Saturday, May 29, 2010

one laws for them, another for us

The Treasury Chief Secretary, LibDem David Laws, has been outed by his parliamentary expenses. He claimed over £40,000 rent for a second home when it was in fact his gay partner's place that he lived at.

He says

My motivation throughout has not been to maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality.

Now, it's a shame if he felt he couldn't be open about his sexual orientation. Had some LGBT folks not stood up years ago and taken flak we could not have reached today's greatly improved levels of equality. Also, after more than a decade of openly gay Cabinet members being dealt with for their politics rather than their sexuality, nobody thinks it's a big deal. But regardless of all that, coming out is a personal choice and nobody should feel in any way obliged or pressured to do it.

However, had David Laws not claimed for that flat, nobody would have known about his sexuality. A great many MPs haven't claimed for second homes. Some of them have chosen that for honourable reasons, perhaps some others did it to hide secrets. Whatever, it certainly hasn't ended up with us thinking they're all gay.

So as an excuse it's so pathetically flimsy that it's simply implausible. The use of the desire to remain in the closet is a decoy, a device to extract sympathy for what was actually a millionaire defrauding us.

In the furious fire of the expenses scandal last year, every MP must have thought long and hard about their claims and checked whether they matched the letter of the law. Laws tries to wriggle out of his breach, saying he thinks he was inside the rules as his partner was not really a partner.

At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as "one of a couple ... who although not married to each-other or civil partners are living together and treat each-other as spouses".

Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses - for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.

Laws has been seeing his partner for nine years, living with him when in London, and has remortgaged his other house to lend his partner money. Would you do this with someone and think they wouldn't get counted as your partner? Me neither.

Looking at the response to it all, I have to wonder why he's getting robust support from prominent LibDems calling him 'Mr Integrity' and a smidgen of it - and certainly no criticism - from David Cameron.

A couple on Job Seeker's Allowance get £28 a week less than two single people living together. If I lived with my gay partner but chose to register as two single people in order to keep my sexuality private then, like Mr Laws, I'd pocket a load of government money I wasn't entitled to.

If I did it to the tune of £40,000 (whilst advocating slashing benefits for the sick and poor), would I get called Mr Integrity and have Cameron thinking I'm a good guy?

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