Tag Archives: westminster

Open all hours Member of Parliament

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.
Big Ben in front of the sun

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David Laws. Why is the media not able to report this fairly?

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?

Down at Downing St

I went to number ten Downing St on Wednesday to attend a meeting with the No 10 communications team. It was my first time visiting Number 10, so I had to get the obligatory photo of me at the door…
Mark at Number 10

One of the things I noticed as I walked up the staircase to the meeting room was that there were pictures on the wall outlining the alphabet. A is for Apple. B is for Brown… etc… and V was for Villain. I wonder if anyone thought about the appropriateness of that for the Prime Minister’s home?

India Inc

Vikas Pota and his new book, India Inc, need no introduction. It has been suggested that I blitz the media with information whenever I have a new book coming out, but Vikas has surpassed my efforts and managed to get information about his book everywhere.

And it’s a timely book too. Just as the world is heading into a recovery from the past few years of economic slowdown, Vikas has studied and interviewed – at length – ten of the most important entrepreneurs in India. Rather than the usual corporate sound-bites, we have here a masterclass from each leader.

The official launch is at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Westminster tonight. If you are going to be there then please do say hello. If not, then take a look at the book website and get a copy. It’s time to hear what some real leaders are thinking.

Death of the podcast

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?