As it has been shown, on Tuesday 18 May a new committee was elected, with one of visions being to create some fantastic events, plenty of them and diverse in nature. The first of these was on Tuesday night, with BUCF enjoying an audience with Ann Widdecombe hosted by Iain Dale, at the Town Hall. We heard about Ann’s childhood and political career and I can certainly say I was engrossed for the duration. Although often controversial, with many disagreeing with her views, her conviction must be admired, it is not often that we hear this about the men and women in Westminster. It is important to share some of the points that were raised during the evening.
Recent political news has been dominated by the resignation Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws after revelations that he had paid rent to his lover. A few points need to be made about this. Under the rules up until 2006 it was stated that you could not rent to relatives, but Laws rented to his lover. At what point does this person become related, when they marry or have a civil ceremony, when they live together or when they first engage in sexual activity. The rule book is not specific, and so under these rules, Laws committed no offense. The rules were changed after 2006 but again it is difficult to pinpoint the moment in which his actions became unlawful. Somewhere in the related document, the mention of ‘spouse’ now becomes another relative that cannot be rented from. Once again, the definitions of his lovers attachment is the sticking point to this debacle. As long as he did not pay more than the market price for the rent, I cannot see the wrong doing his actions. You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds’. Someone close to you….well that certainly is helpful! I am not defending those people that have deliberately used the system to their advantage, but if more situations like these are ousted, then we shall loose people in Westminster that are qualified and are good at their job! In the days of Ann Widdecombe as she explained, on the Labour benches was a brain surgeon and on the Conservative side, top economists with years of experience in the City. Political witch hunts are going to put talented and honest people off from wanting to enter the field of politics. This government needs to ensure that changes to MP’s expenses which shall inevitably come and so they should, are well written and clearly defined, so that more unnecessary victims do not come of the situation.
Writing with a historians mind however, the other side to the story should be shown.
As posted by Kevin Davis, the Conservative candidate fighting Laws in the General Election, “His whole campaign did not focus on policies but how he was whiter than white in expenses and had the lowest claims of any MP in Somerset. Every piece of literature and direct mail he sent out focused on this. I know I can be accused of having an axe to grind but this coalition cannot afford to have him remain in it. It is sad because like many I have been very impressed by him over the past few weeks.” In a time when trust in politics is at an all time low, it would have been very difficult to save Laws.
The Moat Man and the Duck House Man
A journalist once claimed that all MP’s had claimed for their second home allowances, even though the MP’s of London constituencies and in some cases, those MP’s that could afford not to, did not. This only goes to show that the word of journalists are now almost a given when politicians are their target. During the expenses scandal, there notable offenses, including for the Moat Man and the Duck House Man. Once again however, journalists were able to construct their story without hindrance. The two MP’s in question listed the range of changes that had been done to their homes and simply requested that if anything can be claimed for that the department do so. Thus the moat and the duck house were listed, but not specifically claimed for.
The moral of the story? As a nation we need to be more objective, to consider what is best for the country in these difficult times before jumping headlong into a culture of resignation for politicians that appear to do wrong in the eyes of the all powerful media.