Sunday 30 May 2010

David Laws

There's been a lot of comment about David Laws. His resignation is a blow not so much to the coalition and Conservative/Lib Dem co-operation but to the resolution of our financial problems. He had more intelligence and credibility than most to identify and sell necessary cuts in public sector expenditure.

So if you believe the financial situation is by far the most important problem facing this country, is it right that a brief media campaign can force out someone very well (if not best) qualified to help sort it out? Especially as the amount he actually claimed was much less than he could have claimed. My first thought was that as he had been reasonable there was no story and he should have stayed. But at the end of the day, he does appear to have claimed the wrong amounts and he did not take advantage of the quasi amnesty last year when all the fuss was going on to clean up his disclosures. This suggests a lack of judgement. He also would not have had the credibility to do his job properly. And lastly: it is important for the new Government that they are seen as clean. So he had to go.

As far as the economic situation is concerned, I know nothing about the new Chief Secretary, but he will have loads of help and lots of market pressure forcing him to cut expenditure. So as always, no-one is indispensible.

The intriguing thing for me, though, is why did the story come out now? Was it the Telegraph just being good jounalists and checking out the stars of the new cabinet? Or was it because Laws' "whiter than white" attitude annoyed people? Or did Liam Byrne (his predecessor) or Vince Cable (shown up as economically inept) resent him? Or was it disaffected Tories or jealous Lib Dems who tipped the Telegraph off? This is the part of the story we'll probably never learn, and the part that will be the best indicator of the strength of the coalition. Guido has more on the conspiracy theories here.

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