Category Archives: AV

The Laws of New Politics (have a decent excuse and fudge the numbers)

So David Laws, architect of the Orange Book movement, believer in economic prudence and smaller state spending, and vociferous critic of those who abuse the expenses system, is having a week off work as punishment for claiming £56,000 dishonestly from the state on expenses.

Many of you may have recalled that I blogged on this last year when it became clear that Laws had indeed dishonestly claimed expenses. In my blog I called for him to go, and was greeted by Coalitionistas insisting he should stay. Though all the facts were there, they insisted there was no wrong doing.

What’s become clear in last 24 hours is that there has indeed been wrong-doing, and as a result David Laws has been punished by the parliamentary authorities. This was followed by Laws’ statement to the house where he admitted his wrong-doing and accepted full responsibility for his ‘mistakes’, though whether deception is a mistake is questionable. Regardless, Laws’ guilt is without question, he has been found to be dishonest and has admitted it.

My question is, does this cover the full extent of his wrong-doing?

Laws has claimed that he set up his finances in order to maintain his privacy. Any fool knows that anything you want kept private you keep off the books. However, I’m just not buying that argument anyway, the more I learn about this incident the more convinced I am that Laws has much more of a case to answer, as do those who conducted the investigation.

One of the primary defences of Laws is that he would have spent £30k more had he correctly claimed for his Yeovil home. However, this uses the mortgage repayments AFTER he had re-mortgaged his house in order to ‘gift’ his partner £99,000 in order to purchase a house, the same house Laws moved into and paid rent way over market value (as accepted by Laws) on the taxpayer’s tab. Talk about fudging the numbers.

What would that figure have been if Laws had not re-mortgaged in order to pay for the London property.

Regardless, does it sound to anyone else a lot like this was essentially a house that Laws truly shared with his partner but that he kept his name off the deeds to cook the books?

Laws wasn’t just paying his partner who he was staying with. Keeping his property down in Yeovil, he was able to build asset wealth within his relationship on the back of the taxpayer. Now I know a lot of MPs build asset wealth on expenses, the rights and wrongs are for another time, but don’t tell us that this is in any way the ‘honourable’ thing to do.

Does anyone actually believe that the deeds wouldn’t be changed once Laws had left politics? Or that financial reparations would not have been made were the couple to split? Let’s just think about the figure, £99,000.

This is the age-old trick of putting stuff in your partner’s name. It is a fiddle.

Also, the time-line doesn’t support his story. The rules changed in 2006 to prevent MPs renting from partners. According to the report by the Standards & Privileges committee, Laws re-mortgaged his Yeovil home in 2007 in order to buy the London property. Surely this was the point when they moved into the property, thereby giving him a perfectly reasonable juncture in order to change his stated 2nd home without raising any suspicion?

None of this adds up to supporting his reasoning for his deception, which is why I’m also keen to see a tax accountant’s evaluation of Laws’ finances, were there any ‘tax efficiencies’ of him working it this way? I think it’s already pretty clear that the £30k figure that he could have claimed doesn’t factor in his remortgaging, but I want to know if there are any tax burdens he has avoided or loopholes exploited.

He has already admitted his dishonesty so we need to see cold, hard proof that the taxpayer did indeed get a better deal (laughable as a defence anyway), because frankly I have a strong suspicion that if we looked at the couple’s finances over all, this is not the case.

I keep coming back to this point on twitter, but how would a benefit claimant be treated if they pulled off something even a 10th as dodgy?

I want to see Laws investigated and punished properly. This doesn’t mean jail, just because I’m a proper pinko liberal who hates the prospect of people going to jail (rather than a libertarian squatting in a formerly Liberal party). No, I can’t call for someone to be jailed, but Laws should be kicked out of politics for his dishonesty.

For it is here that UK politics is getting it wrong. The public see a man who fraudulently helped his partner pay off a mortgage, paid builders and phones bills by claiming £56,000 in expenses he shouldn’t be claiming, they see this man being given a punishment of a week off work, they see the entire Westminster establishment and political hacks telling them that this is an ‘honourable’ man. This is what Westminster calls an honourable man? How on earth are the public supposed to react to that?

They couldn’t do more to damage public trust in politics if they tried. The public see this as dirty politics, and it’s dealing with the likes of Laws in an appropriate fashion that would draw a line under the expenses scandal and begin to heal public perceptions of British politics, not daft referendums on voting systems no-one wants.

Let’s not forget the deceit, Laws was one of the most vociferous attackers of those involved in the expenses scandal, he made great gestures to prove he was better than Labour & the Tories. His tub-thumping has now been proven to be demonstrably not true, and Laws is now a major part of the chip-chip-chipping away at public trust in politics.

So in order to restore trust Laws must face a proper investigation, we must see his books, and he must be properly punished. Punishment should mean an end of a political career, or at very least a recall for his constituents. Indeed, thus far the CPS seem to be operating in a partisan fashion, surely the CPS need to take a look at this case, with Laws having admitted his wrong-doing, to see if he has charges to answer.

The political establishment needs to stop toadying around Laws, Labour (if you can call Frank Field that), Tories and Lib Dems need to stop making excuses and start looking at the facts and start condemning Laws. I’ve yet to see a Coalitionista condemn Laws yet, are we to believe that they all universally buy the privacy gambit, or is this tribal politics at its worst? So I call on Tories and Lib Dems reading this to open their minds and make an assessment based on the facts.

And finally, serious questions have to be asked of those responsible for the investigation. Why weren’t they looking at:

– The timeline that gave Laws the opportunity to maintain his privacy
– The £99,000 gift essentially making it Laws’ property in all but name
– The claim that Laws overpaid rent based on incompetence rather than greed

Finally, what kind of investigation accepts someone’s excuse that they wanted to protect their privacy, seemingly without any further digging.

This whole episode has left a very sour taste in the mouths of many, and whilst I’m sure the Coalition want this swept under the carpet so they can get their prodigal son back on the front-line, it’s clear that there’s no way this should be ‘case-closed’. Even my amateurish digging has thrown up a number of serious questions that need answering, what would a thorough investigation by those skilled throw up?

In order to save politics from complete indifference, or worse, total distrust, we need to see Laws and those like him who would abuse our system be properly investigated and handed appropriate punishments. The question is, is Westminster ‘New Politics’ enough to do it?

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Filed under Activists, AV, Campaign, ConDems, Conservatives, David Laws, Election, Expenses, FibDems, Hompophobia, Labour, Lib Dems, Liberals, Libertarians

RELEASE: Thousands of republicans to protest the royal wedding through the charts

A GROUP of disaffected republicans are campaigning to get the punk classic God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols to No.1 in the UK singles chart in time for the royal wedding.

The idea, which started out as a joke between a few friends, has gathered pace and now has almost 8,000 devotees on social network Facebook.

A spokesman for the Facebook group says they started the campaign because they are annoyed at the cost of the royal nuptials and the unbalanced coverage of the event by the media.

He said: “We were just fed up of seeing a constantly one-sided stream of sycophantic drivel from normally sensible news outlets – you’d think that the monarchy has universal approval if you were to watch and read Britain’s news at the moment.

“There are literally millions republicans in the UK who are having to sit through a daily torrent of pro-royalist guff and feeling like I do, that we have no right to reply”.

The group argues that “the Monarchy are completely contrary to the concept of democracy, and at a time when democracy is on the agenda via the referendum on AV, we believe that we should be discussing the future of this outmoded institution.”

“Many of us find the idea of being subjects pretty offensive, as well as the idea that somehow someone is better than you simply through birth.”

The plan to get the Sex Pistols to No.1 is latest in a line of campaigns to use Britain’s charts to make a political point, including the successful drive to get Rage Against the Machine to No.1 in a protest against the X Factor.

The spokesman continued: “We’re not expecting to reach the same levels of success of that campaign but we think this is a fun, non-violent and non-disruptive way to make our point that the voices of republicans in this country deserve a proper airing in the media.

“If this were to come off it would certainly bring a smile to the faces of republicans who will otherwise have to face the week of the wedding through gritted teeth.”

He added: “Besides, it appeals to the naughty school kid in us all.”

The single, which featured on the Sex Pistols only album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, was first released during ‘Queen Elizabeth IIs Silver Jubilee in 1977. The record’s lyrics, as well as the cover, were controversial at the time, and the BBC refused to play it.

It reached no.1 on the NME charts in the UK and made it to no. 2 in the official UK Singles Chart. This led to accusations by some that the charts had been fixed to prevent the song from reaching number one.

This time round the single is up against several other campaigns to get songs to No.1 for the week of the wedding. The tracks lining up for the top spot include Ghost Town by the Specials, Lansley Rap by MC NXTGEN and a song whose title is far too rude for a press release by internet favourites, Kunt & The Gang.

The group says it welcomes any competition that encourages debate on the future of the monarchy.

The spokesman added: “We think it would be brilliant if any of these songs were to hit the top spot, the fact that so many are may indicate a much needed return for the concept the protest song, music has always been such a good way to express ideas and a great way to create something people can rally around.”

And to those who might criticise the feeling behind the campaign, he said: “Good luck to them we say, they’re entitled to their view our only issue is that it’s getting 100% of the air-time.

“We’re sure most will be wheeling out the old chestnut of how much cash the existence of the Windsor House brings in to British tourism, but we love Britain, and we’re sure tourists would come to see our beautiful cities, magical countryside and brilliantly diverse people anyway.

“What makes Britain great is its people and their achievements. Many come to the UK for our history and that’s exactly what the monarchy should become!”

The group are asking people to buy God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols from chart registered stores such as iTunes from Monday 18 April through to Sat 23 April.

More details can be found at the Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150811568316072

Contact:
Matvigour@gmail.com
07954 887 968

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Filed under Activists, AV, Campaign, Civil Liberties, Voting Reform

AV; a No Vote From a ‘Meh’ Man

This May the British electorate face a choice as to whether they want to keep FPTP or adopt the AV system of elections for members of the lower chamber. Overall this as exciting a decision as helping Ken Barlow choose a tie, but the campaign has become a bit heated lately and wherever I sense an argument I’m straight in, as regular readers will well know (all one of you – hello mum).

The whole premise of the debate is being framed by ‘Yessers’, they will to you that AV represents a ‘fairer’ vote. They will tell you that AV is fairer, it is more democratic and as we get closer to the vote in May, that you’ll be more attractive to the opposite sex (probably).
In 2011, after a year of abuse the word ‘fair’ has about as much meaning as the word ‘progressive’ and an apology from Richard Keys. ‘Fairness’ as a concept is bloodied, bruised and begging to be left left alone, but still Yessers can sometimes talk like they have a monopoly on fairness.

However, let’s look at it this way, if you give everyone of voting age one vote each, with the candidate that gets the most votes winning, that sounds like a pretty fair type of democracy to me.

Some people live in areas that have large populations of voters for a single party, but that is democracy. It does not mean a vote has less value, it just means that in democratic terms that constituency/region should return a candidate for that party. In fact, if we want fairness shouldn’t we be giving candidates with bigger majorities a larger vote in parliament? (No, of course we shouldn’t)

It’s simply not the case that AV is fairer, as there is no set definition of fairness. What AV is, is an attempt by those who don’t like the results they get to change the system in their favour. If voters are too bunched up do something about boundaries (more on that later), do not chuck away a perfectly democratic system.

We need also to think about the potential results that we could have. We could end up (indeed we will end up) in a situation where a candidate who has the most votes is beaten by candidate who has mopped up second & third choices etc. How is it fair that the candidate who is wanted by the most constituents does not win the seat to someone who is no.2?

This is the real reason the Lib Dems want AV, it is not for fairer votes or to be more democratic, it is because they know they will benefit the most from 2nd options at a national level. A Tory is unlikely to put Labour as their 2nd option, they are likely to put a Lib Dem, a Labourite is unlikely to put a Tory as their 2nd option, they are likely to put a Lib Dem (bit less now I assume). The Lib Dems will campaign hard for AV because they believe it is they who will benefit most by mopping up 2nd options and this must be prevented.

If it were about democracy, do we believe they’d be going for AV in the lower chamber? Like it or not, the lower chamber IS democratic. If the Lib Dems cared so much about democracy, if they cared about reform would they not have held out when they were in a massively strong position during the coalition negotiations to have forced through real reform?

Why tinker with the lower democratically elected chamber whilst we still have the House of Lords? Much as Yessers will tell you that anyone against AV is a dinosaur, I want real reform to our parliament. I want a fully elected upper house, I’d also like to see the monarchy replaced, or at least having all political power (even ceremonial) stripped away (the latter is unlikely I know). We live in a society where many of those who make our laws are unelected, but we want to mess around with the elected lower house? Someone’s taking the piss. This is a fop to reform, designed basically to somehow draw a line under the expenses scandal, designed to essentially keep everything the same in Westminster, keep the Lords sitting, keep the whole thing ticking along much as it was before, when in the electorate there is a real hunger for change. I’d go so far as to say that not only is AV no fairer, it’s actually an insult to the electorate to offer up such a miserly reform, to waste tax-payer’s money like this. AV is a clever distraction from the real problems of Westminster politics. A no vote is the only possible answer to such an insult.

‘But if you vote no there’ll not be any future reform’ the yessers will tell you. Real reform is already dead, for a parliament at least. Real reform died when it was allowed off the negotiating table when the coalition was being formed, it was so easily put to one side one has to wonder if it was ever a real objective for those negotiating. Does anyone believe after what looks set to be a spiteful campaign about something that the electorate simply don’t care about that the same electorate will have any stomach for another referendum? When the press go to town on what a huge waste of money the referendum has been will there be any politician who will stand up and say ‘encore’?

No, reform, for this parliament, has been killed stone dead, it’s in the ashes of the purple ‘revolution’ of the election and it makes me angry that we’ll have yet another few years of unelected cronies being given jobs for the boys and having a say on our lives.

(Obviously, the real reform many yessers want is full PR, the fact that FPTP has worked relatively well for hundreds of years, is democratic and has never returned some God-awful extremist government and by and large keeps extremist candidates out of parliament is to be ignored. No, yessers want full PR, because many yessers are Lib Dems and Lib Dems like PR because it would give them the constant balance of power. PR isn’t being discussed but I raise it because it’s part of the debate. One day I’ll write a fuller blog on it, one day, maybe…)

Let’s not forget that AV, this vast step forward in democracy has been bundled in with a direct and unhidden attack on democracy. The bill for the referendum has been bundled up with a guillotine of 50-odd MPs from parliament, the reason is vague, ‘we need to level out boundaries’ (why? Different constituencies are very different, even the geography can impact on the MP’s role) ‘we need to save money’ is the other one you’ll hear, whilst exactly 50 new unelected Lords were sworn into the other chamber (this is actually amazing in its breath-taking arrogance). I may be stupid but more representation feels more democratic to me.

It stinks doesn’t it?

What else stinks has been the nasty, spiteful Yes2AV campaign, which has not only had to fire people for making islamophobic jokes in support of AV (I shit you not) but the campaign has so far been a consistent barrage of abuse, making out that anyone who is against AV is against democracy, against fairness, against reform, is stuck in the past, is a dinosaur, even linking no2av with such shits as Nick Griffin (again, I’m not joking). The vote isn’t until May and the yessers have got to this phase already.

The effect of this negative campaigning has been very real, it has changed me from being a simple no to AV with a big ‘meh’ to the whole thing, to a firm campaigner for the no camp.

One of my other major problems with AV is that for many Westminster is already too consensual, many don’t feel they have any real options. AV will help make Westminster even more one-dimensional. It will mean that candidates will spend too much time playing to second option voters more than their core vote, whose votes they will feel they can count on. It’ll be the bland leading the bland (well, only leading once you’ve factored in 2nd and 3rd votes). This is the exact opposite of what we want right now. The major parties have to be able to display their differences or we are at real risk of seeing swathes of voters move to the fringes. AV could well lead to those extremists doing well in the longer term as mainstream candidates become more homogenised, more like eachother, more bland to avoid dropping 2nd votes. I think that’s pretty bad for democracy myself, and it’s another reason I’ll be voting no.

The final consideration is more of a happy accident really, voting no will give Clegg a bloody nose, it will take us closer to a world we once again have a socially liberal Lib Dem party and much as it’s no reason to vote against AV, it’s an enjoyable extra benefit.

Let’s not get too hysterical because the electorate frankly don’t care, but join me in May in voting No 2 AV. Join me in giving those who would insult the electorate with this fop, this sorry little compromise, a slow clap for throwing away the chance for real reform. But mostly join me in holding the whole thing in the disdain it deserves.

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Filed under Activists, AV, Cameron, Campaign, Civil Liberties, ConDems, Election, Expenses, Labour, Lib Dems, Liberals, Meh2AV, No2AV, Voting Reform, Yes2AV