David Laws is so much associated in the political class’s minds with economic issues that there were eyebrows raised in some quarters when his governmental comeback from the wilderness proved to be in Sarah Teather’s old job at Education. But any doubts about his passion for his new brief were dispelled last night when he addressed a wine and canapé reception put on by Camden Liberal Democrats at Swiss Cottage School. It was hardly his fault that he arrived an hour late; he had been stuck on a train coming down from North East England where he had been visiting some turn-around schools that have benefitted from the Pupil Premium. The Pupil Premium is one of the most successful innovations of the Coalition government — and the result of Liberal Democrat pressure — with the transformational ability to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with other problems that might formerly have condemned them to failure. It deserves to be better known; in my home borough of Tower Hamlets it has made a huge difference. So much for the Opposition’s fatuous claim that this government only cares for the rich. It is also thanks to the LibDems, of course, that lowest earners in our society are being taken out of income tax altogether. But back to David Laws, who sometimes gets tarred with the accusation from social Liberals that he is a pseudo-Tory. It’s true that he is probably the Conservatives’ favourite LibDem Minister, but that is in recognition of his undoubted intelligence and capability. What came over clearly in Swiss Cottage last night was that he is a man of compassion and radical zeal as well.
Posts Tagged ‘David Laws’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th January, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th November, 2012
David Laws, the Minister of State for Schools and the Cabinet Office, was billed to speak at a bangers-and-mash supper at the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath this evening and Liberal Democrats from the three boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bromley — plus me — arrived prepared to quiz him quite firmly on issues such as his somewhat disparaging recent remarks about teachers and how he would justify some of the Coalition’s economic policies. But as so often happens with Ministers (and indeed MPs) he cancelled, because of other obligations, during the afternoon. So in through the door marched Party President Tim Farron instead. Now if David Laws might have felt like Daniel in the lions’ den, Tim found himself amongs a group of purring pussy-cats. Well, almost. He has a manner that can charm the proverbial birds off the trees and part of his widespread appeal across the party is that he acknowledges the mistakes that have been made in government, and where he has not agreed with what the government was doing. And not being a Minister he has a greater freedom to range more widely than many of his colleagues. He is undoubtedly closer to the ideological soul of LibDem activists than some. In the Q&A session after his speech, he was asked where he thought Britain was heading in its relations with the EU and he reaffirmed the party’s strong commitment to the UK’s need to be at the heart of Europe. He said he believed that the mood of the country means that we would probably never join the euro, which is the one major point on which I disagreed with him when I made a short speech myself on EU matters later in the meal. There may well come a time when it would be our interest to join the single currency, albeit not in the short-term, but the question remains whether our partners would open the door if the British Conservatives continue to handle dealings with them so ham-fistedly.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 29th May, 2010
When a Sunday newspaper contacted me earlier today to ask what I thought about the unfolding David Laws affair, I said I thought he had been silly but not dishonest. Since then, he has resigned following revelations in the Daily Telegraph that he claimed allowances for accommodation in the London home of his male lover, and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has accepted his resignation. I think this is a pity. The more sensible thing would have been for David Laws to tender his resignation and for David Cameron and Nick Clegg to have graciously refused it. David Laws was — and is — the perfect man for the job of Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the fact that he got into a pickle over his second home allowances because he felt unable to admit publicly the nature of his relationship with his landlord is as much a reason for sympathy as for condemnation. Several prominent members of the previous Labour government had behaved far more heinously with their expenses.
But who is this David Laws, who was a total stranger to most of the British public, before being propelled into high office by the Coalition? Born in 1965, he grew up in Surrey and was educated at a Roman Catholic school before going to King’s College, Cambridge, where he got a double first in economics. He went into the City, being immediately recognised as a high flyer, working at J P Morgan and Barclays de Zoete Wedd. In 1994, having already made a packet, he gave way to his political bent, becoming an economics advisor to the Liberal Democrats. He fought Folkestone and Hythe (against the Tory Home Secretary, Michael Howard) before becoming the Liberal Democrats’ Director of Policy and Research. His big political break came with Paddy Ashdown’s decision to stand down in Yeovil and his adpotion for the seat. Once in Parliament, he became the LibDem ‘shadow’ Chief Secretary to the Treasury, little realising that the real thing would soon be in sight. He is much respected within the party, though his strait-laced demeansour and permanent suits give the impression of unapproachability. Of course, now we know that behind that facade there is a different reality. Perhaps now he has been brought down, he can let his other side develop more naturally. In the meantime, our continental neighbours will laugh at yet another case of perfidious Albion getting its knickers in a twist over a scandal involving both sex and money. But in truth, it is no laughing matter and the Daily Telegraph should be ashamed of what it has brought about. It is nothing short of a tragedy and the last thing the country needed when the new government has to try to get it out of the current economic mess.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th February, 2010
The House of Commons will be a duller place when Phil Willis MP stands down at the forthcoming general election. Not only has he been a tremendous local champion for his constituents in Harrogate and Knaresborough, but he has also entertained people up and down the country on the so-called rubber chicken circuit. Orpington Liberal Club, of course, does not do rubber chicken; its catering is renowned among LibDems throughout South East London and North West Kent. So too the quality and quantity of its wines at its periodic Wine, Wit and Wisdom evenings, at one of which Phil Willis starred last night, in support of local PPC David McBride. Even if one of Phil’s jokes was stolen from the late Russell Johnston, it was a bravura performance. One can well see how he managed to command respect at the huge comprehensive of which he used to be Headmaster in Leeds, as well as among the Harrogate ladies who take tea at Betty’s. He was a first-rate Education spokemsan for the Liberal Democrats (a role now filled with a different sort of panache by David Laws), and even if he has got himself in hot water recently in some quarters with his calls to end NHS funding for homeopathic remedies, he is much loved and will be much missed on the green benches.