The sad fall of David Laws
I do not want to be a hypopcrite. I am not a fan of David Laws. Contrary to some commentators, I was not impressed at the recent £6billion cuts in public spending. They represented a shockingly unprincipled U turn by the Lib Dems who had consistently opposed such cuts this year for fear of a double dip recession. And the suggestion that they did not hit the vulnerable is absolute rubbish! They were a disgrace from what once was apparently a left of centre party.
That the Lib Dems are no longer a left of centre party is in part due to David Laws. The Orange with which Laws, Clegg and Huhne were associated was a clear attempt to move the party closer to neo liberal economics of the sort associated with the party to whom the Lib Dems are now blissfully betrothed. Indeed the recent educational proposals and the assurance that Liberal Democrats will go into the lobbies to vote for it is a clear sign of the victory of Laws and co.
However, I am uneasy as to the circumstances that have brought abour Laws' downfall. Of course he has questions to answer on the subject of his expenses. Nobody should rule out the real possibility that those answers will be at least close to satisfactory and indeed I can see that he had no alternative but to step down while the matter is resolved. Still there are two matters that disturb on the David Laws story.
The first of these is the way the matter was brought into the public domain. The Daily Telegraph has had the relevant information for some time. I find it hard to believe that its publication was not to some degree related to that newspaper's campaign against Capital Gains Tax increases which have been proposed by the Liberal Democrats and accepted by the coalition. Is there not a warn across the bows for those who do not do the bidding of the Daily Telegraph? Words like blackmail come to mind.
Secondly there is the sexuality issue. Today the Sunday Telegraph says it had no intention to out Mr Laws concerning his sexuality. Yet to defend himself, it has been necessary for Laws to out himself. His actions seem to have been motivated not by a desire to cream of excess expenses but rather to protect himself from his homosexuality entering into the public domain.
Now today we like to think that we are enlightened on matters of sexuality. Yet many gay people still live with dread at disclosing their sexuality to their nearest and dearest. This is especially the case where a person has been brought up in a strong religious tradition. Laws was brought up in a Roman Catholic family and even today the Roman Catholic Church uses terms like "disordered" to refer to homosexual feelings. And Roman Catholicism is not alone in this. Note the relative silence of much of the Christian church concerning the men jailed in Malawi for a gay relationship. Does not the church seem at times keener to disown a gay Bishop than one who calls for the imprisonment of gay people. Given the vulnerability of young gay people even in supposedly liberal Britain I suggest that the church in all its forms needs to develop greater sensitivity on this issue.
I think that our country does not come out too well if it looks into a mirror on this matter. A bullying press and remnants of homophobia make unsavoury bedfellows. More than that this matter undermines the self righteousness adopted by the Liberal Democrats concerning the expenses scandal. They are not better than the rest but share in being tainted. Perhaps the last word should belong to a man named Paul who lived nearly 2,000 years ago-
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3v 23).
When we realise that such is true of all of us we may rediscover the virtue of kindness and decency.