Sunday, 30 May 2010

David Laws: Almost A Record Breaker

The shortest ever British Cabinet career was that of George Nugent Temple Grenville, who during 1783 was Foreign Secretary for three days. In recent times, the politician with the shortest Cabinet career is Peter Mandelson, who was forced to resign after barely six months in 1998. He later returned to the Cabinet, but had to resign a second time. During 1992, David Mellor lasted just five months as Heritage Secretary.

Now, we have Liberal Democrat David Laws. Treasury axeman for just seventeen days, and the first coalition casualty. Yesterday Laws resigned, after it was revealed he'd directed more than £40,000 of taxpayers’ money to his secret lover James Lundie. As well as questioning his financial probity, the revelations have meant Laws has had to deal with coming out; it's thought he had never discussed his sexuality with his family.

Pillsbury, the creature Osbourne, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have expressed regret at Laws' resignation. Immediately he was replaced by Lib Dem Danny Alexander, one of the great architects behind the coalition agreement. John Lyon, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, will now examine whether Mr Laws paid his lover reasonable amounts. As yet it's not at all clear Laws breached allowances rules, but he was so devastated by the combined impact of disclosures about his sexuality and his financial arrangements that he felt he had to go.

Though Laws was in post for under three weeks, he certainly left his mark. Firstly, he made public the disgraceful note left on his desk by his predecessor, Liam 'Little Prick' Byrne, which said: "I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left." Then, he pulled out of the BBC's 'Question Time' last week after Labour refused to withdraw Alastair Campbell as its spokesman on the programme. So did Laws make himself a target?

It's a sad fact that even today, without the gay element and for some the associated prurience, this story simply would not have been as big. What caused the Daily Telegraph to trawl their expenses files once again? Was it a tip-off from somebody's dirty-tricks department about the nature of David Laws' relationship with Mr Lundie? In a perfect world, Laws' wish to keep his personal life private while holding high office would have been upheld; in reality, it was always doomed.

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