David Laws, now at the Treasury, has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Specifically, paying rent out of his expenses to his gay lover for a room in his house. The guidelines clearly state MPs cannot pay rent to ‘partners’. Laws was, until yesterday, in the closet.
The question is, why now? As ever — cui bono — who benefits?
The material used for this ‘scoop’ came out last summer. It’s been readily available for a long time. It’s possible that the Telegraph — which presumably has reservations about the Lib Dem — Conservative alliance — is behind this hatchet job. But somehow I doubt that.
The Telegraph alone doesn’t really benefit from this. It seems logical that, given the timing, they were given outside help — a source — pointed them in the direction of Laws expenses and told them what to look for. Otherwise this would have come out much sooner.
So who’s the source?
I can’t point fingers. I can only speculate. But just as the Tories are having trouble with their traditional, authoritarian right wing in this coalition, so to are the Lib Dems having trouble with their ‘social democratic’ left.
Vince Cable, a leader on the social democratic left, resigned as Deputy leader of the Lib Dems this week, to rampant speculation. At the very least, it’s an orchestrated attempt to put a left-leaning Lib Dem in the deputy position, whilst also being in a position to be able to be ‘outside the tent, pissing in.’
I’m not saying that Cable himself is responsible. There’s no evidence for that. But taking these events cumulatively, this is beginning to look like an orchestrated response by the Lib Dem left to reassert control of the party. Laws is a leading figure on the right of his party and a key member of the coalition. He has the guts — and the balls — to cut spending where it’s needed. And a lot of people in his own party don’t like that.
The timing of this scandal is just too convenient to be coincidence.
Someone wanted Laws out. I speculate that it’s the Lib Dem left. Cable is unhappy about being marginalized. And the wider Lib Dem left is unhappy about the right-of-centre direction their party in coalition is taking. It only takes one disgruntled staffer or activist who feels ‘betrayed’ by the coalition to rock the boat.
Laws has been caught out. And he is in the wrong. But he has done no worse than a vast number of MPs from all parties have done. The expenses scandal is old news. They were all at it. We know. In the wider context of things, the £40,000 he paid to his lover is a pretty small sum. In fact, had he been living alone, he would have been claiming more.
Laws is key to this coalition. It will be significantly weakened without him. Aside from having more than a whiff of prurience about his homosexuality, which is really nobody’s business, this scandal strikes me as being part of an orchestrated campaign to wreck the coalition from within.
Why call for Laws’ resignation when Michael Gove is allowed to sit on the front bench after much more serious evidence of home ‘flipping’ and abuse of parliamentary expenses?
I have been truly optimistic about this coalition. It’s a good thing. For the first time in two generations we have a truly classically liberal government dedicated to cutting taxes, starting with the poorest, to incentivise work.
Any attempt to remove Laws from his position is a calculated attack designed to weaken the coalition’s stance.
Laws should apologise and resist calls for his resignation. He has a job to do. And as a principled, intellectual, classical liberal, he’s a linchpin in the current coalition arrangement.
This is a smear campaign, no doubt about it. Whose? I’m not sure. Who benefits from seeing Laws’ name dragged through the dirt? Laws fucked up. But he should apologise and get on with his job.
I for one would rather judge him by his actions in government, by how many billions he’s able to save the British taxpayer, rather than by the paltry sum of £40,000 he’s taken at our expense.
Laws broke the rules in opposition. He’s been in government a couple of weeks. I say let’s give him a tabula rasa — a blank slate. Give the man the chance to redeem himself. Let his future actions amend for any past mistakes. Don’t take away one of the new government’s rising stars. The British people have a strong sense of fairness and to my mind giving David Laws a chance to redeem himself and do a service for his country is much better than letting him slink into the night in disgrace.
The man made a mistake. It shouldn’t cost him his career. And if we lose him, it may cost the country much, much more.
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