Ain’t nothing going on the but the rent – summary

People on Twitter are still talking about David Laws this morning, and there’s a piece in Pink News defending him. But let’s get the basic facts straight – this is not about him being caught out by a desire to keep his sexuality private.

If David Laws had told the authorities that he was in a relationship with his landlord, he would not have been able to claim rent. The rules have been clear on this since 2006. 

If he had just stuck to those rules and not claimed rent, no-one would have needed to know. No-one would have asked why he wasn’t claiming, and even if they did, he could have said “I’m a rich man, I don’t need to” and gained brownie points for doing so.

Some are arguing that he saved the taxpayer money by doing this, and if he’d lived separately from his partner he could have claimed more. Well yes. But the rules are still clear, and he wasn’t entitled to claim for the money paid to his partner.

Postscript: Some on Twitter have quite rightly pointed out that this is in some ways a question of Laws wanting to protect his privacy, as he’d have been entitled to claim for his share of a joint mortgage with his partner (and indeed, he’d part funded the purchase of the property by mortgaging his Somerset home). So yes, he is to some extent a victim of his desire to keep his sexuality secret, although he could have claimed as joint owner without declaring a relationship (but people would have been more likely to find out). Still, he wasn’t allowed to claim rent under the rules, and as a rich man, didn’t have to, so I think it’s difficult to see him as a martyr. Seems to me that the simplest solution would have been for Lundie (who’s in a well-paid job) to fund the London home, and Laws to fund the Somerset home, and then there’s no issue, is there?

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  • Matt  On May 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I’m not denying he has done wrong, which he has and should be censured by the Commissioner accordingly. But I don’t know how anyone can say we can perfectly separate the expense issue and his sexuality. His desire to keep his sexuality secret is the motive for why he did what he did.

    Legally they are entirely separately, but politically, they are inseparable.

    One more thing (columbo style), in all this maelstrom, everyone appears to have forgotten that there is an ordinary man with his life turned upside down today. This weekend is probably going to be the worst and most awkward of his life. Regardless of what you think about his politics or his expense claims, this should not be forgotten. I just hope he comes out of this stronger and happier with his family, friends and parliamentary colleagues 100% behind him.

  • redleicester  On May 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Completely agree. I cannot understand his motivation for claiming this money at all – unless it was ‘about money’ which his friends are claiming it isn’t. His other argument, as you point out, just doesn’t hold water.

  • redleicester  On May 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    That is – I completely agree with Kerry.

  • Genji Monogatari  On May 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    “But let’s get the basic facts straight – this is not about him being caught out by a desire to keep his sexuality private.”

    Can you say that for sure, Kerry – can anyone except Laws? He’s spent his whole public life in denial about this and I think it’s a credible description of his actions. How many MPs forego accommodation claims? How many rich people squander money? It’s also very possible that Laws truly didn’t consider himself to be living as a spouse with Lundie (

    You might be completely right but you can’t state it as fact – only Laws really knows his true motives.

    He has apparently broken the rules (it’s not absolutely clear cut but on balance it looks that way) and the perception is that he has basically passed on his expense allowance to his partner. His real problem, though, is, as Alistair Campbell and the Guardian say, a strutting Cameron who might want to stamp some authority on him.

    He should also consider where he stands having fought his election campaign on a whiter-than-white platform.

    (Have you got your moderation thing working yet?)

    “This weekend is probably going to be the worst and most awkward of his life.”

    I’m not so sure. I think it might well be his most liberating. He has tentatively suggested so: “I have kept this secret from everyone I know for every day of my life. That has not been easy, and in some ways it is a relief not to have to go on misleading those close to me about who I am.”

    At least he’s free now to set up home properly and start claiming the full amount. I wonder how long it’ll take him to make £40k back? 😉

  • Mary Jane Bell  On May 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    That the rub. Only Laws does know – he used his interpretaion of the rules when the rest of us would have sought advice. Why didn’t he seek confidential advice when the new rules came in in 2006? Come on pull the other one – its got bells on it.

    • Genji Monogatari  On May 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      Laws has offered two (flaky) examples of how he concluded that he and James Lundie were not living as spouses: separate bank accounts and social lives. For all we know he could provide a lot more detail that may be more convincing, but that’s personal and he appears to prefer to pay back his expenses than provide any further information.

      You’d be right to point out that that’s just speculation on my part, but that’s my point – this is all speculation.

      If you’re saying that he screwed the system to benefit his partner then I think you’re probably right, but I’m not going to state is as fact. Polly Toynbee pointed out on News 24 that Laws made fairly massive expense claims until the day MPs were required to present receipts, when his expenses dropped significantly.

      • Genji Monogatari  On May 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

        PS. I think PT may have been referring to his claims for service and maintenance.

  • splinteredsunrise  On May 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Well, firstly, I’m not clear why a man as wealthy as David Laws needed to be claiming for his rent in the first place. See also, David Cameron’s taxpayer-funded mortgage.

    The other thing is that you need to imagine how this would have worked had he been an ordinary citizen trying to claim Housing Benefit. DWP investigators are entitled, on the basis of probability, to class someone as living as part of a couple even if they say they aren’t. Had David Laws been living with a woman he wasn’t married to, the same considerations would apply.

    I’m sure his sexuality has been a difficult issue for him, and you can have sympathy on that level. But most gay men struggling with coming out don’t take is as an opportunity to claim forty grand.

  • james  On May 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    what goes around, comes around. mr laws you smugly talked too the opposition during the week criticizing the way they run the country with there false accounting, well the boot is on the other foot, bye bye.

  • kump  On May 30, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Hazel Blears is still in government and her expenses were far more dodgy than his.

    Everyone makes mistakes (posting election results on twitter?!), and he has paid back the money now and lost a great amount of dignity.

    It’s a pity to loose such a capable person in government.


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