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May 29, 2010

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DG

I agree (to some extent) that politicians are getting the same treatment that benefit claimants have been subjected to since the 80s. I disagree that its a bad thing. Where else is real incentive to improve that toxic culture going to come from?

Let 'em feel the heat for a bit. It might make them think twice before turning it on other people.

(OK, it won't stop the Nasty Party from treating people like c***, it's their raison d'etre; but it might stop the LibDems and Labour from going down the same wide road)

HuwOS

"Let's not forget we're not doing benefit claimants any favours either."

I agree with you there DG.

But the Americanisation of Britain has been going on apace since the start of the 80's and there are now a sizable and vocal group of people who at a minimum consider welfare to be very much a favour at best, but almost the norm is that they consider welfare claimants to be stealing money from their pockets.

This same attitude seems to be behind much of the attack on the MPs in the expenses scandal, where many have attacked MPs for claiming any expenses at all, on anything, within the rules or not, again on the basis that it is tantamount to theft from the wallets of the public.

We are also greeted with the unedifying spectacle of wealthy politicians being able to garner favour now by not using expenses for things that they would be entitled to use expenses for and this will inevitably put the ordinary Joe or Josephine of regular or limited means who becomes an MP at a distinct disadvantage.

DG

I have some sympathy with your point Huw that it may well be more-or-less with reason and the differences are bureaucratic rather than substantial (though there are other elements that make me doubt this) but MPs are the people we trust to administer public funds. The way public funds are administered to other people is to the absolute letter of the rule, with all the flexibility of a breezeblock.

I ask again - why should MPs be treated differently under the system *they* create and maintain for other people to live by? Let's not forget we're not doing benefit claimants any favours either. They're entitled to that money if they meet the criteria and anyone who's ever paid a heating bill or bought a chocolate bar is a taxpayer too.

Paul Flynn

You are both correct Huw and DG. Forget the smokescreen. This appears to be an mis-use of the allowances. I am sure that the investigation will produce a damning verdict on David Laws. I believe he thinks so too and may resign before he is pushed.

HuwOS

I didn't mean to state or imply you were either a moron or part of a mob DG.
But I just don't get the problem.
Did he claim more than the living allowance? did he even claim as much as, for example, Cameron's claim for every penny of mortgage interest up to the maximum.
There was an allowance, he claimed it and has fallen foul of the rule that you aren't supposed to share a couple style relationship with the person he paid rent to. We won't even go into the situation that until incredibly recently it was not even possible for people in his situation to have a legally recognised couple type relationship.

That he really didn't need any money at all from the public purse due to being as the saying goes, well loaded, makes it worse, but then again there's the Cameron example.

Expenses and allowances for employed people are generally not means tested. I am not necessarily in favour of that approach but comparing expenses and allowances for an elected representative of the people to someone who is unemployed, ill or otherwise without sufficient income to feed, clothe and house themselves is rather comparing apples with oranges.

We are in danger here of falling prey to the exact kind of management crap that so many employer's fall into. The public as a whole are employing their representatives, we are not doing them some kind of favour in doing so. We vote for them, presumably because we think they will do a good job and if they claim more or less on expenses within the limits set, why should we care.
If they aren't quite exactly within the dot and crossed t of the rules without being criminal are we not flexible enough to accommodate that.
The question is, is their performance at the job good or not. I don't believe there has been a single suggestion that this chap was doing anything other than a very good job.

It is desperately sad that he is no longer doing the job to the fullest extent due to this kind of quite frankly nit picky pointless furore.

That he could have avoided it all, by using his own substantial funds makes it even sadder.

DG

I'm neither part of a baying mob or a moron, Huw. Of course it matters if you have a relationship with your landlord if you're giving public money to them, because it serves as a powerful disincentive to get best value.

Do we actually know if the amount he could have claimed in mortgage interest was less than or greater than the amount claimed in rent? I didn't think that information was in the public domain. And that lack of transparency is part of the problem.

The other part - that part that I suspect annoys people the most - is the sense that everyone else has to put up with their relationships being scrutinised if they make a claim on the public purse. Why should MPs be treated any differently?

HuwOS

I'm baffled too DG.
There was an expenses system.
There was an accommodation allowance that was part of that.
That you have a relationship with the landlord would seem to have very little relevance, if it was your brother or sister, it wouldn't matter.
If it was your wife, well you are considered to jointly own anything that is owned so your wife cannot be your landlord, but an unofficial non marital relationship seems to have been covered by the wording of the conditions but such coverage seems to be pointless. If instead of rent, he had bought a house himself, he would have been able to claim mortgage interest, if renting and the other person didn't live there, there would have been no problem claiming rent. I really don't see where the problem is in him receiving an accommodation allowance whilst using accommodation. Who really cares if the landlord is a friend or a special friend.
What difference does it make to any of us.

On the other hand, Laws is certainly rich enough that he needed the allowances to a lesser extent than I need any change I find down the back of my sofa. So he definitely could have gone for extra points in not claiming any at all.

I have no idea of the qualities of the man, and what has brought him down is ludicrous, unfortunately he had as much a part to play in his downfall as anyone.

It is one of the sadnesses of politics that it is often the baying mob of morons with tabloid leaders who determine what happens to our chosen representatives.
What is equally sad is that the elected representatives themselves so often count amongst the mob, looking for their own leadership to the owners of these same tabloids.

DG

I'm baffled by the arguments put forward in David Law's defense.

He (or at least, his partner) was able to gain financially because he was dishonest about their relationship. Significant sums of money were involved. Under the benefits system, you'd be looking at 30 months imprisionment - the "I didn't want anyone to know I was gay" defense wouldn't fly for a single mum, would it?

Jean Valjean should've just said "I didn't belive I'd done anything wrong and I wasn't hungry anyway, but let me write you an IOU for a loaf of bread since there may be a perception that there might be wrongdoing involved" - he'd have saved himself a lot of trouble.

Kay Tie

A lot of collateral damage in the expenses scandal. As with welfare, a simple system that doesn't make judgements on personal circumstances or preferences is needed.

Paul Flynn

The gurus, who were omnipresent on 24 hour media since yesterday, are at last critical of the Daily Telegraph. They deseves credit for exposing the guilty but the innocent were also pilloried and the Telegraph got away with their political agenda. I have no axe to grind on this because they called me an 'expenses angel.' But I am still angry about the persecution of wholly blameless friends of mine. Many suffered grieviously.

rwendland

Furthermore David Laws claimed varying amounts every month for maintenance of the flat ("between £100 to £200 for maintenance" - and un-receipted according to the Telegraph). How many people renting a room pay the ad-hoc maintenance bills of their landlord's property?

Almost certainly these house maintenance payments were not a contractual. Should an MP be claiming expenses on contractually unnecessary payments to someone personally connected to the MP?

Paul Flynn

The admission KayTie indicates a relationship with a landlord that is closer than usual. Not many tenants would take on an extra mortgage to assist their landlords. It reinforces the point that this is more than a business relationship and that the couple were partners or spouses. If that is so, the claim was outside of the rules.
Another fatal aspect of DL's claims he that he claimed in rounded-up figures instead of precise amounts. This was permitted but it indicated at best a lack of precision in claims.

Kay Tie

I fail to see how David Laws has convicted himself: he didn't designate his Somerset home as his second residence and hasn't claimed mortgage interest payments on it (or at least that is what I have read).

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