The Zhoosh! Brighton Blog
Last night on BBC iplayer I discovered and watched the true account of ‘The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister’, 1791-1840, a tale of a woman who desperately wanted to defy conventions of the time and live with Marianne, the woman she loved, under the mask of ‘companion’. Marianne though, worried about ridicule and stigma, married a man, saving herself from the fear of her true desire being discovered. The tale follows their continuing struggle to be together and the secret they share.
200 years later and the tale is remarkably and sadly similar to that of David Laws, the senior Liberal Democrat who recently stepped down as Treasury Chief Secretary. He did not shrink from the public gaze professionally, but went to extremities to hide his sexuality, resulting in an expenses scandal.
We as LGBT people have all been there. Hiding our true identity and not sure when or how to ‘come out’. I came out at 17, telling my best friend first, followed by my family members a year later. I couldn’t even use the word ‘gay or lesbian’, I simply told them, ‘I like girls not boys’ and ‘I’m in love with a girl’. How hard it must be as a public figure, knowing that at any point, the time to tell those closest to you could be taken out of your hands, the pressure to hide your lifestyle so it remains your choice of who and when, and knowing that at the point when you do, the public could be cruel and you could lose respect and even your career. No wonder sportsmen are only coming out once retired. Laws failed to run against Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrat leadership in 2007 despite being, by common consent, the party’s most intellectually-capable figure. He did not want the scrutiny that the position would bring.
David Laws gave the Lib Dems credibility and he instilled confidence. He was the guy that was going to sort out Britain’s finances. A former banker, he gained a double first in economics at Cambridge, was a vice-president at JP Morgan bank at 22 and then Barclays. He retired aged 28. In 1994 he became an economic adviser to the Lib Dems under Paddy Ashdown’s leadership. When the Treasury accused the Lib Dems of getting their numbers wrong, Laws, then aged 29 walked into a packed press conference and insisted he was right. The Institute for Fiscal Studies later backed his analysis. After a three-year stint as the party’s director of policy and research, he succeeded Ashdown as MP for Yeovil in 2001. George Osborne, now the chancellor, tried to recruit him to his Tory team. Michael Gove, the Tory education secretary, made no secret of his respect for Laws’ ideas on education —offering publicly, to step aside so that Laws could become education secretary.
Laws stepped down following The Daily Telegraph disclosing that he claimed £950 a month in parliamentary expenses for eight years to rent rooms in two London properties. The houses were owned by his partner. In 2006, MPs were banned from “leasing accommodation from a partner”. The Telegraph claim they didn’t mean to out’ David, yet his worst fear intentionally or not became a reality. Do I believe The Telegraph? No way. Anything that even remotely relates to a bit of same-sex activity becomes the hot topic of magazines and newspapers, with them clambering over themselves for the juicy gossip that they know will increase sales. What is this fascination over someone being gay?!
If David had abruptly stopped claiming in 2006 when the rules changed he would have outed himself. He said: “When I grew up, being gay was not accepted by most people, including many of my friends. So I have kept this secret from everyone I know for every day of my life. I was so determined to keep my sexuality a secret that James and I behaved as if we were just good friends.”
Comments on Face Book sum up how people feel for David Laws:
Support David Laws Group
“david laws is a great guy we have met him and he has helped us and yes we agree with many that his sexuality should not change anything. After all that doesn’t stop him from doing the great job he does and will continue to do as mp of Yeovil.”
“We don’t care what he’s done with his expenses or his private life, what he’s done for Yeovil is what matters”!
“He’s a shit hot MP and that will never change”
I bet I know a few million people who want David Laws back in the cabinet Group
“David Laws is an honourable man. Laws is one of the best and brightest politicians of his generation. Please join this group to show your support for David Laws. Bring him back to the cabinet”.
In the words of Jess Wood from Allsorts Youth Project in Brighton,
“as the director of an LGBT youth project I want to say to david, we need you to put away your private troubles no matter how hard and get back into the Treasury and start being the great role model to young people that as an out gay man you now are”
To show your support for David Laws, there is a petition you can sign: