Tag Archives: Expenses

Danny Alexander T-Minus 2 days to resignation?

Well, perhaps the headline is overplaying it a little, but it seems that the Daily Telegraph is now getting it’s teeth into Danny Alexander over avoiding capital gains tax – whether it’s legal or illegal will be the big question – Telegraph attempt to skewer Danny...whether an answer is needed before they decide he should be hung drawn and quartered is another thing.

The Telegraph is now full out gunning for the coalition, my spies tell me that they’re being briefed by Labour yes, but that to be be expected, more worryingly is the rumour that one or two Lib Dem staffers are briefing hacks that are way above their pay-grade. I’m not sure whether to believe this or not, I certainly wasn’t expecting a barage of messages surrouding David Laws yesterday though – so who can say who’s side they’re playing on.

What is true is that The Telegraph can no longer hide behind the veil of ‘the public interest’ in their theft of expenses data – if it is in the public interest, let’s have full disclosure; all out, right now… all parties all the data, otherwise it’s going to be a drip drip drip that does nothing but increase the circulation of The Telegraph (benefiting from the proceeds of Stolen goods one could possibly argue). It’s hard to see how the coalition can function effectively if one side of it is being taken apart one person at a time; it’s even harder to see how Nick Clegg’s reputation will recover after his protestations that his was a party of new politics, whiter than white.

David Laws to go?

5.45pm I’m hearing rumours from 2 independent people who might be in a position to know, that David Laws is about to resign. He’s going to cite that his position has been compromised by a the story the Daily Telegraph published this morning, he’s deeply sorry and that he is stepping down to avoid further scrutiny of his private life and those that he loves. One rumour claims he may step down altogether – but I’d consider this unlikely in such a relatively young politician.

6.18pm Seems it’s not just me: Tim Montgomerie on twitter: Unconfirmed but I’m hearing Laws will quit this evening. Huhne and Browne being mentioned as possible replacements.

6.20pm And it would seem Dale might have the scoop? I’m told David Laws has just resigned.

6.30pm Well the twittersphere is alive with rumours now – whether any of them are true I’m not sure, this has a distinctly stage managed feel to it – even if he wasn’t intending to, it may now be too late to put this one back in it’s box.

7.00pm Well, still no announcement – there are rumours that it was tendered but not immediately accepted. Doesn’t explain why certain Lib Dems appear to have their staff briefing that he’s already gone. If this debacle demonstrates everything it’s that the government press office needs to be better: and the Lib Dems need to stop leaking like a sieve, we know they can do it.

7.19pm Iain Dale is saying there’s going to be an announcement at the Treasury, but I don’t seem to be alone in saying that I’ve not seen an Op Note yet, several hack chums are equally in the dark.

7.22pm Aha, an op note is circulating, I’ll be amazed if anyone other than those based immediately in Westminster get there in time to cover this though. There’s an announcement expected anytime from 7.45.

7.25pm Not a single main stream media outlet is even trailing this is a possibility beyond this morning’s rehashed and tired opinion pieces.

7.40pm Still nothing, this is either the best twitter rumour ever, or it’s been so quickly sprung the media that no one is yet responding, but even that seems odd: literally no one is covering this apart from twitter and blogs.

7.48pm Sky calls it. David Laws resigns.

7.52pm And I’m hearing that Danny Alexander is going to take over, surely that can’t be true? It must be Huhne surely?

7.55pm Sky call it again, Danny Alexander to replace David Laws, reformers can breathe a sigh of relief.

8.00pm David Cameron issues a statement saying he hopes that ‘in time’ David Laws would serve the government again in cabinet

8.02pm Nick Clegg expected to make a statement to the press shortly. Taking the fore on this one.

8.20pm Nick Clegg actually sounds angry, describing David Laws’ privacy as having been ‘shattered’ – door certainly seems to be open for a return in time.

8.23pm You know, the reason this all seems strange is we’re all used to the sight of shamed Labour MPs clinging onto their positions no matter how heinous or depraved their actions – It seems like the honourable thing to do, it’s not the right thing for the country, which is a shame – it won’t stop this being used as ammunition at every opportunity by those not enamoured with the Coalition.

Final thoughts

So David Laws has gone – he was, and always has been, one of my favourite Liberal Democrats, clearly he’s broken the rules to keep his private life, private – and it’s been his downfall. It’s a great shame as he is a superbly bright man, just the sort you need when things need doing, not spinning. I do hope that the press now give him the space to sort out his private life, coming out is a gut-wrenching experience at the best of times, without it being forced on you.

More on Laws

You know – there’s a distinctly unpleasant smell about many of the comments surrounding David Laws at the moment, accusations that ‘militant’ homosexuals (god alone knows what they look like) and ‘agenda pushers’ will keep him in his job: and you know what – maybe that’s a good thing? Not the keeping in his job because he’s a woofter, no – but keeping him in his job because he’s good at it, and if the Parliamentary Standards Commission finds his ‘crime’ to not be worth a reprimand why should rabid commentators thirsty for blood get a scalp just for the sake of it seeming ‘the decent’ thing to do (in best daily mail speak).

As I was saying yesterday, his expenses pale into insignificance compared to what others have taken, it’s his honesty over the nature of his relationship which you have to call into question. Of course if they were just friends with benefits then one can understand why it was treated as a landlord/tenant agreement, if they formalised the relationship in any other way however – then it’s an entirely different matter: and the money should be not only repaid, but investigated to the full extent of the law.

I’ve been saying for a long time that Parliamentary expenses should be simplified – this is yet another case where the rules were grey and we’re once again all pontificating on whether to hang David Laws out to dry or let him ‘get away’ with it. Of course this stems from our general assumption that most politicians are scum, movers and operators of the lowest order; which is unfair – many really, genuinely, aren’t – but while there is still not enough public transparency in the details of how they’re paid and how they claim work expenses, and indeed who presides over the ajudication of setting those fees and how they’re administered, we’re going to rub against this again and again.

It is of course, not just Parliament: Parliament is just an unfortunately public example. Expense fraud, if you want to be blunt about naming it, is rife in any business where expense accounts are the standard way of claiming back a significant proportions of outlaid income. Maybe that should be the argument for building a hotel with 650 rooms for MPs, setting a standard pay grade for all of them, giving them a free travel pass (as in the forces) to and from their nominated home to their nearest London terminal free on national rail or an airline of choice (in standard class) and doing away with all the expense and rigmarole of the IPSA and the fees office – Simplistic many in Westminster might scream, but you’ll never know until you actually give it a try.

The Telegraph still holds the Sword of Damocles

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.

Expenses: the monster that just won’t die.

Parliamentry expenses is the monster under the bed that just won’t die: it’s once again rearing it’s ugly head as MPs complain that the new rules regarding expenses are unfair, we’ve heard it all – from MPs complaining they’re being treated like they’re on benefits to one MP bemoaning that it’s going to be unsafe to go home.

What happens on a January night in London? I suppose I will have to take the tube, then a bus and then a long walk home. That is not safe.

Well, that’s just awful – I know what I shall do, I’ll fund the police better, I’ll lock up the criminals, I’ll insist train companies fund proper staffing for their stations and I’ll work with councils to ensure that better late night transport routes are provided between hubs… oh wait, I can’t do that: that’s the job of my MP! If the streets are so unsafe for you, then guess what – they’re unsafe for everyone – so use the powers we invested in you to do something about it?

The level of stupidity and hypocrisy regarding expenses is truly staggering, the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority created to ‘solve’ the problem of duck houses, husband’s porn and flipping (or to give it it’s proper name ‘fraud‘) is an unwieldily behemoth. It’s generated a situation where for every transaction invoices are received, authorised and paid by MPs they’re then sent to IPSA where they’re re-checked, approved and reimbursed by IPSA – that’s a ludicrous waste of time. When the Sunlight Centre published their report Disinfecting Parliament last year they made a suggestion which draws on vast amounts of real experience from the private sector – that MPs should be issued with a debit or charge card on which all expenses must be charged: that way you get real time electronic tracking, no spending beyond agreed limits and a massive reduction in paperwork and manpower as the card issuer is already well placed to deliver accounts ready for immediate audit.

Here’s hoping that Cameron & Clegg take another leaf from the private sector and take steps to abolish the IPSA (an organisation which has just advertised for a £80,000+ marketing director at our expense). It’s my opinion that the IPSA is nothing but another wasteful quango creating work for itself and it’s beneficiaries when there’s a better solution available from the private sector… I’ve used company debit and charge cards for years, both for myself and my staff, and I see no good reason why this solution is not good enough for Parliament when it’s used by millions of private companies worldwide.

Deep in the trough

It’s amusing, and at the same time scandalous, that Brown is set to impose a 3 line whip today with MP’s potentially facing sanctions if they break ranks against plans to obfuscate MP’s expenses at exactly the same time the government are asking, nay – demanding, businesses be transparent; it’s also further proof, if any were needed, that despite claims that Labour’s on the side of the hard working that they’ve got their noses stuffed in the trough deeper than anyone else.

MP’s expenses should be public, it’s outrageous that some are claiming that it would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to collate and scan receipts for instance, you try telling HMRC that when you do your tax return and they’ll send someone around to inspect you personally! MP’s that vote for this dirty new piece of legislation designed to hide what they’re doing with our taxpayers money should hang their heads in shame, one rule for the rulers, another for the people. It’s disgusting

Very glad to see Alan Duncan working hard in his new post with the party leadership to ensure the conservatives vote against this abuse of power, personally I’d welcome the leadership booting out any MP that refused to publish their expenses or indeed backing any grubby law that makes it easier for MP’s of any party to hide what they’re spend our money on: we need transparent politics and transparent politicians now more than ever, the hypocrisy of one rule for us has to stop to build trust with the people of this country that’s been so thoroughly trashed over the last few years.

UPDATE Brown has backed down, according to breaking news sources – expect MP’s expenses to be published ‘within weeks’.