Saturday, 29 May 2010
The Rotten Parliament lives on?
It was exactly a year ago when MPs would wait in fear for the publication of the next day's Telegraph. Every new front page of the newspaper gave more revelations of extravagant expense claims which, although within the rules, were completely unacceptable in the eyes of the public (as well as anyone with any amount of common sense).
It was hoped that with the election of a new parliament (and the ending of the pervious 'Rotten Parliament' as it became known) politicians could rebuild their deeply tarnished reputation. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg said that cleaning up after the expenses scandal was a key priority of the 'new politics'.
However, the front page of today's Telegraph had an unpleasantly nostalgic feel. The new Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, is said to have claimed over £40,000 on what he said was his second home but was in fact a home owned by his partner - who happens to be a man.
There is talk of the Chief Secretary resigning, but I doubt this will happen. David Laws has apologised and will give back the money, and he is protected by the fact that he is one of the few Liberal Democrats who the Conservatives actually like. Also, the fact that Mr. Laws' private life has now become very public will no doubt lead to sympathy from the famously fair-minded British public, and thus help to dull any anger directed at him.
The coalition and David Laws will survive - the lasting damage however is to politics as a whole, as for a second Parliament in succession, MPs are marred by expenses. Although I doubt many people would have believed the new government, new parliament and new politics would bring an end to scandal, it's never good when cynicism is vindicated.
UPDATE: DAVID LAWS HAS RESIGNED
Alright, so I was wrong, David Laws has resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. It's quite sad on a human level, but I think it may help exorcise the coalition from the expenses scandal of the last parliament.
The fact is, David Laws' resignation was one of great dignity, a complete contrast from some of the previous politicians forced out over expenses who went kicking and screaming from office.
David Laws has not survived the latest scandal, but I think the coalition and the new politics will.