Wednesday, 18 May 2011

David Laws: The Vortex

David Laws is interviewed in The Times today.
Windswept hair, unironed Indian cotton shirt, but that's not the main thing...
David Laws breaks his silence on being gay and why he kept it secret.

“Certainly becoming a public figure, if you are also a very private individual, doesn’t make it a more obvious time to be open about your sexuality. In fact you become even more sensitive about it.”

At the risk of repeating myself yet again, I abhor Laws' politics, but feel much sympathy about how he ended up in a crazed vortex of denial about his sexuality.
And I hate hearing gay men - whose circumstances have been very different or more fortunate - gloating over his closetry and downfall.
The interview is behind the Murdoch paywall, but may be posted below...


  1. David Laws can now talk in a matter-of-fact tone about the secret he fought so hard to protect that it led to his departure from Cabinet.

    Having been briefly in charge of Britain’s public spending plans, much of the past year has been spent immersed in invoices from his own household budget, with rental agreements, cleaning costs, telephone bills, even the purchase of a vacuum cleaner, being subject to an exhaustive, intrusive inquiry.

    The reason is simple, but still a little baffling. He wanted no one to know he is gay. All his adult life he concealed this, from family and friends, and from the Commons authorities to whom he submitted tenancy agreements that disguised the fact that he was living with the man he called his landlord.

    But why? He pauses before answering. “When I was born it wasn’t that long after homosexuality was decriminalised and, while I certainly wasn’t thinking about issues of law when I kept my sexuality secret, the view of homosexuality back in the 1970s and 1980s was not very tolerant amongst a large group of people.

    “I think everybody when they grow up and when they are young, likes to fit in and doesn’t like to . . . stand out in a way that is likely to be ridiculed or to cause people to not want to be friends with them or whatever. And therefore it was always easier at school, ever since I can remember being aware of my sexuality, to keep it secret.”

    This was, he says, “from my very earliest teenage years”. While he was a day boy at an independent school in Surrey, St George’s College in Weybridge, he says no boy ever admitted being gay. When he met the man he lives with, James Lundie, it was his first relationship. He was in his mid-30s.

    “Since I didn’t have any relationships with anyone, there wasn’t anything particularly to prompt me to come out and be open about my sexuality and obviously, therefore, when you deny what your sexuality is and you build up friendships and relationships with people on the basis of a different personality and different personal circumstances, it becomes very difficult to unwind or unravel that.

    “And I suppose, essentially, you end up with being dishonest to those closest to you as a consequence, and there never seems to be a perfect time to unravel that dishonesty.”

    When he was selected as a parliamentary candidate in 1999, in Yeovil, the old seat of Paddy Ashdown (now Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon) and elected to Parliament two years later, his wish for secrecy became more, not less, intense despite the liberal stance of his party.

    “Certainly becoming a public figure, if you are also a very private individual, doesn’t make it a more obvious time to be open about your sexuality. In fact you become even more sensitive about it.”

  2. He did not even tell his parents; their first confirmation was the press reports last June that prompted his resignation from the Cabinet over his living arrangements with another man. There was not, he says, a particular fear of telling his mother or conflict with her Catholicism, but a general fear of “standing out in the crowd”.

    Such was his trauma that, when he quit the Cabinet, his statement initially included a second announcement that he would stand down as an MP. Lord Ashdown and Cathy Bakewell, the chairwoman of Yeovil Lib Dems, talked him out of it.

    This is the first time that Mr Laws, 45, has talked frankly about his sexuality. He is doing so after the conclusion of the parliamentary inquiry into his Commons expenses: he concealed the nature of his living arrangements with misleading tenancy agreements and with claims made at just below the level that required receipts.

    He would have quit as an MP last week had the commissioner rejected his explanation that his Commons claims were to protect his privacy, not to benefit financially. Their misleading domestic arrangements left him and Mr Lundie worse off, not better off, he says.

    He is speaking at his large Somerset cottage, which featured in the inquiry. Its location symbolises the man: hidden in a dell, down an unmarked track. It is a private place.

    He plans to sell the cottage, moving to a smaller home within the constituency, and to use some of the capital to repay a loan from his family that he used to pay back, voluntarily, £56,592 that he claimed in living costs.

    He is clearly bruised by the inquiry and its unexpectedly harsh tone and sanction, which blocked any chance of an immediate return to government, but shows no self-pity and endorses the importance of a Commons watchdog. He allows himself only a rueful laugh.

    It has been inspiring to find how easy it finally proved to face up to his sexuality. He still balks at the term “partner” — he is “old-fashioned enough not to really like the word” — but has introduced James to his parents, which went “very, very smoothly”.

    “They have been incredibly understanding and supportive. That has been the silver lining in an otherwise rather difficult period of time. The irony is that the private life bit, although it is the part that caused problems with my expenses, ended up being the simplest and most straightforward thing to resolve.” It is, he says, an immense relief for the two of them to have gone out in public in recent months, something previously fraught with fear.

    “Oh goodness yes, the whole time, because you never know where you are going to bump into people and you never know when people are going to put two and two together. Given that this went on for nine years or so, that’s quite a long time to live in secrecy.”

    Did his obsessive wish for secrecy send a poor signal to gay young people? “Yes I regret that. I don’t think that as an MP and somebody who was education spokesman for the party that I set a very good example in that regard,” he says.

    Mr Laws, a former investment banker who left the City aged 28, says he is no longer wealthy — seven years in low-paid jobs as a Lib Dem researcher, policy adviser and parliamentary candidate, burnt through his savings.

    Nevertheless, he has not claimed Commons expenses for living costs for the past year and does not intend to again. “I don’t think I want to see another claim form for the rest of my life,” he says.

  3. I'm sure I read he would have joined the Conservatives in the '90s but it was their homophobia that prompted him to join the Lib Dems.
    Not sure if that's true or if I just made it up...

  4. I'm pretty sure that it's impossible to start off a millionaire and be "no longer wealthy" within seven years without concerted effort - or horrendous contempt for the idea of the "no longer wealthy".

    Laws is a cunt, that he's a gay cunt is immaterial.