David Blackburn

Can he stay or must he go?

Can he stay or must he go?
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Paul Waugh and Matthew D’Ancona are debating whether David Laws will stay or go. D’Ancona is plain that Laws must go; Waugh wonders if this is an ‘Ecclestone moment’ and that Cameron and Clegg will dig in. John Rentoul agrees with Waugh.

Laws’s situation looks bleak, and Andrew Grice concludes that Laws is no longer master of his fate. But it is not hopeless and Laws can survive. Laws is indispensible to the coalition - especially with left-wing Lib Dems Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes increasingly intent on dissent. Second, who would replace him? There’s more talent on Virgin TV than there is on the blue and yellow benches, and the government cannot afford instability at the Treasury with the emergency budget looming. It’s a case of what colonial administrators described as the ‘Lagos principle’: you’d rather be competently governed by crooks than lorded-over by incompetent saints.

Third, Laws acted with speed and dignity yesterday evening; and it is early enough in the coalition’s infancy for him to withstand the scandal with Clegg and Cameron’s support. Fourth, his transgressions are past, not current. Fifth his homosexuality may help him. There is a sense that Laws has been ‘outed’ – with typical charity, The Sun used that very expression. Laws will attract sympathy. His expense claims were modest and there is no question of him having perverted the rules to maximise profit; the same cannot be said for many other cabinet ministers. Laws was trying to protect his privacy. Of course, public money should not have subsidised that. If Clegg and Cameron’s cabinet are all honourable men in this new political era, then Laws must resign.