Fledgling coalition faces life without Laws

Where next for the coalition?
Where next for the coalition?

By Alex Stevenson

British politics is spending the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend pondering the implications of David Laws' shock exit from government.

Mr Laws stood down as chief secretary to the Treasury on Saturday after it emerged he had been in a secret relationship with his landlord - but had continued to claim his rent back on expenses.

Laws goes after expenses outing

Question-marks remain over his conduct. He will be investigated by the parliamentary standards commissioner and will pay back a sum believed to total over £40,000 he had claimed in rent from 2001 to June 2007.

But he denied having deliberately sought to profit from the arrangement with James Lundie and argued he did not view Mr Lundie as his 'partner or spouse' - the definition barred by parliamentary rules.

Mr Laws' conduct is widely viewed as secondary to the political implications of his exit for the fledgling coalition government, which had benefited hugely from his crucial work cutting public spending in the Treasury.

Profile: David Laws

Working closely with chancellor George Osborne he had already supervised the slashing of £6 billion of cuts in the current 2010/11 financial year. Former Scottish secretary Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg's former chief of staff, has been promoted to his post.

"It was as if he had been put on earth to do the job that was asked of him," Mr Osborne said.

"I spoke to David several times over the last 24 hours and I have a huge admiration for the way he has conducted himself in the most difficult circumstances."

Both prime minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg have indicated they want to see Mr Laws return to government in the future.

Analysis: Laws will recover, but will the coalition?

Senior Lib Dems are believed to have wanted the Yeovil MP to remain in the government. Yesterday in his resignation statement Mr Laws said it had been "my decision alone" to stand down.

"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," he wrote to the prime minister.

"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."


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