Sunday, 30 May 2010

Cluedo: The David Laws Edition

A commenter at Pickled Politics yesterday asked a very intriguing question.

“when I worked in Parliament it was an open secret that Laws was gay.”
This is about the fourth time I’ve heard this today.

If it was known, then surely it must have been known by Nick Clegg, and surely it would have been discussed by the coalition leaders, along the lines of the MI5 briefings about potentially difficult potential ministers, but from a gaffe perspective, no?

If it was known was it not also known who David Laws’ partner was, and that their arrangement contravened the 2006 rules on accommodation expense claims?

And if it was known in Parliament does that include press correspondents and lobbyists?

What initiated the timing of the release of the story by the Telegraph?
Iain Dale suggests a motive or two, but stops tantalisingly short of naming his suspect(s).

[...] through his stellar performance as Chief Secretary to the Treasury during the first three weeks of the coalition, Laws made himself a target.

Firstly, he made public the private note left on his desk by his predecessor, Liam Byrne, which said: ‘I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.’

And secondly, he pulled out of Question Time last week after Labour refused to withdraw Alastair Campbell as its spokesman on the programme.

This accusation may be way off beam, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if somebody’s tricks department had tipped off The Daily Telegraph about the nature of his relationship with James Lundie and it was that which provoked them to trawl through their expenses files again.
Food for thought there, but one presumes that Dale, being a partisan chap, was hinting at a party-affiliated whistle-blower.

However, a recent article in New Scientist pointed out that there would be many in the civil service who take umbrage at coalition policies, and may do their damnedest to block moves which threaten their cosy empire-building existence.

"Labour is not the opposition," agrees [Privacy International's Policy Director, Gus] Hosein. "The civil service is."
It's interesting, then, that the day before the Telegraph's revelations, the Department of Health was reported to be reeling at proposed cuts to their 'hectoring and lecturing' budget.

Health to bear brunt of first COI cuts

LONDON - The Change4Life, anti-smoking and alcohol abuse campaigns could be permanently scrapped as part of the Government's planned curbs on advertising, according to Westminster sources.

Drives such as the £50 million-a-year spend on public health, including Change4-Life (which spent £7.7 million in 2008-09), anti-smoking (£26.2 million), alcohol abuse (£4.8 million) and stroke prevention (£4.5 million), are likely to be affected by Government plans to cut "preachy, nanny state" campaigns aimed at changing behaviours.

An immediate freeze on new advertising and marketing spend in the current financial year was announced by the Treasury Chief Secretary, David Laws, as part of the coalition Government's £6.2 billion package of spending cuts.

Laws said ad campaigns were "not priorities", saying: "We are being very draconian in these areas and inflexible over the next year".
Oooh, that's gotta hurt. Especially for a department which has had its own way for far too long, and been a law unto itself at times.

As far as timing goes, it fits the bill perfectly, and what better motivation for someone with mud to sling than a pretty unequivocal statement of intent to curtail their wasteful spending?

I love a good 'whodunnit', me. The game's afoot!


Anonymous said...

The public sector are becoming as despised as the old Stazi in the former Germany.
Their beginning to bahave like it too.
On the money DP.

Witterings from Witney said...

Hi DP, how about another 'theory'? Who is supposed to be the most 'popular' in the pack?

Those that make the 'laws' can break the 'laws'???

Dick Puddlecote said...

Ta, Anon.

WfW: Perhaps we should draw up some 'Detective Notes' listing all the suspects. ;-)

Witterings from Witney said...

Hell DP, how many loo rolls you got?

Oldrightie said...

Labour left a very large fifth column behind for sure, DP.

Anonymous said...

Just watch for any changes in the
nannies budget when the new
kilt lifting ginger Jock shuffles
Laws paperwork.
Pruning of the cuts to the Nanny
Depts allready on Tuesdays

Cyan Pimpernel

was it charlie ? said...

Maybe the ginger minger and paddy pantsdown know something about it ?

Duncan said...

"If it was known was it not also known who David Laws’ partner was, and that their arrangement contravened the 2006 rules on accommodation expense claims?"

You're so close to 'nail on the head' territory here; the rule was to protect from MPs effectively paying themselves. The definition of spouses or 'partners who are living in a manner for all intents and purposes equivalent to spouses' is intended to capture the kind of financial interrelations which David and James don't have. They don't have shared finances; financially there's not much difference between them and a standard landlord/tenant arrangement.

The only exception to this was David having extended his own mortgage for James' benefit. That might be the decision which results in his being forced to pay back his allowance. However the points still stand (a) he claimed less than he could have had he been public about the relationship and co-signed the mortgage and (b) he did not (unlike Gove, Lansley, Clarke and Fox) personally benefit from his (potential) expenses irregularities, the end the 2006 provision was brought in to prevent in light of situations like the Labour MP for Glasgow East and (c) he does not appear to meet the implicit definition (there is no explicit definition) of partner, as anyone with legal training can confirm to you. He fails both the test of financial interdependence and interrelations and the test of marriage by public repute. He should have reported the matter to public standards when the ruling was changed however it seems quite obvious, in light of his desire for privacy, why he decided to keep his own judgment on the matter for which he's paid a considerable price.

As to the question of who did it the candidates are:

A: Alasdair Campbell or
B: Conservative right-wingers looking to derail discussions on Capital Gains Tax reform (not those such as Redwood and Iain Dale who are criticising proposals openly and publically).

SadButMadLad said...

@Duncan, you forgot left wing libdems. Look into the associates of Law's partner, James Lundie. He is a PR person. Who were his clients?

Junican said...

Look, all this stuff about who said what to whom and sex and expenses is not relevant to what Laws was intending to do. If he was 'outed' by the narrow interests of certain groups, whoever they may be, then it is of even greater importance that his successor press on even more vigorously - if only to show that the government will not be blackmailed. To do otherwise would be unutterably stupid.

We want to see these quangos and fake charities demolished - pure and simple. Get rid.

That goes also for the WHO - 'not fit for purpose'. Start again and get the WHO addressing illness and suffering in places like Africa. Demolish to Climate Change group in the UN - get them back to promoting better, more efficient ways to produce the energy that the world needs now and will need in the future. Re-establish the EU as a trading partnership. Remove the hectoring, lecturing element.

God! Even I can see these needs! Save billions upon billions!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I thought there was some fishy axe-grinding (metaphors intended) about this disclosure. I really can't see what Laws has done that's morally wrong.The monthly rent seems reasonable and people do have to pay for their accommodation. The righteous ones seem to be making a meal of it.

To be clear, I did not vote Lib Dem but UKIP, by the way, and that was solely on the issue of the justice of an amendment of the smoking ban for pubs and clubs.

Also, it frequently strikes me that to suspect conspiracies invites the accusation of being a bit eccentric when history shows that conspiracies actually happen.

I fear that the great and the good (?) in politics and the media have lost their way.

There's nothing new in that though.

mark said...

Is anyone slightly concerned that Law's replacement is only 38 years of age, as is George Osborne?

I would be much happier if they were say 5 years older. Is this rational?

I suppose in principle if you are smart and hard working it shouldn't matter how old you are.

But in the back of my mind there is the nagging thought that in what could turn out to be a key moment in the nation's history that we are "sending in a boy to do a man's job".