There is a man who is gay and he rents some rooms from another man who is his landlord and to whom he, naturally, pays rent. He then forms a relationship with this man who is also gay and who is still his landlord.
And all this is fine and above board as far as parliament goes. Then in 2006 the rules change and he now has a choice in declaring his position: he either has to stop paying his landlord, who is now his partner, any rent, or he has to leave his partner. Not an easy choice. He hasn't let anyone know he is gay: now he has to declare it. His relationship to his partner is broken either way.
Then the Telegraph runs the news, and its three glorious hacks can take considerable pride in exposing another freeloading MP. Our fearless reporters expose corruption! Though the rule only came in 2006, their trembling, morally indignant finger points to the fact that David Laws has been paying rent to the man who is his landlord, who had after a little while become his partner, for eight years!
The Daily Telegraph's Expenses Files show that between 2004 and 2007, Mr Laws claimed between £700 and £950 a month to sublet a room in a flat in Kennington, south London.
So two of those years were perfectly legal, and one of those years postdated the rules.
Something is rather wrong here. Anyone who imagines that newspapers are there to keep our moral streets clean is, of course, deluded. They are there for one purpose only: to sell newspapers. The good they do - and it is a vital good - is incidental and morally neutral from the paper's point of view. The papers will write and thunder morality, and while some of the columnists and many of the reporters do an honest job - operating morally within a morally neutral territory - the more the paper thunders the more hollow it sounds.
There always has been yellow journalism, but there were various shades of yellow. Now it's much the same yellow anywhere. The three fearless reporters want only a good story and the sense of achievement in affecting change. Any change. Because only change is news. The Telegraph is now fully and finally yellow.
I loathed the MP corruption scandal from the start - not for those who indulged in serious corruption, but for those who might possibly have erred in one or other small way, sometimes without even knowing it. For them it has been tragedy - I can think of one or two in particular for whom this was the case - for the papers it's cash PLUS moral high-ground. Except the high-ground is built on a pile of manure.
I really don't want the press to come moral with me too often.