David Laws Is Still Valuable Livestock Politically. or He Was until Yesterday; Yesterday in Quentin Letts Parliament

Article excerpt

THE House normally keeps quiet when an MP is being suspended. Gloating has long been considered poor form. There is usually an air of 'Willoughby has bought it, poor devil - there but for the grace of God go I' as the guilty MP is carted away.

So it was unusual to hear Labour MPs piling in when the House announced the red-carding of former Lib Dem Cabinet minister David Laws (Yeovil).

Mr Laws (absent yesterday) is to be banned for a week for expenses fiddles. He was judged by the Standards and Privileges Committee and found guilty of 'a series of serious breaches of the rules'. Take him down!

That would normally have been that. The House would have cleared its throat, cast its gaze at the carpet and murmured assent that the Rt Hon Member go and cool his heels for a while.

This, however, did not happen yesterday.

Instead there was a long discussion about how wicked Mr Laws had been and how other expenses fiddlers had been treated differently.

There are probably two reasons the debate took this tack. First, Mr Laws is still valuable livestock, politically. He is one of the few Lib Dems capable of high office. Or at least he was until yesterday evening's drawn-out discussion of his demerits.

Second, there has been a sense among Labour MPs that their side has taken too much of the flak re expenses. It has repeatedly been their blokes who have been whisked off to clink in the back of a Black Maria. With many Labour backbenchers thoroughly depressed by political life at present, some may have decided to break convention and 'have a go'.

The debate started with the Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young Bt, making a sorrowful speech, as short as decently possible.

Sir George is Establishment inertia made flesh. His tone is one of constant equilibrium. I don't suppose he would lose his rag even if goosed by a gay Milanese.

Next up was Labour's relevant frontbencher, Helen Jones, invariably unexciting. She was marginally more peppery than anticipated. …