LBC listeners were split this morning on the David Laws issue. Some phoned in with some very tough words for him but others were more sympathetic. There seems to be a font of goodwill towards the coalition. People wish it well. If David Laws survives, it will be because of that.
When Ken Livingstone came into the studio to trail his programme he said he couldn't understand why Laws would keep quiet about his sexuality "in this day and age". I understand only too well. I did the same thing for a number of years and only 'came out' (I hate that expression) to family and friends when I was 40. No one can understand how difficult it is, telling your parents that the person they thought they knew is actually someone else. Sort of. Everyone told me: "They will already know, you'll see". No, I replied. I know my parents. And I was right. They hadn't got a clue.
I will never forget that day, even though on many occasions I have wanted to. I'm glad I did it, but I know it was a tremendous shock to my mother and we have never discussed it since. So when David Laws explains why he wanted to keep everything private I understand only too well. The only reason was because he didn't want to hurt those closest to him, especially his mother. That's the thing about us gayers, we'll do anything to avoid hurting our mothers :).
Furthermore, those who accuse Laws of exploiting the taxpayer would do well to remember that he clearly didn't gain from the rental arrangement he had. He paid £950 pcm for renting a room in Kennington. I know this is a bargain as I looked to do exactly the same thing in Kennington last year but decided I couldn't afford it. If he had moved into a one bedroom flat the taxpayer would have been paying far more. If Laws was seeking to maximise his income he would have either designated his Somerset home as his second home and claimed for the mortgage on that, or he would have bought a property in London and claimed for that. He didn't, and yet he's being mercilessly slagged off.
What we have done here is create a system where MPs are now, on average, claiming far more than they used to before.
A lot will be written about the definition of the word 'partner' and whether David Laws has broken the spirit, if not the letter, of the 2006 regulations. It may well be that he will be forced from office because of it if the Standards Commissioners decides against him. If that is the case we all need to take a long hard look at what has been done in our name to our political system. When fundamentally good and decent people like David Laws are drummed out of office we all need to sit up, take notice and ask how we have let it come to this.
And spare a thought for James Lundie. He never asked for this. His anguish will be as great, if not greater, than that of his partner.