'Thinking Faith', the online journal of the British Jesuits, has just posted a piece on the morality (or otherwise) of the David Laws/Daily Telegraph episode. A snippet:
St Thomas Aquinas treats an action as gravely wrong when it harms another, for this breaks the second of the great commandments on which the whole of the law is based – to love one’s neighbour as oneself. Nobody can doubt that David Laws has been harmed, and badly harmed.
We have also been harmed. The media, not our elected representatives, have determined the composition of our government. It is for the Prime Minister to require the resignation of a minister or for the Commons to demand it on our behalf; in this case the media have illegitimately usurped a power that belongs to us and is only to be exercised by our representatives.
I'm not usually an avid reader of Catholic moral philosophy, so for me the article is a novel approach to the issue, and comes out strongly in defence of David Laws, and (as you can see) in criticism of the Telegraph. As a Yeovil constituent, I know a lot of people who speak well of Laws as an MP, and I strongly hope he stays on as an MP, and that he still gets the chance to play a part in government. It's possible to make a case both for and against his conduct: sympathy with his fear of people's reactions to his sexuality is tempered by the taxpayers money involved (though it would probably have cost us more for Laws to lodge with someone he didn't know.) It's right to demand high standards of those in power, but it's also right to show mercy and give people a second chance.
I find it hard to be outraged over what David Laws has done, but I don't find it so hard to be outraged over what the Telegraph has done. The timing itself is 'interesting', and I can't really see how it's in the public interest to tip out from office the kind of able and (increasingly) credible politician that we need to see us through the present mess.
Enough has been written about this already, my only addition would be to call for a review of local Libdem campaigning literature. This made much of a) David Laws expenses record (clean as a whistle) and b) His Conservative opponent's living arrangments in London. To say these now look seriously misguided is a bit of an understatement.
Last word to David Laws, whose interview with the Western Gazette is well worth a read to understand where he's coming from. He's more gracious to the Telegraph than I am, does mercy extend to the media....???
Mr Laws went on: "When I was born it was less than ten years or so after homosexuality was decriminalised, and there was still a lot of prejudice in society, as there is now, although a lot less now.
"And at school, among family and everybody I knew, it was not regarded as something that was acceptable or easily understood. When you are young you are afraid of being seen to be different and it is easier to lie, and that was easy given that I didn't have any relationships for a large part of my life.
"You more you lie to people the more difficult it becomes to un-lie and tell the truth. I have always been quite a shy and private person. I wanted to go into politics and public service but didn't want to have to tell people about my sexuality.
"I guess it was pretty stupid really, because all of the people I have spoken to since Friday have accepted it without hesitation – my parents, family and friends.
"Not being honest with them has meant a huge price over recent years. I have had to keep a large part of my life secret. My family and friends have never been able to meet my partner, and it's meant that I have had a growing distance between some of these people because of the inability to be honest with them.
"And also I feel, as a politician, a bit of shame not to have set a better example to people who have the same issues and who might expect a bit more leadership from the top."
He feels some relief that this secret is out.
"I have heard from lots of friends over the past few days who said it didn't matter to them, or they didn't care about my sexuality, and to be able to meet them in the future, to be honest with them, to meet them with James, will be a huge relief," he said.
"I will always owe The Daily Telegraph that they have allowed me to be more honest about who I am and that part of it will lead to a greater happiness and sense of reconciliation in my personal life."
(Update: it was odd to hear 5 live reporting as 'news' this morning David Laws saying that he was grateful to the Telegraph, since these are words he wrote in the Western Gazette on 3rd June, even if they were only posted on his blog yesterday. It used to only be news if it appeared on telly, now it's only news if it appears on a blog!)