Apparently this is the New Politics. You the voter now have a greater responsibility to be part of the democratic process, and a responsibility to accept the coming hardships of cuts in public services. However it seems the politicians haven't changed at all. Just a few short weeks into the new government we have our first scandal.
Scandals is probably more appropriate; this is a two-for-one. Treasury Chief Secretary David Laws has managed to combine questionable expenses claims with his outing as a gay man. Mr Laws broke house of Commons rules by claiming £40,000 to rent rooms in homes that were in fact owned by his partner.
He says he wanted to keep his relationship, and his sexuality, a secret.
As a political geek I am greatly disappointed by the this. Laws is described by many as simple "brilliant" and I would certainly agree he is one of the true heavyweights in the Liberal Democrats. He is widely credited with persuading the Lib Dems away from their traditional left-leaning views towards a more free-market strategy.
David Laws wrote the Orange Book, his party's vision for the future, and watching him in the Commons this week it was pretty evident he knew and believed every word of its progressive politik. So why go and ruin it now Mr Brilliant?
As a gay activist I'm equally disappointed by this. This is 2010, the leader of the Lid Dems addressed the audience of Pride London last year, and Mr Laws is an MP for a party that has never had much of a problem with sexuality. Heck, if David Laws can't even come out it paints a depressing picture for other MPs let along everyone else in the country.
In an interview with The Times on Thursday he described himself as single; by this morning he was imploring us that "when I grew up, being gay was not accepted by most people".
Whilst sympathetic, I would point out that Mr Laws is considered a young MP, being only 44. For someone of his age, growing up gay will have had great difficulty (homosexuality wasn't legalized until he was 2 and attitudes took a good while longer to start changing), but reading his interview he appears to have confused himself with someone 20 years older.
I fully accept the right of the chap not to come out. Everyone has that. I can't help feeling though that this is a bit of a smokescreen. He does not believe he has broken the rules which define partner as 'one of a couple… who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses'. He claims that although living together they do not treat each other as partners and 'do not share bank accounts'. I think the Minister is trying to fudge the rules.
David Laws has let us all down. I wish he'd felt able to come out, but if he really thinks that a shared bank account is the absolute definition of whether one is in a relationship then he is either delusional or dishonest. He has 'referred' himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for a ruling, but for me this isn't enough. The Minister has shown his judgement to be flawed, and I don't want someone like this making the big decisions on what to cut and where to spend in the government's multi-billion pound budget.
The new government is keen that we the voter have a much more active role in politics. So I'm going to take the initiative, and to quote Lord Sugar, with regret, you're fired Minister!
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