One Rule For Them…

Can David Laws really just walk back into the cabinet after being found guilty of fiddling his expenses?

I must confess, I’m somewhat confused about this whole David Laws affair.

The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury (who, let it not be forgotten, was responsible for orchestrating last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review with George Osborne, and is responsible for the current cuts which are causing so much woe) resigned as a minister last year as it came to light that he had claimed £40,000 between 2004 and 2009, to pay rent to a man who happened to be his husband. This blatant breach of expenses rules was explained as Laws trying to keep private his sexuality.

This didn’t wash with me at the time, and it doesn’t wash now. Did he really need to pretend that James Lundie was his landlord? And did he need to pay him a small fortune? It seems incredibly iffy.

Today he was censured by the Parliamentary authorities, made to apologise to the House, and suspended for seven days. This is a fairly harsh punishment, as far as Parliament goes. And yet, the Lib Dems and apparently the Tories are eager for him to return to cabinet. Witness David Cameron; “I think he has a lot to offer public life and I hope he stays in public life.

This is a man who falsely claimed £40k of taxpayers money. This being the man who nearly caused a rebellion in his own party when the original expenses scandal broke, with his hardline approach to expenses offenders. And yet now he wants David Laws back in his cabinet? That doesn’t seem to tally.

And just to add to that, remember Eric Illsley? The former Labour MP for Barnsley Central, who was jailed for his expenses? He falsley claimed £14,000. David Chaytor? £18,500. But David Laws falsely claims £40,000 and he gets an invitation back to the cabinet. Could it be because he’s one of the so-called “Orange Book-ers”? Or because he’s one of the increasingly rare friends of Clegg?

The really galling thing, though, is that the Liberal Democrats spent the 2010 general election campaign running on a “new politics” platform, as the only party untouched by the expenses scandal. David Laws campaigned along those lines- despite clearly knowing that he had breached the rules and abused the system. So he’s a liar and hypocrite. As I recall, Phil Woolas lost his seat for that very crime.

And the idea that he did it to hide that he was gay? This is supposed to be an enlightened age. Sexuality is not supposed to matter. If Laws wanted to maintain his privacy, he could have done. Blaming it on his sexuality seems to me like a cheap, sensationalist attempt at distraction, and really it only brings shame to Parliament and the Lib Dems.

(Speaking of, where did the Lib Dems get this reputation as a pro-LGBT party? Does anyone remember the 1983 Bermondsey bye-election? There’s only one party which has ever done anything of note for LGBT rights, and it isn’t yellow.)

Basically, it just seems strange comparing the reactions between Laws and other MPs who broke expenses rules. Laws seems to be treated as the victim, whereas others are demonised. I’m not sure why this is exactly, but it seems that Lib Dems are still treated as whiter than snow. I haven’t a clue why, given how many promises they have broken, and how much hurt they are causing. But it certainly doesn’t seem fair that Laws should get away with a slap on the wrist and an invitation back into cabinet, for what the public were calling for the heads of other MPs for doing.

This Day…We March!

Marching for the rights of future students

Tomorrow, we march on the capital.

Tomorrow, thousands of angry students will descend on Parliament to protest the crippling cuts and fee rises proposed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. Thousands of voices will be heard crying out for our politicians to hear our voices and listen to them. And for the Lib Dems especially, to remember what they promised in the election.

I will be there. So will over three hundred students from the University of Sussex. I have no idea how many people will be there from other universities, but I know this is going to be something spectacular.

I’d like to point out something in particular: we are not doing this for us. The tuition fee rise will not affect present students. The cuts to the Higher Education budget will, for some of us. But not for me, and not for thousands of other final year students who will be there. We are not marching for ourselves. We’re marching for the generations of students who will bear the brunt of this.

The rises are not progressive. They will dissuade the very poorest members of society from going to university, and transform Higher Education into something reserved for a rich elite. And the massive cuts to the Higher Education budget will decimate universities, resulting in students paying massively more for massively less.

This is why I’m going to London tomorrow. This is why thousands of others are doing the same. This is why I’m asking you to come.

Whether you’re a student or not doesn’t matter. You could be someone who will be applying to university in the next couple of years. You could be the parent of someone who will be applying. Or you could just care about the state of education in this country. Whoever you are, come along and show your support. If you’re interested, take a look at the NUS website for details, and get involved.

Thank you

A Call to Arms

This is mostly for readers in the UK, so I apologise to any international readers. But hey, you never know, you might find it interesting anyway.

Today is election day. At time of writing, the polling stations have been open for about an hour. And I am begging every single UK citizen, who is over 18, reading this to go out to their polling station, and cast their vote. I don’t think I can overstate how important this is. Today you can decide who is going to be in government tomorrow. If you have the opportunity, and do not vote today, in my opinion you have no right to complain about the result.

Now, I am not politically neutral. I think I’ve probably made that abundantly clear already. I am a Labour supporter, and I have already cast my vote according to my conscience. I have voted for the Labour party, because their policies make the most sense. They don’t promise unfeasible tax cuts. They promise to be fair to the poorest people in this country. They have steered us through one of the worst recessions in living memory (which was the fault of the Conservative Thatcher government), and they will continue to bring us through it if we give them the chance to do so. I urge you to read their policies, and consider voting for them.

But what I beg you to do, is to not vote for the Tories. I am firmly of the belief that David Cameron and his cronies would be a disaster for this country. They would begin drastic cuts too early, risking a return to the depths of recession. They would alienate economic allies in the EU, with their ridiculously archaic Euroskeptic view (and incidentally, Cameron has not read the Lisbon Treaty. However much you may think there should have been a referendum on the matter, actually gives greater power to Westminster, rather than Brussels). They would cut benefits for many of the families who genuinely and honestly rely on them to get by. They would usher in changes to the law that discriminate against all but the white, middle/upper class, heterosexual married family. Basically, they would return to the dark days of Thatcher.

Vote for Labour. Vote for the Lib Dems. Vote for the Greens. Vote for one of the Nationalist parties (if you’re in Scotland or Wales). Vote for an independent. Preferably don’t vote for the BNP or UKIP. Read the parties’ politics, what they would do for this country, and decide on that basis. I’m not stupid, I don’t think that the Tories are evil. I think that they are wrong. And I also don’t like how they have conducted their campaign, using millions of pounds of donation from Lord Ashcroft; a man who doesn’t pay tax in the UK, but still thinks it’s his right to decide how and by whom this country is run. And Rupert Murdoch. The man who wants to buy Number 10, who wants to install his man as PM, so that the BBC will be dismantled, and he can expand his monopoly. The Sun, et al, have lost all sense of responsible journalism, declaring Cameron the winner of debates in which he floundered, and lying to the public at large. Today they run with a gaudy Obama-style image of Cameron.

Don’t do this to Britain. The choice is yours, this is the principle of democracy. I haven’t always been it’s greatest advocate or supporter, but I’m asking you to prove to me today that it has merit. So please, go down to the polling station today, and cast your vote. Because untold numbers have died over the ages so that you can do so. And if the country is to survive the next five years, every one of you needs to. Go out and vote, for policy, not personality. For equality, not closed mindedness. For the future, not for the past.

Thank you.

“In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.” -Aristotle, Politics.