Sunday, May 30, 2010

David Laws' dignified and honourable resignation

I am still pretty heartbroken at the circumstances surrounding David Laws' resignation from the Cabinet.

It was so sad to watch him make what must have been an excruciatingly painful statement in the full glare of the media and I admire his courage in so doing.

Did he need to resign? Probably not. I don't seen I've ever seen a Minister resign when they have such an outpouring of support and understanding for their position and such a sympathetic press. You think of all the Labour Cabinet ministers who stayed put no matter what, serial flipping and incompetence no barrier to their continuing in office.

The exchange of letters between Laws and Cameron, published on Lib Dem Voice, show the incredible impact he'd made on the Government in just a couple of weeks.

Dear prime minister,

The last 24 hours have been very difficult and distressing for me, and I have been thinking carefully about what action I should take in the interests of the government, my constituents and – most important of all – those whom I love.

I am grateful for the strong support which I have received from my friends, family, and from you, the deputy prime minister and the chancellor.

This support has been incredibly important, but nonetheless, I have decided that it is right to tender my resignation as chief secretary to the Treasury.

I have done so for three reasons.

Firstly, I do not see how I can carry on my crucial work on the Budget and Spending Review while I have to deal with the private and public implications of recent revelations.

At this important time the chancellor needs, in my own view, a chief secretary who is not distracted by personal troubles.

I hardly need say how much I regret having to leave such vital work, which I feel all my life has prepared me for.

Secondly, while my recent problems were caused by my desire to keep my sexuality secret, the public is entitled to expect politicians to act with a sense of responsibility.

I cannot now escape the conclusion that what I have done was in some way wrong, even though I did not gain any financial benefit from keeping my relationship secret in this way.

Finally, and most importantly, I have an overriding responsibility to those I love most, and who I feel I have exposed to scrutiny in this way.

I have pursued a political career because of my sense of public duty, but I have too often put this before the interests of those I love most. It is time to redress the balance.

I want to apologise to my constituents for falling below the standards that they are entitled to expect from me.

The job of being a constituency MP is no less important to me than my Cabinet responsibilities.

I shall ensure that I co-operate fully with the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner in the review that I have requested.

I intend to consider carefully over the period ahead how I can best serve the interests of my Yeovil constituency, which I care so passionately about.

It has been a great honour to serve however briefly in your Government and I will remain its strong supporter.

Yours sincerely,

David Laws

David Cameron's response - with my bold added

“Thank you for your letter tendering your resignation from the government, which I accept with sadness.

The last 24 hours must have been extraordinarily difficult and painful for you.

You are a good and honourable man. I am sure that, throughout, you have been motivated by wanting to protect your privacy rather than anything else.

Your decision to resign from the government demonstrates the importance you attach to your integrity.

In your short lime at the Treasury, you have made a real difference, setting the government on the right path to tackle the deficit which poses such a risk to our economy.

I hope that, in time, you will be able to serve again as I think it is absolutely clear that you have a huge amount to offer our country.

I hope that we see David Laws back in Government at some point in the not too distant future.

Compare and contrast the dignity and humanity of Cameron and Laws with the really quite unpleasant behaviour of Labour tweeters yesterday. They were so swift to apray bile around the place and even crack jokes. Even their MPs were getting in on the act. Ben Bradshaw should feel completely ashamed of himself for this effort:

clegg statement re laws nonsense. why should anyone in Britain today feel ashamed to acknowledge they're gay

as if Labour had created this utopia where everyone was free to be themselves. The truth, as I wrote yesterday, can be very different. If anything good comes from what's happened to David Laws, I hope it's greater awareness that coming out can be hard and greater discussion about what we can do to change attitudes. Lynne Featherstone shows an understanding of these issues which is just another reason why it's a good thing that she's Equalities Minister.

In addition to that we had some pretty cutting comments from Tom Harris and David Cairns. There are times when if you can't say anything pleasant, it's best not to say anything at all and their almost gleeful joking does them no credit.

Happily, there are some who showed empathy and decency. See this from Eric Joyce:

Feeling very sorry for David Laws. The rules effectively required him to 'out' himself. Surely that's not right.

It's a sad day for the Government, the country and for David Laws. We'll all recover, but let's hope that it makes us a better, more undersanding society.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In the past couple of days I've read dozens and dozens of blog posts and blog comments discussing David Laws' sexuality that are well-intentioned, but which have rubbed me the wrong way. What I keep reading again and again is the notion that "of course it's understandable that David Laws was desperate to hide his sexuality, because his parents would not approve of it, so it would have been perfectly reasonable for Mr. Laws to remain closeted forever and ever if that's what he chose to do." I understand that these comments were intended to be sympathetic, but I worry that this line of thinking inadvertently reinforces the idea that homosexuality is something that should be "kept in the closet."

Suppose Mr. Laws had concealed a romantic relationship not with a man, but with a Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist woman -- i.e., someone of whom his Catholic parents might have disapproved on grounds of faith. In that hypothetical situation, would people still be writing "of course it's understandable that David Laws was desperate to hide his interfaith relationship," or would they instead be writing "Good grief, David -- you're 44 years old! Man up and tell your parents the truth, and that you're sorry if they're disappointed, but this is the person you love and that's not something within your ability to change, or something you're willing to keep hidden."

Maybe I'm just wrong about this, but I can't help thinking that if Laws had concealed an interfaith heterosexual relationship, most of us would found it rather silly, and we wouldn't have regarded his desire for secrecy as a legitimate excuse for breaking the rules on expenses (however minor and technical his violations were, particularly in comparison to some of the house-flipping shenanigans revealed last year).

Please don't misunderstand me -- I believe every gay person ideally should be able to reveal his or her sexuality at the time, and in the manner, of his or her own choosing. I'm glad that so many straight people agree with me on that point. But what I DON'T want to see is people endorsing the idea of gay people remaining permanently closeted. People who are terrified to "come out" generally are dealing with internalised homophobia at a minimum, and in some cases full-blown self-loathing. Those feelings need to be overcome, not reinforced.


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