Sunday, May 30, 2010

David Laws' resignation over expenses scandal leaves coalition in turmoil.

It's a bad start to any government when they lose a senior minister this early in the government's life cycle, but for this coalition between two polar opposites, the resignation of David Laws strikes me as particularly ominous.

David Laws, appointed chief secretary to the Treasury less than three weeks ago, stood down saying that he no longer believed his position was tenable after it was revealed that he had claimed more than £40,000 to live in his partner's house. Commons rules introduced in 2006 barred such claims by MPs.

His decision marked a sudden and dramatic end to the brief honeymoon enjoyed by David Cameron's and Nick Clegg's new government. It also brought to an end one of the briefest cabinet careers in recent history.

Laws, who returned to London from his Yeovil constituency to announce his decision, said in his resignation statement at the Treasury that the previous 24 hours had been the most difficult and painful of his life.

I didn't even have time to form an opinion of the guy before he has been forced to step off of the stage.

Obviously one can read too much into these things, but it is unmistakably a shaky start.

In a letter to Cameron, he said he felt he had no option but to step down. "I do not see how I can carry on my crucial work on the budget and spending review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent revelations. At this important time the chancellor needs, in my own view, a chief secretary who is not distracted by personal troubles."

He added: "I hardly need to say how much I regret having to leave such vital work, which I feel all my life has prepared me for." Laws also said that while his decisions over his expenses had been dictated by his wish to keep his homosexuality secret, he now accepted he had done wrong. It was announced that Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem MP and Scottish secretary, would replace Laws at the Treasury.

Replying to Laws, Cameron offered hope of a future return to the government, saying he recognised it had been "an extraordinarily difficult and painful" 24 hours. "You are a good and honourable man. I am sure that throughout you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else. I hope that in time you will be able to serve again as I think it absolutely clear that you have a huge amount to offer our country."

I do agree with Cameron's conclusion that Laws appears to have been motivated by a desire to protect his privacy more than anything else, but a resignation this soon after an election can never be viewed as a good start.

Especially as Cameron came to power promising to end scandals which involved MP's expenses. This is simply the last thing that Cameron would have wanted to happen.

Click here for full article.

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