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Minicos – In defense of David Laws

29 May

(This post is a response to this story in the Telegraph)

David Laws, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is the latest to fall foul of the public’s distaste for politicians claiming expenses from us, the taxpayer. According to the Telegraph, Mr Laws claimed in the region of £40,000 from the taxpayer in second home allowance in order to pay for his partners property.

Now, in ordinary circumstances, this would be out of order. Partners often treat dual incomes as one, and pay both into a joint bank account. Mr Laws and his partner did not. Ergo, Mr Laws did not make a financial gain from the situation, and was claiming a second home allowance in the same manner as other MPs – i.e. it was in the rules at the time.

It has also been revealed that Mr Laws has been living with his partner for a longer time than they have been in a relationship – i.e. that the domestic arrangement began as two men living together as flatmates, which is quite common. It beggars belief that because they entered a personal relationship after co-habiting as flatmates, whilst retaining financial independence of each other, that somehow the arrangement of financing the rent should suddenly change – and the more I think about it, the more bizarre it seems. The insinuation I’m picking up here is, it’s ok to fund a shared flat from the public purse, so long as you don’t share a bedroom. If you will pardon the vulgarity, that would be a very expensive shag.

No, I don’t think he should resign. If anything, by paying back the money that he claimed he has not only understood the public mood on this issue, but also that he is willing to act quickly in the public interest, and right now, the public interest is making sure that the deficit is tackled. Laws, along with Cable and Osborne, are the right people for the job.

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An Infotainment Scam

29 May

The news, I have recently discovered, means different things to different people. To some, the news is a) an annoying big brother to sports, the tedious 20 minutes or so of bombs and guns in some far flung former Empire outpost before you get to find out what John Terry’s favourite colour is, whilst to others news provides b) a nice contrast to soap operas that allows you to compare the reality of the world with whatever morbid toss is happening in Albert Square, and invariably leads to the question “Who would win in a fight between Phil Mitchell and John Pienaar”?

There is, of course, a more hardcore view of news, and luckily it’s the view I espouse, which is c), that NEWS IS BLUDDY GRATE AND IT’S THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD. That’s right kids, get off the drugs, put down your Playstation Wiis and your condoms and turn on the BBC News channel because whatever is happening on there right now is bound to be way more exciting than what’s happening in your life, and possibly funnier. Unless it’s the weather.

At the moment, I am employed by a company to do very little, which is ace and top. During the quiet spells in the office, when I’m not fannying about on the well wicked web, I like to read the news and discuss it with my boss. It makes us look clever. No, scratch that, it makes us look sexy, cool and clever. Most recently, we have been tackling the subject that’s been dominating the headlines, and that’s the tricky issue of MPs expenses. For those of you in categories a and b as defined earlier, here’s a metaphor that nicely sums it all up, so put on your imagination caps and strain that brain with the following:

The time is 7am in the morning. The MPs are collectively a 14 year old spotty teenager who is still laid in bed, but must get up and go to school soon. We, the electorate, are the MPs mother, who has rather nicely bought the young scamp a cup of tea. Unbeknownst to mummy (that’s us), little Timmy (the 646 Members of Parliament) is doing what all 14 year old boys do, and with increasingly squinty eyes says to his mum that he will be out in a minute. Concerned with the grunting, Mum grows restless, opens the door anyway and the mucky mess (pardon) is exposed.

That’s right, I’m inferring that this scandal is akin to self-gratification. Well, it is. Sorry to have planted a sordid seed (pardon) in your head but there we are. What’s more, I can just about justify it.
First of all, youths are increasing told not to feel guilty about the act of onanism. “It’s natural!” the sex education teachers cry. Well, compare that to what the honourable members (pardon) have been saying; “It was in the rules at the time”, “we haven’t done anything wrong”, “urgh urgh urgh urrgh arrrggghh” (I made up the last one, in fairness)

Secondly, MPs have done their utmost to stop us finding out about it. Actually, that’s not fair, *some* MPs have done their utmost. However, even now the most recent revelations are coming (pardon) to light as the result of a leak (pardon) to the press, as opposed to some act of conscience from a parliamentarian. Or, to keep in line with the metaphor, Timmy was washing his own sheets.

Lastly, and most succinctly, even though we didn’t have any real evidence to suggest their expenses (or penises) were being fiddled, come on, we all suspected it didn’t we? It can’t come as any great surprise to a loving mother/cynical voter that this was all bound to happen one day, can it?

Ahem.

Now, to move this info nugget above the belt as it were for a moment, the great trouble I’m having as a category c) Newsaholic, is the way that even though they’re as bad as one another, you’ve still got some MPs who are suggesting otherwise. Take the instance of the MP who had claimed over a thousand pounds for a telly. His view was essentially that it was ok because it was a telly, and most manure or a moat. What he failed to grasp is that it’s still a lot of money for a telly. To put it in perspective, my telly cost me £20 when I was skint from the local BHF charity shop, but then I wouldn’t necessarily want elected representatives being dragged down to my level of poverty. No, if I had my way MPs would have to have to be capped on what they spend on audio/visual equipment, and have their expenses claims put before a scrutiny panel comprised of journalists from “What Hi-Fi?” magazine and the bloke with the missing tooth out of Richer Sounds.
That’s not, of course, to say that we should let the moat man off either. Frankly, it would only be fair if his expenses were similarly scrutinised by a bunch of mediaeval battle reconstruction actors, and if his expenses are fine, he gets to marry the King’s buxom daughter, and if they are “unreasonable in the court of public opinion” then it’s a week in the Iron Maiden. To end on a somewhat serious note, the punishment *must* fit the crime. If an MP stands down at the next election great, but the pension they’ll get will more than make up for the shame that they’re facing right now.
And before anyone says it, I would quite happily say that some MPs who have received negative press probably ought not to have done, and to the MPs who are not involved with this scandal at all should be applauded, as the temptation must have been great.

Last thing I’ll say on the matter – love ‘em or hate ‘em, at least by claiming money off the taxpayer and spending feckloads the MPs were stimulating the economy and creating wealth! Every cloud…