Monday, 31 May 2010

Why did David Laws claim the £40,000?

Gerald Warner has nicely expressed some of my thoughts on the David Laws scandal (emphasis mine):

It is fortunate that we are dealing here with a good and honourable man, otherwise some people might put an uncharitable construction on those facts. Cameron went on to say in his reply to Laws: “I am sure that, throughout, you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else.” Reading that and the similar drivel that has cascaded out of the establishment over the past 24 hours, one would think that Laws was under some compelling duress to take £40,000 of taxpayers’ money in order to protect his privacy. On the contrary, his privacy was only invaded because he had taken public money.

Once an individual claims any kind of state subsidy, his privacy is forfeit: the humblest benefits recipient could confirm that. The one certain way to have preserved his privacy was for Laws to have claimed no money – as he could easily have afforded to do. Laws is a multi-millionaire as a result of his previous career in banking: he was a vice-president of J P Morgan and then the managing director of Barclays de Zoete Wedd, before he was 30. That an MP with that kind of personal wealth elected to take more than £40,000 from the taxpayer says it all about politicians’ sense of entitlement.

Laws may have been a talented individual with the courage to drastically slash public spending. I doubt he'd have gone far enough, fast enough, but we'll never know. What is clear from this affair is that he was a typical old-school politician, who felt no shame at abusing taxpayers' money.

"New politics" won't do. It's time for The Death of Politics.

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