Friday, 4 June 2010

One Laws for the rich...

DIDN’T take long for the first ‘star’ of the coalition to fall, then.
I have heard some sympathy expressed for David Laws, whose tenure as treasury secretary lasted just 18 days. Or about £570 worth of dodgy rent.
Sympathy for what?
Well, OK, he wanted to keep his private life private. Fair enough, I suppose.
But I am sure there are ways he could have done that without cheating the taxpayer out of £40,000 in falsely claimed rent payments. Or, to put it another way, stealing. From all of us.
If I’d done that, simply offering to pay it back (even if I could) wouldn’t get me off the hook.
In fact, my next claim against Her Majesty’s Government would probably be in rental for a prison cell.
And that headline £40k isn’t the whole of it, either.
A thorough examination of his past expenses claims reveals he claimed £150 a month for utilities and £200 a month for service charges. Until receipts began to be demanded, at which point those claims suddenly dropped to £37 and £25 respectively.
Obviously Mr Laws wasn’t very good with money.
So how did he get a double first in economics at Cambridge? And how did he last five years as a vice-president of international investment bankers JP Morgan? Or hold down a top job with Barclays de Zoete Wedd, where he was something called Head of Dollar and Sterling Treasuries?
I don’t know what those jobs involve, but they sound posh. And they sound as if they feature larger sums of money than Laws has been trousering on the sly since he’s been a mere MP.
Perhaps JP Morgan and Barclays de Zoete Wedd don’t care if their executives fiddle their gas and electricity accounts.
But try getting away with it on the dole.
Or try telling the housing benefits office you’re paying rent to the person whose bed you share. That’d give them a good laugh. They don’t tend to be as keen on your privacy as David Laws was on his.
Laws has never been out of work. In fact, he has probably never been paid as little as you or me.
I don’t suppose he has much understanding of what it means to be among the low-paid, or no-paid. Yet those are among the people whose lives and futures he held in his hand until last Saturday.
The whole purpose of the job he’s just quit was to wield the axe, to find the £6billion he could slash from public expenditure.
So a man who could casually claim nearly £300 a month for non-existent utilities and services was to tell junior nurses, teaching assistants, police clerks and road-menders that their jobs were no longer worth paying for.
It has been suggested that Danny Alexander, who has taken over Laws’s old treasury role, lacks the necessary grasp of economics.
What – the grasp of a man who can’t distinguish between £62 and £350?
In defence, it’s been said that what the job requires isn’t knowledge of economics, but something called “good judgement”.
Let’s hope Alexander has better judgement than his predecessor, who left still apparently unable to see he’d done anything wrong.
Who failed to see that nobody, surely, gave a stuff about his sexuality until he was caught cheating us all, supposedly to cover it up.
Even as they were accepting his resignation, Cameron and Clegg were talking about one day welcoming Laws back into the ranks of government. Which surely calls their judgement into question too.
But even if his political career is toast – as it should be – I wouldn’t waste any sympathy on him.
Whatever his future may hold, it’s unlikely ever to be a personal “age of austerity” such as he was preparing to inflict on the rest of us.
He will never have to join the dole queue or dodge the benefit snoops.
He can always go back to being a banker. And claim in ‘bonuses’ the kind of sums a dodgy politician can only dream of.


“WE’RE sorry for the disruption of lives,” says BP spokesman John Curry.
Sorry. I bet they are.
Sorry that what President Obama has already called the worst environmental disaster in US history will go on unchecked until at least August.
Sorry that the millions of gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico threaten the extinction of several animal species as well as thousands of human livelihoods.
Sorry that safety concerns were waved aside when the exploded well and its rig were first planned.
Sorry that they have no real idea how to stop the oil from gushing. Even though their best ‘experts’ said it was safe.
Are these, I wonder, the same kind of ‘experts’ who insist that nuclear power is now safe?
That accidents won’t happen – and if they do, we have the know-how to handle them?
Anyone who listens to the pro-nuclear lobby might learn a useful lesson from BP’s current misadventure.
Never trust the safety pledges of anyone with a vested interest.

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