Saturday, May 29, 2010

David Laws' resignation is a victory for David Cameron's enemies on the Tory right

The timing of the revelations about David Laws' expense claims was, as they say, no coincidence.

It was a clear attempt by the Conservative diehards clustered around the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator* to undermine the coalition by bringing down the person who has already emerged as one of its central figures.

David Laws' resignation this evening is a blow to the coalition.

It may be possible to find someone can display his obvious competence and command of his brief, but Laws' importance went beyond that.

He was a Liberal Democrat who was universally respected by Conservative MPs. That quality will be a lot harder to replicate, as Danny Alexander may soon learn.

* Later: To be fair (as footballers all say nowadays) Fraser Nelson has just posted a very wise article ("This resignation is a disaster for our public life, the coalition and the nation's finances") on the Spectator's Coffee House blog.

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wolfi said...

Why did Laws hide his homosexuality ?

In Germany we have several leading gay politicians: Our foreign minister, the Mayors of Berlin and Hamburg and so on - coming from all democratic parties.

Is Britain so backward in that espect that they can't accept a gay politician ?

Lavengro said...

In Spain we know what a politically-involved press can do. In 1936 a Spanish newspaper (ABC) chartered the plane that took Franco from the Canaries, where the Republican government had shunted him out of the way, to Morocco, where he raised the African army against the legitimate government of his country.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Mr Laws claimed expenses for paying rent which it turned out to be to someone with whom he had a close personal relationship.

That is wrong. We know full well that had an MP from another party claimed expenses to pay rent which turned out to be paid to a husband or wife or someone who though not legally such was in an equivalent closeness, we would be down on that MP, howling abuse about "snouts in the trough".

Mr Laws did not have to claim those expenses. I understand he is a very rich man, so he does not need them, and as we see they were being "kept in the family".

Anyone who claimed housing benefit for rent that was actually paid to a husband or wife would be dealt with very severely. A rich man who is dealt with leniently when a poor man in the same circumstances would not be is a matter of shame to those who discriminate in favour of the rich that way.

We are told Mr Laws is very clever. Maybe he is, though it seems these days the right-wing press use "clever" to mean "has strong and simplistic views very much in favour of the free market economy". Is there anyone who has left-wing views or is more sceptical about the free-market who is termed "clever"? Well, I can't think of any. It's like "obviously the next person to lead the party" which is commentariat-speak for "went to a posh school like us". But anyway, were Mr Laws truly clever, he would not have claimed these expenses. Simple.

I don't care a fig for whether Mr Laws is gay or not, and if we were truly free of bias in that way I rather feel we would be finding it harder to defend him.

It is obviously a personal tragedy for him, well, tough. When I was a council group leader I had to stand over and get a member to resign after he had fiddled a benefits claim. It was a personal tragedy for that person as well. But since that person was not rich, not clever, did not have right-wing views on economics, and not gay, no-one stood in his defence like all these standing up for Mr Laws.

dreamingspire said...

Maybe David Laws flew too near the sun.

I don't buy this apocalyptic consequence prediction. Danny Alexander was already being written off by one media commentator last night, but he's a Scot and one hopes canny. If Cameron has to put a little more effort into disciplining Whitehall now, so be it - a double act with Alexander would be a good follow-up to Laws. Perhaps add Hammond to the mix - starting with his own dept.

And what does disciplining Whitehall mean? Reminding a number of them about all those reports (formal and informal) into their lack of competence.

Mark said...

As a Labour supporter I was quite happy to give the coalition a couple of years before hoping for an implosion - give us the chance to re-group, win a load of local councils and get a new front bench team in place.

It seems like the Tory right are working on a much narrower timeframe - like a month...

Lavengro said...

One point that is missed, which would explain why he chose to claim less than he was entitled to in order to protect his privacy, is that in 2006 there was a change inthe rules. Before that he was, presumably, declaring his payments to Landie correctly under the existing rules. After the change he should have stopped paying Landie but had he done so the sheet-sniffing reptiles of the British press would certainly have noticed, and might very well have done to him what they had done to another public figure who valued his privacy, Nigel Hawthorne, a few years earlier. Faced with the practical certainty of being outed and pilloried by the reptiles or carrying on as he was and hoping that nobody would notice, he seems to have chosen the latter course even though he lost out financially as a result.

And I do not blame him in the slightest.