However much David Laws’ resignation is being spun as a failure of liberal society, the reality is one of massive double standards and abuse of public funds.

David Laws

David Laws, a senior Liberal Democrat in the ConDem coalition, has resigned as chief secretary to the Treasury. In his resignation letter to David Cameron, Laws wrote:

‘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.’

This is one of the most baffling statements I have read in a long time. Quite how a story about the abuse of public money by a millionaire government axe-wielder – presiding over more savage public sector cuts than those of Thatcher – has been turned into one about the failure of liberal social mores is quite unbelievable.

The centre-left blog Next Left responded to Laws’ resignation by commenting: ‘David Laws’ resignation reflects an error of judgement in his expenses claims which the government believe made his position untenable. But its root cause was a lack of confidence in the liberalism of contemporary Britain.’

Laws is adamant that his decision to spend £40,000 of public money on his own personal living costs was not in order to “maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality”. If we are to be charitable and take this statement at face value, it reveals a level of class-blindness that is hard to match.

Beneath the social facade of this story of sexual privacy (however valid) is one of pure double standards: a millionaire politician and former Goldman Sachs banker using public money to pay for his partner’s mortgage.

Most people borrow money when they have none themselves- that’s why they borrow it. What Laws did is to take £40,000 of public funds with no strings attached and spend it on a house, when he had more money in his bank account(s) than the average person will earn in a lifetime.

As if that was not bad enough, he is the man who has only recently laid out what are fashionably called “austerity” measures but could reasonably be called “severity” measures- aimed at hacking the public sector to bits in order to pay for a crisis created by international finance.

For Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne to describe the debacle as “a human story, not a financial story” is frankly quite insulting to those who care about gay equality as well as those who also care about economic equality.

It’s unfortunate that David Laws felt unable to come out as being gay. It’s unforgivable that he felt justified in taking public money that he didn’t need, especially at a time when working class people, especially LGBT people, are about to suffer from the cuts that he himself has instigated.

Dan Poulton

Dan is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner.  His most recent documentary was The New Scramble For Africa and his documentaries have appeared regularly on the Islam Channel. He is an organiser for Counterfire and a regular contributor to Counterfire site.