Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

In Monday's Guardian, Julian Glover wrote that David Laws broke the rules of parliamentary expenses 'because he could not bring himself to reveal that he loved his landlord'.

On the same day, in the Times, Matthew Parris, Glover's civil partner, spoke of the 'stinking hypocrisy' which caused 'the fall of a good man' for no more than 'an error of judgment'. The chief object of the couple's onslaught was the Daily Telegraph, which broke the Laws story. It was the gay equivalent of being assailed by Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper at the same time. Because I work for the Telegraph, I am naturally biased, but I knew nothing of the story until I read it in the paper on Saturday, so I am not fighting my personal corner. It seems to me that Glover and Parris are missing the obvious point. It is true, as they both wrote, that many other ministers in the course of this scandal have had to pay back money, and yet have survived in office. But there is a difference between a genuine error of judgment - claiming, declaredly, for rather too expensive carpets, say - and claiming dishonestly. The latter is what Mr Laws did, by not mentioning, despite explicit rules on the matter, that his landlord was his lover. It is, indeed, understandable that Mr Laws did not want his sexuality to be known: one of the problems caused by 'gay pride' is that, like queer-bashers, it represents such an option as dishonest. But the issue here is painfully simple and has nothing to do with sexuality - Mr Laws didn't have to take public money.

Intelligent politicians and their equally intelligent friends in the press are strangely slow to see this.

An oddity of the story is that, precisely because the Telegraph was anxious not to expose Mr Laws's sexuality, it had planned to run the story in a low-key manner. It was only after it put it to Downing Street for a reaction that Mr Laws responded with a statement of contrition, in the course of which he revealed that his landlord was his sexual partner. He may have been right to do so - it avoided accusations of evasiveness - but he undoubtedly turned his own story into the 'splash'. If it made any difference at all, Mr Laws's sexual orientation probably made the press more hesitant: if he had been secretly claiming for rent paid to a female lover, he would have been undone even faster.

Years ago, I remember being told by a Tory politician who regarded David Laws highly that he agreed with Tory ideas on most points but felt that he couldn't safely join the party because of what he saw as its anti-gay attitude. So it was fitting that, by circuitous means, he ended up in a Conservativedominated government, justly admired by his Tory colleagues. Matthew Parris says that it is 'stinking hypocrisy' to want Mr Laws to come back while also arguing that he had to go.

Surely it is simply logical. He did something indefensible, so he resigned; but he is much needed in government, and so, soonish, he should come back.

The troubles of the euro should remind us of something important. For years and years, people who opposed it were described as 'head-bangers' and 'swivel-eyed'. We should wear that badge with pride, like those Conservatives who formed a Vermin Club after Aneurin Bevan said all Tories were vermin. It is only because we banged our heads for so long that it became impossible for governments of either party to take Britain into the single currency. …

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