This time last week I was talking about Expenses being the monster that just won’t die, and it seems that the sword of damocles is still dangling as the Telegraph reveal tonight that David Laws has claimed £40,000 in expenses to pay for a room – hang him, the tabloids predictably scream, while some of the broadsheets can barely control their sneers of revulsion that it’s ‘his boyfriends’ house.
But, please – first a little perspective, this is over eight years which comes to about £950 a month: that’s not expensive for London, my weekly rent is about half that – so I think we can safely say that there’s been no financial gain: and how much did it save on him renting or buying a place of his own – ultimately he’s most likely saved us all money.
But, it is a question of honesty, David Laws’ said he didn’t give the full detail because it wasn’t his spouse – that’s a grey area in the rules that the IPSA will want to be looking into: I think it’s probably fair to say if you’ve been with someone since 2001 then I think it’s not unfair to claim that you’re a ‘proper’ item: which of course brings us to the real reason it was kept quiet: David didn’t want to out either himself, his partner (a director at an international, politically connected PR firm) or his relationship in general. All credit to The Telegraph though, they didn’t out him – and they could have done: the really delicious irony of course being that climbing into the cabinet has rather forced him out of the closet.
I find it difficult to stand by the hang him and flog him brigade, but equally I find it difficult to support this idea that he was simply protecting his private life – he’s a public figure, a long term partner is a long term partner: and he should have been up front about that: most people would have made nothing of it… instead, he’s needlessly wounded his reputation and potentially his cabinet career. I think it’s unlikely Cameron or Clegg will want to be rid of him: but I expect you’ll be seeing less of him for the next few weeks.