Monday, 31 May 2010

Warning: may contain Politics

The sight of Danny Alexander and his defenders pointing to the fact that he hasn't, technically, done anything illegal seems to make a mockery of the core liberal value (as I understand it):

A healthy society is one with less, and not more, explicit legislation, because people can be trusted to do the right thing and not just the legal thing.

The three year exemption from CGT which Danny Alexander took advantage of was intended to avoid paralysing the housing market by wrongly taxing, as second-home-owners, people who found themselves caught in a sluggish housing market. Without it, there was the danger that buyer-sellers would have been completely unable to commit to a new home until they'd sold their old home, resulting in a total freeze of sales.

We could, of course, have doubled the detail of the legislation to specify many included and excluded situations, which would seemingly have excluded Danny Alexander from exemption, but isn't that exactly the kind of over-interfering legislation that Lib Dems are against?

I can just about forgive the average citizen for failing to make the connection between their taxes and the schools and hospitals they pay for. But MPs? Surely our MPs should be beyond reproach when it comes to tax avoidance. When the expenses scandal broke, the main defence was that 'everybody was doing it'. Except the Lib Dems of course, who won many people's votes (we have friends among them) on the grounds that they were not implicated in the great MP benefit fraud.

When Nick Clegg used his public platform to hammer home the 'fact' that his MPs had not taken advantage of the second-homes system, was he deliberately missing a key sentence: " ... as far as I know, but we haven't really bothered to look into it." ?

Even if we don't feel directly conned, it's all starting to look a little ridiculous.

How a chief secretary can convincingly implement a tightening of the loop holes he just used to his own advantage is beyond me. How a government can come down harshly on the tiny fraction of people who play the system for tiny sums of money which they may not be entitled to, while turning a blind eye to the blatant fraud carried out by their own colleagues, is also beyond me.

Integrity is, in my mind, defined by how we behave in the loop holes.

David Laws, 'a man of great integrity', appeals to us on the grounds of a pathological desire for privacy combined with an uncharacteristic attack of confusion: apparently he didn't understand that the definition of partner applied in his circumstances

I don't believe that claiming that you couldn't quite make sense of the commons rules about partnership, when you're simultaneously asking us to trust you to take a financial scalpel to society, is coherent. Either you're a very bright and clever person who can make sense of very complicated things, or you're not. If you got that wrong, and you really thought you'd got it right, how can you be so confident that axing the Future Jobs Fund is the right thing to do? How can you be confident that a brake on public spending isn't going to tip us into another recession? You didn't even realise that the lover you've lived with for a decade was your partner!

He cited the lack of joint bank accounts and separate social lives as the reasons why they weren't partners. Fantastic - hundreds of thousands of unmarried couples around the country can presumably start declaring themselves single parent families for the calculation of their family tax credit, because they don't have a joint account and she never goes with him to darts on a Thursday night?

Or... was he suggesting that there are different rules for gay people?

The burden of internalised homophobia is no doubt heavy for David Laws, but I don't really want my leaders dragging that kind of luggage around with them. Ignoring the possible influence it might have on their actual decision making, and the message it sends about his willingness to demand a society in which everybody is free to be themselves, it's a headfuck.

I don't want my leaders keeping huge personal secrets. The drain emotional and psychological energy. And if they don't then the keeper is barely human, and just as unsuitable for public office.

Apparently Alexander will be protected because it's just too embarrassing to go through 2 chief secretaries in a weekend. And Laws will be back, because greed and fraud and deception are forgivable in bright posh people, just not the estate-dwelling scum who play the system so that their kids don't miss out on school trips.

A final thought: I do not believe that David Cameron didn't know about David Laws. On the day he became PM, his security advisers will have asked him if he'd like to share the names of the people he's intending to appoint. If certain names came up, the advisers will have invited him to read a pertinent excerpt from the individual's file. I just can't believe that the fact that Laws is a closeted gay man didn't come up. If they couldn't put that together with his expenses record to make 4 then we should all be worried about what other skeletons are rattling in our cabinet's cupboards.

A Conservative might well give Alexander a pat on the back for his clever tax avoidance, but Laws? Knowing the public mood, Cameron must have realised that if it came to light it would destroy him - at least temporarily - and do irreparable damage to the reputation of the Lib Dems as the 'good guys'.

In Spain, we keep a jar of fish heads and tails to attract the wasps and flies away from where we're eating. It works rather well.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Like Bees To Honey - Chapter 1

We are very pleased to be hosting the first chapter of Like Bees To Honey on our blog by the wonderful Caroline Smailes.

You can go on a blog journey reading different chapters from the book, to see the previous chapter head over to Caroline's blog.

To move on and read the second chapter go visit Helen Redfern's blog.

And if you would like to buy a copy then you can whizz over to Amazon.