Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 29th, 2010

The Rise and Fall of David Laws

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.

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