David Laws was motivated by a desire to keep his sexuality a secret. Not by money.
By Tim Montgomerie
Last year, shortly after he became Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws rose to near the top of the ConservativeHome Cabinet league table. Tory members recognised David Laws as a Liberal Democrat who shared the same fiscal conservatism that they believed in. He was immediately in charge of the House of Commons at the despatch box. For the Liberal Democrats here was a man who was so trusted by George Osborne that they would have someone at the centre of economic power in the government*.
When he resigned last year after revelations about his private life and associated use of parliamentary expenses it was hoped that he might make a swift return to the government frontbench. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened and won’t happen. The parliamentary inquiry has operated at a snail-like pace, taking a year to report, and has now concluded that Mr Laws DID break Commons rules. He’ll be branded a rule-breaker by all those people who won’t look behind the parliamentary commissioner’s headline findings or who don't want to.
Those that do, however, look beyond the headline findings will discover that the commissioner agrees that Mr Laws only broke the rules because of his desire for secrecy about his sexuality and his wish to hide the fact that he was living with another man. This was not a money-grabbing exercise. The commissioner concludes that Mr Laws could have claimed more allowance if money was his goal. We know that Mr Laws didn’t enter politics for profit. He left a high-paying job in the City to work for the Liberal Democrats for £14,000 (for three years) and £25,000 (for another two years).
The whole episode is very sad. Sad for Mr Laws that he felt unable to be honest. Sad for the Coalition that the most talented of Liberal Democrats won’t be rejoining the frontbench anytime soon.
* It is worth stating, however, that Danny Alexander, after a hesitant start, has emerged as an effective Chief Secretary. It is also notable that he has quietly got on with the job in recent weeks. He hasn’t added to the noises off from the likes of Cable and Huhne.