David Laws has just apologised to the House of Commons in a short statement listened to in sombre silence. Laws stressed that he was glad that the commissioner and the committee had accepted that his motivation had been to protect his privacy not to enrich himself. Indeed, Laws pointed out — somewhat boldly — that there had been ‘no adverse effect’ for the taxpayer from his arrangements as he could have claimed more.
The report and the punishment are harsher on Laws than many expected. But given that the coalition needs him and, as David has noted, that Laws’ own explanation for why he broke the rules has been accepted, I think Laws is a contender to return in the March 2012 reshuffle.
Laws’ return to government would certainly strengthen both the Lib Dems and the coalition. Lib Dems who can make a convincing case for deficit reduction and public service reform are in short supply.
UPDATE: I’m asked why I think there’ll be a reshuffle in 2012, the reason is that this is the date Downing Street has long had penciled in. David Cameron has said that he wants to get away from the idea of an annual cull of ministers, which rules out a full Cabinet reshuffle this year.