Comment at end
30th May 2010
UPDATE, 1st June: As I suggested below the other day, David Laws is to advise his successor, Danny Alexander, in the Big Cuts job. Hardly needs an Oxbridge double first to work out that eventuality.
A PERSONAL SETBACK, PERHAPS EVEN TRAGIC IN CERTAIN TERMS. THAT’S ALL.
Lest we humble voters join the ConDems and half of the press in a state of communal sobbing over David Laws’ speedy demise, let me splash a little cold water on perturbed faces.
- It ISN’T a national tragedy that he has done the inevitable.
- No-one is indispensable.
- The economic recovery does NOT depend on David Laws being at The Treasury. If it does, the ConDems need to call an election.
- His advice can still be sought by his successor Danny Alexander and the ConDem leadership. He hasn’t been struck mute.
- The man will not be required to wear sackcloth and ashes for his “sins”, unlike A N Other, a man whose success is proven and historical even in his own lifetime.
- Until the fall of Laws, and still today in other arenas outwith ConDemmery and their following press, anyone who had made a million in the City before he was 30 would have been looked on suspiciously as a capitalist money-grubbing banker, and instantly dismissed as untrustworthy and PERSONALLY REPONSIBLE for our current state of economic affairs.
- Disappearing off the political scene before one has had a chance to mess things up is a better legacy, it would seem, than actually doing anything.
- This situation, notwithstanding its personal pain, says something about Mr Laws’ judgement.
- For five years Mr Laws did what was clearly against the rules, regardless if the rules are a touch unfair.
- He may or may not be an “honourable man” in most ways that the word means anything, but his judgement has been brought into focus.
- We are entitled to try to recall if Mandelson or even Blair or Brown were descibed as “honourable” by so many when they left office.
- We are entitled to wonder if personal empathy for Mr Laws is replacing common sense.
- Mr Laws will be back. Perhaps sooner than he deserves to be.
I suppose it won’t be long before some are calling for the economic equivalent of a Nobel Prize for Mr Laws. After all, he promised so much. And we all know that promise is more reliable if harder to quantify than the enactment of politics in the raw. Until it isn’t. Then we call them corrupt, lying b******s. Even the best of them. Those who’ve actually done something.
Clearly it is better to “die” and disappoint than to live and really disappoint.
The BBC is reporting that David Laws has resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after admitting he claimed £40,000 of expenses to pay rent to his partner. That was fast, I really did not see him going. I thought he would ride it out.
He quite deserved to go. He is a millionaire banker who had no need to be claiming public money to pay his partner’s mortgage.
Laws said: “I do not see how I can carry out my crucial work on the Budget and spending review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent revelations.
“I can’t escape the conclusion that what I did was somehow wrong.”
It wasn’t “somehow” Mr Laws simply wrong period. The cookie jar it seems is too tempting no matter how much money you have already made in a successful City career.
It is probably worth reminding people what Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said in the first TV election debate: “There are still people who haven’t taken full responsibility for some of the biggest abuses of the system.” He wasn’t making that up.
And Alastair Campbell has this – (my red highlights, where I thought exactly the same as Campbell. Oh the irony, Mr Nicely, Nicely Nick of Liberal Democracy.)
Cameron/Clegg will be regretting their expenses sanctimoniousness
“Am about to leave for the Beeb to do my first broadcast interview on Prelude to Power, with Jon Sopel on The Politics Show.
So just a quick word or two on the David Laws fallout. As I tweeted last night, I feel some personal sympathy for Laws, (which didn’t go down well with my followers) but none for David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who both milked the expenses scandal for all it was worth, Cameron getting four stars for sanctimoniousness, Clegg the full five. If there is one good thing to come out of this, it might make them feel less prone to mount a high horse whenever a bandwagon is passing.
Cameron had found the man he felt had what it took to take the axe to public services, whilst sharing the political pain between two parties, and will be hoping the inquiry clears him and perhaps he can have him back at a later date. Clegg just wanted to prevent any lasting contamination of the Lib Dem brand.
But as I read Cameron’s letter, and watched Clegg’s Soviet-style doorstep to a single, seemingly unmanned camera, I couldn’t help thinking of their previous contributions on expenses.
So as they now try to turn this from a story of expenses to a story of a human tragedy – which it is – do not forget it is also a story about leadership. If Laws, in Cameron and Clegg’s eyes, did nothing wrong – and their statements would suggest that is their basic take – and if he is so brilliant, then they might have put up more of a fight to keep him.
But where it is really a story of leadership is in what the whole expenses issue says about Cameron and the Tories. Both he and George Osborne had their issues with expenses, but had the media so far up their backsides most people have forgotten what they were.
We then saw how eagerly and how easily he was prepared to see some of his colleagues thrown to the wolves. They will be clocking the difference in his tone about them, and his tone about Laws.
But also just think back a few weeks to the day when it emerged Labour MPs charged over their expenses were seeking legal aid. Cameron, ever the opportunist, tore up his plans for the day, got a little event organised, and piled into the issue (carefully overlooking any ‘innocent till proven guilty’ type problems), saying Labour were a disgrace, and this kind of corruption and legal nonsense would never happen under him.
Their past sanctimoniousness explains why the Cameron Clegg statements sounded so hollow last night.
Clegg should use this to take stock. He came third in the election. He did not do as well as he or anyone else expected him to. Yet he is now deputy PM. That is beginning to rankle with a few people, and requires him to strike a slightly different tone.
So calm down a bit, Nick. Underclaim and over deliver. When you go around saying a ragbag of constitutional proposals – which in scale come nowhere near a Scottish Parliament, Welsh and NI Assemblies, elected mayors, FoI, Human Rights Act – represents the biggest change since the Great Reform Act (women’s votes came after that by the way) people start to wonder whether you are not inhaling your own propaganda too much.
*** Amazon link to Prelude to Power below. Hope it works. Yell if not
2. I don’t normally rate the Telegraph’s Gerald Warner. Unless I am mistaken he doesn’t rate Tony Blair. And for anyone that dumb I have a knee-jerk reaction – it jerks to about crotch level. But this time Mr Warner deserves a mention. This is engaging writing:
“Meanwhile, the inconsolable mourners will continue to bewail the loss of the People’s Treasury Chief Secretary. And, incidentally, why is the flag on the Palace still at full mast?”
Tags: alastair campbell, ConDems, conservatives, Danny Alexander, David Cameron, David Laws, Gerald Warner, liberal democrats, nick clegg, not a national tragedy, Prelude to Power, resigns, Tony Blair