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

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

SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a global leader in the Oil &a...

SAP Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000. Wakefield

£55000 - £450000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Consultant...

PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Sir Ian McKellen  

Call me a Northerner if you like – it’s no insult to me

Simon Kelner
School pupils at the Bridge Learning Campus answer questions in a classroom at the school on February 24, 2010  

Better-off parents excel at playing the state-school system. It’s right to give others a chance to do so

Jane Merrick
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn