Three questions remain unanswered about the rapid and regrettable departure of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
- Why did a man of his undoubted intelligence get himself into such a pickle in the first place?
- Did he not realise that, to the press/public mind the details would look like one of the more lurid tales to emerge from the Expenses scandal?
- Why did the Telegraph apparently sit on the information until now when much of it must have been known weeks if not months ago?
Laws says that he wanted to keep his sexuality a private matter. No-one surely would deny his right to do that. To avoid the possibility of the ‘scandal’ that has engulfed him, however, he would have been wiser not to live with his partner, pretending that the relationship between them was purely landlord-tenant. Alternatively he could have acknowledged that he was living with his partner and that he had, with him, a second home in London. He could have claimed ACA on the mortgage, depending on which he designated as his second home but he wouldn’t be able to tell the electors of Yeovil recently that his only home was in Yeovil; a point he made much of in the General Election campaign. It is probable that, if he had been open about it from the start, the electors of Yeovil would have voted for him just the same and he wouldn’t have been vulnerable to lurid revelations such as those on yesterdy’s Telegraph front page.
Of course, a few weeks ago he probably didn’t expect to be a Cabinet Minister quite so soon. Certainly for most of the years in question the possibility simply didn’t arise, unless he were to defect to either the Tories or Labour. And, by comparison with Labour and the Tories, the Lib Dems had come out of the Telegraph’s Expenses Scandal of last year looking rather snowy white. Lib Dem MPs and candidates made much of this at the GE – among them David Laws, who boasted of not having been required to pay back anything after the enquiry, unlike Tory Oliver Letwin in a nearby constituency, who had to pay back over £3000. We shall see what the Commissioner for Standards concludes in this case.
One can only guess at the Telegraph’s motives in making these revelations now and not before the Election or last year. It’s possible they only just found out, though their relentless pursuit of so many over minor issues about duck houses and moats suggests they may have had a lot of this material on file for some time. They certainly seem to know a great deal about the financial side of Mr. Laws relationship stretching back to 2001. Sadly I think the Telegraph has gone into something of a decline since the Barclay Brothers took it over. I do not suggest they should have suppressed this story, but I do wonder at the timing of its release.