Whilst I do sympathise with David Laws’s situation and how hard it must have been for him to have covered up his sexuality for so long, he broke the law and on balance he should go. Certain things do not add up. Even though I believe he wasn’t claiming tax payer’s money in order to gain anything financially, couldn’t there have been another route to financing it through his own money seeing as he is a millionaire? Funding it through public money is hardly the most private way to go about it.
The stress of the cover up may be a reason for why he used the tax payer’s money. Regardless, remember Jacqui Smith? When she found out that her husband had been watching porn behind her back using her expenses (a very personal matter), this didn’t stop people and the press using it to fuel the fire. There was no real attempt to sympathise with what she must have felt like, the public embarrassment and also the news that her husband was using her money to watch other women. There was no consideration of her personal feelings, people didn’t care – she had broken the law. Whilst I am not claiming that Laws should face personal criticism as Smith did, it is just a useful comparison to bare in mind.
It is however, rather worrying that the newspapers have been looking for something to ‘out’ Laws with, and that this expense scandal has only just been published – looking as though it was something that the Telegraph had stored away for a rainy day. Newspapers outing people is not the way things should be. However, how do you write the story without mentioning it? Or are you saying that the newspaper should never have reported it? The fact is, this can result in the danger of using ‘special treatments’ if the newspaper has to bend over backwards to hide the truth – it is much like things such as all-women shortlists – people should not be treat differently as a way to overcome the prejudice around difference. The detail that Laws is a homosexual is important for the story, it relates to the controversy of how to define ‘partner’, it relates to why Laws even did it in the first place. I repeat, should none of this been reported? Is it really homophobic to report a case of fraud? But again, the timing of the ‘outing’ is concerning and something that should be looked into.
The fact is, this is politics. Sooner or later, especially in the current context, Laws was going to be found out. It puts the government in a hard position. If they are serious about trying to create an era of ‘new politics’ it is going to be hard to keep him. However, Laws acts as a clear bridge between the Tories and LibDems, as interestingly from the reports it looks as though Laws would have joined the Tories if they had a better record in terms of gay rights. My guess is that Laws will keep his job, but instead of this being beneficial for gay rights, I think it will undermine them.