Thursday, 12 May 2011

For privacy not profit yet seven days suspension

It is a rather strange thing that as a result of an MP saving the taxpayer money that he should be suspended from the House for seven days.

Of course the suspension of David Laws is not about the frugalness of his claims, it is because he claimed rent that was paid to his same-sex partner. That was a relationship that David wanted to keep private, but when the rule changesd came in in 2004 he didn't disclose that relationship. He chose instead to claim on the smaller value property he could have claimed his expenses on.

He issued the following statement following today's ruling.

"I accept the conclusions of the Inquiry and take full responsibility for the mistakes which I have made. I apologise to my constituents and to Parliament. Each of us should be our own sternest critic, and I recognise that my attempts to keep my personal life private were in conflict with my duty as an MP to ensure that my claims were in every sense above reproach. I should have resolved this dilemma in the public interest and not in the interests of my privacy.
"However, from the moment these matters became public, I have made clear that my motivation was to protect my privacy, rather than to benefit from the system of parliamentary expenses, and I am pleased that the Commissioner has upheld that view.
"I have also, from the very beginning, made clear that I believed that my secrecy about my private life led me to make lower overall claims than would otherwise be the case, and this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Commissioner and by the Committee. The taxpayer gained, rather than lost out, from my desire for secrecy, though I fully accept that this is not an adequate reason for breaking the rules.
"This last year has been a difficult one, and I am grateful to family, friends, constituents and colleagues for their support and understanding."

The question remains can LGB politicians be open and honest about their sexuality? It is something that I have been honest about, even mentioning it in hustings meetings. Is there really generational divide between me and David who is only 4 years older than? Two of the MSPs that the Lib Dems lost were openly out and both Margaret Smith and Iain Smith are older than David and never found their sexuality an issue.

It appears that David has come on a long way from the day at the end of May last year when this all came out into the open. Then he didn't want to disclose his sexuality, now he realises that his "attempts to keep my personal life private were in conflict with [his] duty as an MP to ensure that [his] claims were in every sense above reproach."

In our society today we're not past the occasion idiot hurling homophobic abuse at people. We do live in a society that demands that every detail of a public figures live is public, that includes who their partner is. Therefore our public figures whether in the field of politics, sport, entertainment or whatever do feel the extra pressure to conceal that part of them. Often times not so much for themselves but for their partners sake. The issue as David has learned is when with that public face comes public financing.

However, although he has not cost the taxpayer extra somehow he is getting censured with suspension, while others who breached expenses rules and cost the taxpayer more got away with paying back the excess. David paid back all his living expenses claims from June 2006 - July 2009 and is still getting suspended. Weird sense of justice, even when the Parliamentary Commission has upheld the is was privacy not profit that the claims were made.

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