Coalition’s doing awfully well, don’t you think? It began as an exciting opportunity for two political parties, instead of just one, to share the spoils of office. Now, at the present rate of turnover, every Tory and Liberal Democrat backbencher should get a shot at ministerial office by the time the five years of power the coalition is gerrymandering for itself has elapsed. Just 18 days into the New Politics, David Laws, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, resigned for reasons that, to the untutored eye, look very similar to the old politics.
In his reply to Laws’ letter of resignation, David Cameron told him: “You are a good and honourable man.” That is good to know. So, why is he leaving the Government?
The little local difficulty was that Laws, over an eight-year period, had claimed more than £40,000 in expenses, against the parliamentary rules. It seems that further expenses remain to be scrutinised. According to The Daily Telegraph: “He also regularly claimed up to £150 a month for utilities and £200 a month for service and maintenance until parliamentary authorities began demanding receipts. Claims then dropped to only £37 a month for utility bills and £74 a month for his share of the council tax. Claims for service, maintenance and repairs dropped dramatically to less than £25 a month.”
It is fortunate that we are dealing here with a good and honourable man, otherwise some people might put an uncharitable construction on those facts. Cameron went on to say in his reply to Laws: “I am sure that, throughout, you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else.” Reading that and the similar drivel that has cascaded out of the establishment over the past 24 hours, one would think that Laws was under some compelling duress to take £40,000 of taxpayers’ money in order to protect his privacy. On the contrary, his privacy was only invaded because he had taken public money.
Once an individual claims any kind of state subsidy, his privacy is forfeit: the humblest benefits recipient could confirm that. The one certain way to have preserved his privacy was for Laws to have claimed no money – as he could easily have afforded to do. Laws is a multi-millionaire as a result of his previous career in banking: he was a vice-president of J P Morgan and then the managing director of Barclays de Zoete Wedd, before he was 30. That an MP with that kind of personal wealth elected to take more than £40,000 from the taxpayer says it all about politicians’ sense of entitlement.
It was that sense of entitlement that brought him down. His private life was revealed by Laws himself, in a transparent attempt to claim victimhood. To some degree that ploy succeeded, as the Dianafication of the former Chief Secretary among his colleagues and some elements of the media over the past 24 hours testifies. Cameron’s letter also said: “Your decision to resign from the Government demonstrates the importance you attach to your integrity.” It is good to have that on record, Dave, otherwise we might have imagined it had something to do with greed, media exposure and public anger.
Among the political nomenklatura much emphasis is being put on the likelihood that Laws will return to government. That is an expression of the resentment felt by the Entitled Ones that the public’s unreasonable touchiness about the disposal of taxpayers’ money has momentarily compelled them to abandon one of their own; but if the mug punters of the electorate think they have the final say they will be taught the error of their ways. The significance of the Laws affair is it signals that the sleaze which dominated the last parliament has leaped the fire-break of the general election to infect the New Politics. Anybody who ever imagined it would be otherwise is cerebrally challenged.
Another symptom of business as usual last week was HM Revenue and Customs blocking the peerage Cameron intended to bestow on Sir Anthony Bamford, a prominent Conservative Party donor. A minority of the public has succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome towards the political parasite class, masochistically decrying the exposure of Laws and giving him the “Parnell, my dead king!” treatment. The majority, however, has already shrugged off the momentary euphoria of the New Politics, assessed the situation and rightly concluded of its political masters: “They’re at it again.”
Less than a week ago I wrote that the Cameron project “has the smell of political death about it” – at a time when coalition scepticism ranked close to “climate denial” in establishment obloquy. The coalition is already unravelling, subverted by its own internal contradictions. Vince Cable has been passed over for Treasury office – the only role he deems worthy of his talents – twice in one month: the core of the Lib Dem reactor is close to meltdown. Dave is a loser: he lost the election, he lost the fight he picked with the 1922 Committee and now he has lost David Laws. This Government will end in epic disaster.