In the spring of 2008, just as the drip-drip of revelations about MPs’ expenses was starting to gather momentum, I was despatched to write a magazine feature article for the Weekend FT about Britain’s politicians: were they paid too much for the job they did?
Seeking to write a balanced piece, I made sure that I interviewed at least one MP who exemplified public service; someone who had stepped down from a highly-paid City job to take a relatively low salary at the Liberal Democrats – the party which would never (as it then seemed) take power. His name was David Laws.
I spent a Friday in Laws’ constituency of Yeovil, watching him deal with constituents’ complaints in a diligent and attentive manner. Afterwards we had a pint in a local pub; I told him I could never understand why anyone would want to be an MP, with people trawling through your private life. His answer was non-committal. He struck me – much as he has since – as polite, slightly prim, self-contained and highly intelligent.
When the Telegraph revelations were published a year ago I was quietly relieved that Laws was unscathed.
Fast-foward two years and Laws is the first casualty of the Lib-Con coalition, as ft.com reports tonight. His position as chief secretary to the Treasury had become untenable after he said he would repay £40,000 of expenses claimed for rent paid to his boyfriend; since 2006 MPs were not allowed to lease accommodation from their partners. Read more