Fallen MP David Laws has claimed his expenses scandal was triggered by his low starting wage with the Lib Dems – of £14,000 a year.
Laws, 44, resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after allegations he claimed £40,000 for renting accommodation from his partner James Lundie.
He has denied suggestions he is ”incredibly rich” and says all the money he earned as a city banker was used to help fund his new career in politics.
Laws, MP for Yeovil in Somerset, says the expenses scandal was the not the result of financial gain but of his ”desire to be dishonest about my sexuality”.
He has now been photographed for the first time since he quit the Cabinet and admits his private life had been ”ridiculous” and ”bizarre”.
Laws said: ”People assume that I am incredibly rich, but actually the money that I had earned in the city went to pay for my living costs after I left the city and went to work for the Lib Dems on about £14,000 a year.
“And when I was the prospective candidate here in Yeovil I lived without any income at all when I was working alongside Paddy Ashdown.
”It seemed reasonable to pay James rent, it was permitted under the rules at he time and it was well inside the maximum available.
“And that was all fine until 2006 when the rules changed, and when you were no longer allowed to rent from partners. And I guess I must have been conscious of that, but in my mind we were not formally partners.
”We didn’t have a joint bank account, we didn’t have a will, we didn’t have a joint mortgage on anything, we never went out together with anybody else, our families didn’t know about us.
”So I suppose privately we were partners but publicly we were just landlord and friend, and I suppose I naively thought that was acceptable.
“If James came down to the constituency he did not take advantage of the free travel available to partners, so it is not as if we were trying to be partners in one way and not in another.
”We were conscious this was a much more expensive way of managing our lives than if we had just been honest about our relationship, because if we had, we could have claimed a significantly greater amount of money than we did.
“We would often say to ourselves ‘this is ridiculous’, as a consequence of having this bizarre private life, we are costing ourselves far more than if we had just been honest about things.
”To me in particular it seemed that was a price worth paying to protect our privacy.”
Speaking from his home in Chard, Somerset, Laws added that he was actually grateful the allegations had emerged – as it allowed him to come out as a homosexual.
He said: “In a way, this is not an expenses story, although it has come across as that. It is more about the mess that I have got into because of my desire to be dishonest about my sexuality.
“I would never have been able to be comfortable again and the only way we could have dealt with that would be not to have the relationship, to end it, and that is the one thing I would not be willing to do.
”To me, what is really important for people to understand is that none of the things that we did were done to make financial gain. They were done to protect our privacy.”
He added: ”We were in a strange no man’s land that most people are not in, I suppose privately behaving as partners but not publicly in any way.
“I guess it was pretty stupid really, because all of the people I have spoken to since have accepted it without hesitation: my parents, family and friends. Not being honest with them has meant a huge price over recent years.
”I have had to keep a large part of my life secret. And also I feel, as a politician, a bit of shame not to have set a better example to people who have the same issues and who might expect a bit more leadership from the top.
“I will always owe to the Daily Telegraph that they have allowed me to be more honest about who I am, and that part of it will lead to a greater happiness and sense of reconciliation in my personal life.”
Pictures courtesy Len Copland / Western Gazette