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

Share
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

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts

Björt Ólafsdóttir
 

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor