Brazilian citizens just elected a clown to their Congressional lower-house. Here is the story as covered by the BBC.
At first, it sounds bizarre, but look at the way the congressional elections are structured in Brazil. It’s an open-list proportional representation system, so almost anyone who fancies a stab at getting elected can put their name forward with almost no restriction. Over 6,000 people did that, for around 500 places in Congress.
Naturally that means celebrities and those who can attract media attention have an advantage, because you won’t vote for someone you have never heard of. And Tiririca the clown has mastered the art of making funny videos and posting them on YouTube.
He is also the classic anti-politician, just like the Hartepool monkey. Democratic representation started out as a system of true representation – we don’t all have time to participate in the leadership of our town/city/nation – so we elect representatives to do it on our behalf. But many citizens in Brazil and the world over feel disenfranchised by professional politicians who have forgotten that they were elected to serve. They are servants of the people. They are supposed to be humble, not swaggering and beating their chests, emphasising their power and claiming endless expenses.
It may seem ridiculous, but sometimes it’s a good thing to elect a clown, because it reminds the clowns in suits what they are supposed to be doing.
With the expenses scandal last year and the hung parliament this year, not to mention the national disillusionment with the leadership of New Labour, it’s no surprise that many people doubt that their own MP ever gives value for money, or is even possible to reach. But I noticed a facebook status update today by my former MP Virendra Sharma, that made me smile.
Virendra is MP for Ealing Southall, which was my constituency until the boundaries were redrawn at the 2010 election – so I now live in the Ealing central constituency.
Virendra has just arrived in India on a business trip where he is meeting local government officials. He has posted on his facebook the address where he is staying and his mobile phone number just in case anyone wants to get in touch while he is away.
MPs still attract a lot of criticism about being removed from reality, so it’s refreshing to see that one local MP is happy to remain open all hours.
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?
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged david laws, expenses, gay, lib dem, liberal democrats, member, MP, parliament, scandal, sexuality, westminster, yeovil
So what kind of country do we live in where a company involved in a toxic waste cover-up can instruct a firm of lawyers to gag a parliamentary question – and the media to the extent that they can only report that a question was gagged, but not by whom or even what it was about? I hope the truth comes out and it’s no surprise to see the law firm Carter Ruck involved. Private Eye’s favourite lawyers…
I always used to enjoy listening to the ‘Window on Westminster’ podcast. The veteran Westminster reporter Brian Shallcross would meet the movers and shakers in power and interview them, releasing an interesting podcast once a week. Then it stopped being updated.
I was wondering yesterday – what happened to it? Why has he stopped updating it?
I thought I would drop him an email to ask why, so I googled his name, only to find his obituary in the Daily Telegraph. I missed the news that he had died so it came as quite a shock. I went off looking for his email address and not only found his personal email, but I found his obituary too…
What happens to all the material we create online after we die? I have published thousands and thousands of photos… will they live on once I am gone?