The personal and the political. They mesh to readable effect in David Laws’ interview
with the Times (£) this morning, his first since resigning from government last year. There are the observations
about his personal life, about why he concealed his sexuality and the relief of having it out in the open. And there are the political ramifications that tumble on from that. We know that Laws came
close to standing down as an MP when the scandal over his expenses first emerged, but here it is revealed that, "he would have quit as an MP last week had the commissioner rejected his
explanation that his Commons claims were to protect his privacy, not to benefit financially." The interview finishes with the former Chief Sec assuring us that, "I don’t think I want to
see another claim form for the rest of my life."
More striking, though, are Laws’ comments about the coalition — to which the Times has devoted its front page
(£). In a quietly fierce rebuke to the Huhnes and Cables of his party, he emphasises that, "Our continued effective delivery of policies depends not just on shouting and our public
profile, but on a trusting relationship between the key people in the coalition." He adds: "We could get our way over one or two key issues by storming off, voting against them, briefing
against them, whatever. But when the next key issue is on the table and we need the cooperation of everybody in the coalition, will we get it? Maybe we won’t." And then the best line of all:
"We shouldn’t be sitting around in the corner of the political room sulking about the fact that we are in government and looking forward to the opportunity when we can return to the splendid
irrelevance of Opposition."
The whole thing is a clear demonstration of why David Cameron and Nick Clegg will find it difficult to bring Laws back into government. Not only is he still shrouded by the unflattering fug of his
expense claims — which, judging by today’s revelations, might get more unflattering still — but his return could also
aggravate the left-wing of the Liberal Democrats, as well as their agents provocateurs within government. In issuing a call for unity, Laws is just clarifying one of the central divides within his
party: between those who would work more or less happily with the Tories, and those who do so bitterly.