” nature of this case was, is a sad example of just how “insider” some of my party have become already.

Let me try one final angle.

Picture the scene.

It’s a random Northern rough city. Select a rough-as-dogs couple. Very working class. Very common.

They dream of owning their own house one day, so sold were they on the Thatcherite dream of a property-owning democracy. They want a small, modest, property. It might not even be in a nice area. So what, they just want some place to call their own, without the council house green guttering. They’d prefer a tasteful pebbledashing instead. I say.

The couple are not married, but have been living together for some nine years. Only one of the couple works. The other stays at home and looks after their three children, one of whom already has an ASBO for loitering just a little too long in various neighbouring yards. Note: yard. There are no gardens in Slumland.

Imagine too that we are before the housing bubble. Mortgages were free and aplenty. Questions were not asked. 125% LTV? You got it!

The banks were falling over themselves to offer the working half of the couple a mortgage, despite his gross income of just £16k. But being moderately sensible, they knew they couldn’t afford to buy the £200k house that would be of sufficient size to handle the large, and presumably growing, litter of children.

Then, the eureka moment!

The couple separate. The working partner goes and buys a property, convincing Bradford & Bingley that his madcap scheme of Buying-to-Let will be totally sustainable on his miserable income. B&B didn’t exactly mind, cos they were planning on parcelling up this potential bad debt into a million pieces and selling them as Triple A rated derivatives or whatever shit the banks were up to. Win-win!

The working partner places his house on the market for letting. All of a sudden, he receives an inquiry. It seems his former partner now needs somewhere to live, as news of a fourth child on the way is enough to give her priority due to her soon to be seriously overcrowded council house. Well, it just so happens that he has the right place for her. And better still, he accepts DSS tenants!

The council signs off on the move, agreeing to pay 80% of the monthly rent. The child-rearing partner moves into the property, and then, all of a sudden, there is a reconciliation of their relationship. The working partner decides to move back in, though, naturally, he keeps his name off all documentation.

What is wrong with this situation?

Two people pretending not to be in a relationship for the purposes of taking money from the taxpayer, when they clearly are, is fraud.

Were my fictional couple to be exposed, the book would be thrown at them, and rightly so. Such a calculating scheme of redistributing taxpayer’s money would very probably result in jail time. A benefit cheat of the highest order. Financing their living off the back of the state.

David Laws must have known exactly what he was doing. There cannot be one rule for them, and one for the rest of us. Any involvement of taxpayer’s money has to be whiter than white, purer than pure. No question of impropriety must ever cross anyone’s lips. It must be a genuine transaction, and not being used in some charade, regardless of how awkward the personal circumstances are for the people involved.

He made a serious error of judgement.

For that, he has to pay the price.

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5 Responses to “Why Laws Had To Go”

  1. Jock Coats said

    There have been many people comparing MPs’ housing expenses to all sorts of other state things – especially Housing Benefit. It is not at all equivalent.

    These allowances are for staying away from home when working – more akin to a company putting their sales team up in a hotel overnight.

    Now I have been on that lark too, not as sales, but consultancy, and I have gone and stayed with family members and friends and been able to save my company some money by not claiming for an average hotel.

    There is no evidence that Laws hid the relationship from “authorities” in order to be able to claim. He appears to have hid it from *everyone* and for reasons completely unrelated to being able to make the claim.

    If IPSA condemns him I will eat a hat.

    • That may be what the allowance is intended for, Jock, but the way David Laws was using it was certainly anything but.

      And then you say that he hid the relationship from everyone, which by definition includes the authorities. He must have known exactly what he was doing. He’s not stupid.

      • Jock said

        That may be what the allowance is intended for, Jock, but the way David Laws was using it was certainly anything but.

        Eh? How do you work that out? You have no evidence that he was doing anything other than paying the owner of a property for renting part of that property – you make it sound as if he was out to milk the system – a serious allegation which I am sure John Lyon or whoever will want evidence of if that is what he is accused of. Even once he had helped James with a deposit by releasing money from his own home there is as yet no evidence publicly available that Laws was standing to gain (and even if he was, that is what hundreds of others were doing, had they been a more openly acknowledged relationship) either from the property or the expenses.

        And yes, the “authorities” in the sense of the commons’ fees office, would be probably the last people I would disclose a secret to if I could find a way not to. Incestuous bunch of gossip mongers that they have proven to be. If he felt that he did not meet their definition of “partner” however, post-2006, he still did nothing with the intention of deceiving or obtaining money by deception, only trying to keep the allowance he was entitled to without having to disclose something intensely personal.

        I’m not expecting to have to find a novelty chocolate hat any time soon.

  2. Duncan said

    Intend to defraud requires intent to defraud. If David had anted to maximise the money the taxpayer was paying to James (a man to whom he is not directly financially connected) then he could have been open about his relationship, co-signed on the mortgage and claimed double what he did.

    If there is rule breaking here, which is dubious given the lack of explicit definition of partner and questions regarding the correct implicit definition (they fail both the financial test and the test of marriage by public repute) there is no moral wrongdoing.

    • I don’t think anyone’s accusing him of an intent to defraud. The problem is simply that he moved taxpayer’s money into his partner’s bank account. There is no requirement to claim the allowance that enabled him to do that.

      He felt like he had to claim it in order to keep people off the track of his homosexuality. That’s a strange judgement, because he could so easily have just not made the claim at all, hence why so much of this is open to interpretation. He was fully entitled to keep his relationship a private matter, but there was no obligation for him to claim taxpayer’s money as part of that bid for privacy.

      And please, stop this debate over whether James Lundie can be classed as David Laws’ partner. I have not yet heard David Laws deny that James Lundie was indeed his partner. If he really isn’t, then why else is he apologising for a breach of the rules – presumably referring to the 40,000 of rental expenses that has gone to his partner?

      And worse, if James Lundie fails a technical definition of partner in the rules, then that implies David Laws did his level best to ensure that that was the case. And that’s not good for your man, either.

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