Michael Brown: In government you can't expect to protect your privacy

Mr Cameron has shown a steely determination to re-shape ministerial appointments with a minimum of fuss

Related Topics

Nobody died. Get over it David, the world hasn't ended – and neither has yours. The papers may scream that you're broken. But if you are made of stern stuff you will actually enjoy your rebirth. Anyway, you're a millionaire and everybody still loves you. Tell them all to stop feeling sorry for you – and the sooner you stop feeling sorry for yourself, the sooner you'll recover. If I sound callous, I'm not. As someone who lived with the "open secret" of being gay when I became an MP over 30 years ago I know, even now, that "coming out" is a painful business, in the eyes of parents and relatives, for those of us born in the 50s and 60s.

The best advice given to me, however, when I was "outed" by Piers Morgan's News of the World "fake sheikh" entrapping an under-age gay boy, 16 years ago, was from my Cleethorpes predecessor (Lord) Jeffrey Archer who resigned from Parliament in disgrace in 1974. "Michael, there is something out there you might do better than that which you wanted to do." My own career in politics finally ended in defeat in 1997 and yet here I am haunting the world of politics, reasonably successfully, from the political grave.

David Laws is a far more brilliant figure than I was – he might even be able to return to frontline politics if (a big "if") he wants to. The moral of this story is that whether they like it or not, members of the new coalition government, will not be able to protect their privacy. It may be unfair, but since David Cameron and Nick Clegg have set the bar of probity so high, their government has sacrificed its rights to privacy.

There is little point in rehearsing further the whys and wherefores of Mr Laws situation. He did wrong and was less than truthful. The killer fact is that his brain is currently disabled from dealing with matters of state. Imagine the piles of red boxes, awaiting his attention, that he took home this weekend. Even if he had stayed in post, his mind would be elsewhere. That was the simple reason why I could not continue in government. My mind was utterly distracted from the daily grind of whipping through Maastricht and rail privatisation. The media were, legitimately, on my case and, like Mr Laws, I was anyway more concerned about the impact of events on my friends and family.

Brilliant though Mr Laws may have been, the coalition will survive. Danny Alexander, his successor, needs only ever to say "no" and make sure he has an unending supply of red ink. Even I could do the job of chief secretary in the current economic environment. (Actually my adherence to Mrs Thatcher's "handbag economics" – don't spend what you haven't got – suggests I could do a better job.)

When Mr Cameron said, last week: "We're going to rip off that cloak of secrecy and extend transparency as far and wide as possible", I knew that hubris would follow. What I cannot understand is why Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron did not sit down and eyeball every proposed appointee to the government and ask them to "fess up" on past embarrassments.

The coalition will, however, survive this crisis and I am glad that the honeymoon has ended. Indeed, the Government might be stronger now that it has lost the unrealistic shiny sheen with which its two principals applied polish in the Downing Street rose garden. Like all its predecessors it will inevitably suffer bumps and scrapes along the way. The Prime Minister and Mr Clegg have shown understanding to Mr Laws but their first responsibility is to the reputation of government and their reaction to the events of the past 48 hours has been coolly decisive.

Every challenge posed by events unplanned provides an opportunity. Mr Cameron has shown a steely determination to re-shape the consequential ministerial appointments with speed and a minimum of fuss. The future bodes well for his reputation for decisiveness when a real crisis hits, not just his government, but the country.

Beyond Westminster there is post election, the normal healthy scepticism among voters who accept that politicians are not "whiter than white". But as Vince Cable remarked, yesterday, there is still goodwill among the public for the general policy of the coalition that the press have, so far, failed to acknowledge.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

Read Next

If I were Prime Minister: I'd shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid

Marina Warner

Sorry Britain, but nobody cares about your little election – try being relevant next time

Emanuel Sidea
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power