Millionaire claims government expenses. Pays gay lover thousands of tax payers cash… This story has been presented as a fait accompli by all the press without digging into what happened at all. I’m not even a Lib Dem supporter, but I have to say I feel sympathy for David Laws.
Lets explore a few of the facts.
1. He started renting a flat in London at taxpayers expense, as he is entitled to.
2. He started a relationship with the landlord of the flat
3. He was scared of being outed as gay because he spent his life hiding his sexuality so he continued with the flat rental, rather than not paying the man who was now effectively his partner. Though of course there would in any case need to be a decision on how long you need to be together to be considered partners anyway…
That’s the whole story. If he followed the rules he should not have paid a partner, but here the reality is a bit fuzzy because he was already paying a landlord who eventually became his partner.
If he was open about his sexuality he could have switched his second home to his mortgaged house in Yeovil and the tax payer would be paying a mortgage much bigger than the rent on the London flat. Or he could have bought a new house in London with his partner and the tax payer would be paying that mortgage – plus furniture and expenses.
All these alternative options would have involved claiming more expenses which means he was not motivated by the need to claim and much as he could – he just wanted to keep his head down and not attract attention to his sexuality.
I don’t think a modern-day MP needs to hide his sexuality – we have had many gay MPs in the past – it’s just not an issue, but if he felt that he had hidden it to his friends and family for so long that coming out would be an issue, then that’s clearly his own decision.
So, David Laws did break the rules on renting from a partner, but do the rules state when a person switches from being a landlord to partner if you start dating your landlord and why do the press present him as a money-grubbing pig with his snout in the trough when he could have easily maximised his expenses by being open about his relationship and getting a new family home?
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Tagged david laws, expenses, gay, lib dem, liberal democrats, member, MP, parliament, scandal, sexuality, westminster, yeovil
This is the Mick Jagger election. None of the parties are getting any satisfaction.
Yet, even though he failed to win as many seats as expected, Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems are now the kingmakers.
He promised to talk first to whoever had the most seats – the Tories – but why would he really take that idea seriously now? The Tory MPs will not want to work closely with the Lib Dems and the Lib Dems I have been reading online are all horrified that there may now be a partnership with Cameron.
It’s a recipe for disaster and Clegg must surely realise this.
Perhaps it is why he is now playing hardball with his demands. As he entered talks with party officials today, Nick Clegg made a statement saying he has four big priorities: 1. Fair tax reform 2. Education 3. Approach to the economy 4. Political reform to the electoral system
I think he might be able to reach agreement with the Tories on points 1 and 2 as their manifesto pledges are not miles apart there, but Clegg has very open views on how to run the economy and it is through transparency and devolving power from the treasury. Plus he wants a root and branch reform of the electoral system, to introduce a system of proportional representation – consigning the first-past-the-post system to history.
The Prime Minister is extremely weak right now. Clegg could do a deal with Labour that gives him control over all four issues and become a reform parliament. Labour and the Liberal Democrats could join together to lead as a minority government, or they could bring the nationalists into the fold – who would almost certainly join a coalition if money was thrown to their regions.
If Clegg could boot out Brown and announce a reform government with an interim Prime Minister (Mandelson or Johnson?) and Vince Cable running the economy then I think a lot of Labour and Lib Dems would be happier than getting into bed with the Tories. And if the focus is on electoral and economic reform then they could pledge to call a new general election as soon as the electoral system is ready for change – let’s say after one year.
One year down the line, with a PR voting system, the Liberal Democrats would stand a very high chance of getting real power – with a lot more seats.
Clegg could get a lot more of his own MPs into parliament, totally reform the electoral system, get his man running the economy, and keep British politics generally focused on liberal values by kicking the Conservatives out for a generation.
So why is he still talking to Cameron?
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Tagged coalition, conservative, david cameron, deal, election, ge10, general election, gordon brown, Labour, lib dem, liberal democrats, mick jagger, nick clegg, prime minister, tory, ukelection, ukvote
Gordon Brown has said that he will wait to see if the Tories and Lib Dems can reach a deal. He offered to be there to talk to either leader if they wanted to come to him.
Nick Clegg is now the kingmaker – even though his party only won around half the seats they had hoped for. The electoral landscape in the UK is shifting like quicksand today.
Can Clegg do a deal with the Tories? His party really won’t like it, but he promised to talk first to the party with the most seats… that does not mean the deal is done. The Tories and Lib Dems won’t be able to reach a formal coalition as their manifestos are so far apart, but they could reach an agreement on where to cooperate, agreeing to disagree on the rest or to plan some managed reform on issues they disagree on.
Clegg said he doesn’t want to do a deal with a damaged Labour party, but Brown has offered genuine electoral reform.
If Clegg can’t agree a deal with Cameron then perhaps the most likely outcome now is that Clegg will side with the Labour party, forcing a new Prime Minister with a Lid Dem Chancellor – with a focus on a complete reform of the electoral process and a plan to run a new general election within two years… Allowing the Liberal Democrats to win a lot more seats using a more proportional voting system.
But the bottom line is, it’s all out of the Prime Minister’s hands now. He is just a spectator.
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Tagged conservative, david cameron, election, ge10, ge2010, general election, gordon brown, hung parliament, Labour, lib dem, nick clegg, ukvote
So it’s time for the second leader debate tomorrow. This one should focus on international affairs, so it’s likely Gordon Brown will be on the defensive when talking about Afghanistan, Iraq, and the “special” relationship with the USA.
But Brown should have been on the back-foot in the first debate on domestic policy, yet Clegg’s style and Brown’s substance somehow combined to force Cameron into a box. The Conservative leader was most popular when talking on the ‘British jobs for British workers’ immigration debate and that causes an issue for the Tories. They have consistently tried playing to the middle-ground in an effort to win back the Conservative voters who deserted the party for the New Labour project, but if he feels support is coming from sounding tougher, harder right, and less empathetic, then what can he do?
Those views will resonate with old-school Tories, and probably the party membership. But he won’t win the election by sounding like Michael Howard used to. Especially when Cleggmania means the Lib Dems are now on a charm offensive with Vince Cable already the most trusted politician in the UK.
Clearly, with the present first-past-the-post voting system, there is no chance of a Lib Dem majority, but a surge in support for Clegg means we are aiming for another Labour government (if Lib Dem support is mainly poached from Tory areas) or a hung parliament in which a Lab-Lib coalition will carve up power between them.
Whatever your politics, this has to be the most closely-fought and exciting British political battle in a generation. And it’s all over the TV and Internet in a way that was not imaginable at even the most recent general election. I’ll be blogging the debate live for Reuters, so lookout on their politics page for my comments as the leaders speak…
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Tagged cleggmania, conservative, david cameron, election, gordon brown, Labour, lib dem, liberal democrats, nick clegg, party, reuters, tory, vince cable
2m tuned in live to watch the Chancellor’s debate live on Channel 4 last night (I was live-blogging it for Reuters). Yet if viewing figures are to be believed, something like 4 times as many watched both Eastenders and Coronation St on different channels.
So was it worthwhile even bothering? The people who will really decide the election are those watching the soaps, and the key issue is going to be whether they are fed up of Labour after 13 years or whether they don’t believe that Cameron and his Tories offer any real alternative.
One thing is clear, they are not bothered enough to stop watching the soaps so they could spend an hour watching the politicians love-in.
Many are calling the experiment a failure and already denouncing the US-style leader debates planned for later in the election campaign. But is it any real surprise? So many people are disaffected and uninterested in politics it could be argued conversely that to get 2m live viewers for a political debate on a Monday evening, plus all the online activity and debate, is actually a great success.
I think it’s useful to get the politicians on TV and on the spot. Like all TV, it’s not possible to delve into detail. So many questions were left unanswered during the debate yesterday because it would be too boring or technical to drill into tax codes, but a lot of politics is about trust in leaders and the TV debates do help to establish who is confident of finding a solution, and who the public enjoy hearing.
Policies and ideology matter, but skilled presentation wins votes.
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Tagged alistair darling, askthechancellors, c4, chancellors, channel 4, conservative, debate, election, george osborne, Labour, lib dem, news, politicians, tv, vince cable
On Friday night we had the second Ealing Tweetup, at the Rose & Crown pub.
We managed to block together a few tables and a good crowd came along to talk together in person, rather than just on Twitter. It was a really good evening and a chance to catch up with some people from the Tweetup last May as well as find some new friends.
There was quite a political flavour in the air this time as Lib Dem councillor and Ealing parliamentary candidate Jon Ball came along for a pint as well as Julian Bell, Labour leader of Ealing council and researcher for Ealing MP, Virendra Sharma.
Regardless of the fact we managed to end up with Labour and Lib Dem politicians, we all had a good time. Possibly that was because we never had any Tories joining the party 😉
Each time I’ve arranged this now, I’ve just kind of put it together almost randomly. When I’ve tried to get a consensus on date and venue I have struggled because there are so many people who might be interested in joining, so I’ve just personally decided on the pub and date and hoped that people would come along. I think it might be a good idea to try deciding a date well in advance for the next one though, so we can get more organised and can even try promoting it further with some ads at the local stations or something.
How about a Sunday afternoon this time? Sunday March 28th… one week before Easter. How does that sound to everyone? We can continue to use the same venue as they have space, and a garden in case the weather is nice that day… plus they do nice Sunday lunches so that might be an additional attraction 🙂
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Tagged beer, conservative, council, councillor, ealing, fullers, Labour, lib dem, liberal democrats, london, politicians, pub, rose and crown, tories, tweetup, twitter, w5