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.