Why the Lib Dems (and David Laws in particular) are not fit for government

27th June, 2013 1:06 pm

ITV have finally uncovered Liam Byrne’s infamous note written to his successor as Chief Secretary to the Teasury in 2010. It’s not especially surprising that they’ve come across given that David Laws gave it to them. We know this because he also gave them a smug interview whilst holding it. It was accompanied by the Lib Dem Press office tweeting the image below.


This is ridiculous on a number of levels and also manages to encapsulate a number of the wider problems with the Lib Dems. The best way to summarize the problem with David Laws’ behaviour is to keep things simple. Because it really is as easy as A, B, C…

  • Accuracy
    The most important thing to have come out yesterday is that the Lib Dems have been misquoting the note for the last three years. Back in 2010, we were told by Bloomberg, the Telegraph and the Guardian that the note said “I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.” It turns out it simply read “I’m afraid there is no money.” Some might not think this important but the former certainly implies some culpability and also comes across as glib. The latter is merely a statement of fact. Far from Liam Byrne admitting that Labour spent all the money and destroyed the public finances – as spun by the Lib Dems for the last 3 years – it merely states that there is no money. Given that there had been a global financial crisis, this shouldn’t have been surprising. Nor does it imply guilt. The note was only one line long, Laws should have managed to quote it accurately.
  • Betrayal
    Of course politics involves some “rough and tumble” as Laws puts it. Perhaps Byrne’s note was naive. But it really lacks class to reveal private correspondence for cheap political points scoring. Byrne had a reasonable expectation that the note would remain private because these notes always do. This was the culture and tradition that allowed outgoing ministers to be frank in their advice and honest in their opinions. Laws’ behaviour was not that of a statesman. It was cheap. It was partisan. It was a betrayal of history, tradition and trust.
  • Charlatan
    Perhaps the most galling thing about the whole episode is – as we have come to expect from the Lib Dems – the two-faced, duplicitous, deceptive nature of it all. Take a step back. David Laws was Chief Secretary to the Treasury for just 17 days. Why? Because he stole £40,000 of taxpayers’ money. That’s nothing to do with global financial markets or other external factors beyond his control. He was an expenses cheat. Yet he tries to take the moral high ground on issues to do with public finances? Spare me. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone and all that. And if you need further proof that he’s a charlatan, there’s a very detailed report from the Standards and Privileges Committee.

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  • Jeremy_Preece

    Sorry, remind me again, why did Liam Bryan write that stupid note? Why would a serious politician write such a silly note and leave it for his political rivals? Oh, I forgot, this is Liam Bryan – wrong question – try again…
    … why is this silly man still on the front benches?
    Okay, so we hear that there is some kind of unwritten tradition that outgoing ministers can be frank to their successors. So perhaps we can ask still another question…
    It is traditional that a party that campaigns on certain issues of principal does not then stick two fingers up at the people who voted for them by U turning on all of their principles within a week of a general election. Therefore why would you be surprised that such a deceitful brood who lied to their public just to allowed to sit in government posts and pretend to be in government, would have any qualms about breaking some rather quaint tradition?

    • JohnPReid

      Reginald moulding to Callaghan as he left office in 64′ sorry about the estate of the economy ,old chum

      • Monkey_Bach

        So not only was Byrne thin skinned and stupid but unoriginal too! Eeek.

        • John Ruddy

          Actually, it is a tradition for minister’s to leave these notes for their successors. A, in-joke, if you like. Byne was just doing what countless other ministers had done, and knew that his presumed successor, Philip Hammond, would get the joke.
          David Laws is a humourless jerk who likes to steal money.

          • No, the tradition is to leave helpful, informal advice. Byrne was so dismayed to be kicked off the gravy train all he could manage was a bitter quip.

          • John Ruddy

            I dont think the tradition has any rules as to the content of the handover notes, and many have been of the “jokey” variety.
            Apprently, Gordon left a series of detailed documents outling the various outstanding issues, the problems facing the country, positions of foreign leaders etc. But then he doesnt have quite the same sense of humour…

          • Monkey_Bach

            Considering Britain had entered a record breaking recession and much suffering being experienced by innocent members of the public Byrne’s note was, much like its author, as amusing and witty as terminal carcinoma.


    • “why is this silly man [Byrne] still on the front benches?”

      Because he devises and represents Labour policy. If you don’t like Byrne you have a problem with Labour policy. And if you don’t like Labour policy vote/campaign for another party/cause.


      • Jeremy_Preece

        Sorry Dave: If everyone who had a problem with Byrne left the Labour Party there wouldn’t be much of a party left. I have a problem with the fact that the Tories took money from the poor and vulnerable illegally. That the victims won their case in a court of law and that Byrne at al decided to abstain from voting to hand back the money that was illegally taken.
        That is not Labour policy that I or a great number of party members can respect, simply because it stinks.
        Can you seriously also tell me that to maintain membership of the party I have to think that that the infamous note Byrne left in Downing Street was the great idea of a great statesman?

        • “If everyone who had a problem with Byrne left the Labour Party there wouldn’t be much of a party left.”

          I suppose this at least partly explains why there isn’t much of a party left.

          But there’s nothing you can do about Byrne, no matter how much you complain – no one’s listening to you. His arse is as good as glued to the Front Bench.

          And you may think party policy “stinks” yet you’re the one who’s putting up with the stink, or even encouraging them to produce more of it, by remaining a supporter/member.

          • Jeremy_Preece

            Yes indeed.
            I could disengage, and go back to doing nothing to try to bring about change, swear at the TV every night during the news, and stop trying to work with all of the other great people in the Labour Party.
            Then as a final phase of the plan I could just redirect all the time that I currently spend on newsletters, delivering leaflets, campaigning and standing for election. This time could be more profitably spent (according to your plan) moaning about everything and everyone else, and blogging all of my gripes on line every day.
            Great plan! Best of all if I did absolutely nothing, then I could never be accused of ever supporting anything that was less than perfect.

            Actually, on second thoughts, I think I will stay on and fight on.

          • Well, if you want to make a difference perhaps the immediate best option would be to campaign against Tory policy.

            But how that can be done within a Labour Party that has bought into the austerity perspective and believes it is possible to win an election by adopting the already failed Tory plan is beyond comprehension.

            I won’t be wasting my time on a hopeless cause.

          • Jeremy_Preece

            Don’t worry, I’m sure that the Labour Party won’t buy into austerity as there isn’t any money to buy in with 🙂
            Anyway. I have a newsletter to finish this afternoon – nice chatting to you.

            Still I am sure that you will have plenty of time to spend on something weekend since you can’t waste your time on trying to fight for making things better. So have a nice weekend.

          • AlanGiles

            Everyone needs an interest Jeremy, but if you really want to help people, you could volunteer for the Samaritans or the CAB or any number of local good causes.

            You could give money to the Dogs Trust or the Cats Protection League or the RSPB, or any number of human charities.

            I am damned though if I would waste my time campaigning for a party with a rather weak leader who will enact current Tory policy in the slim chance he wins the next election. And has said so in as many words.

            That’s how I feel. . I have joined the Greens because the concept interests me, but I don’t, as I have often said, agree 100% with their views – I am a bit too old and pragmatic to buy into everything.

            I suppose I might be described as an “Independent Green”.

            There are people in the shadow cabinet who are so inept and inadequate they just should not be there. That they still are shows how weak EM is.

            AG 28/6/13 1637BST

  • Amber_Star

    Except Liam Byrne didn’t leave the note as a statement of fact, did he? If he had, then fair enough. But I think Byrne himself has said he intended it to be a joke; in which case it was in the worst possible taste.

    Nor did he emphatically correct the quote or claim it was a simple ‘statement of fact’ at the time. Did Byrne not keep a copy for himself? Apparently not – but please correct me if I’m wrong – as it seems to me that Byrne could not “Accurately” recall what he himself had written & was therefore unable to challenge Laws’s version.

  • Daniel Speight

    Adam is this the political rehabilitation of Liam Byrne? If so, I don’t think it’s working. Better think up another idea.

  • AlanGiles

    A very pathetic defence,, if I may say so, of a very pathetic politician.

    I agree that David Laws is not fit for government – but that has to do with issues relating his personal honesty regarding financial matters, but if this stricture alone was enough to preclude a mediocre MP from high office, then a great many politicians of all parties would be exempt.

    Whatever the actual wording of the fatuous note Byrne left, it was a ridiculous thing to do, and does, indeed, show contempt – not so much to the incoming minister in his department, but to the British people as a whole who are experiencing the consequences of the age of austerity – something, I am sure, Byrne is not suffering from himself.

    A smug, glib man who deserves the opprobrium heaped on him

    AG 27/6/13 1605BST

  • RAnjeh

    Agreed. David Laws is a joke.

  • Monkey_Bach

    The British public deserve better politicians than either Laws or Byrne. Eeek.

  • Martinay

    In May 2015 Danny Alexander’s note will read: “There’s still no money. The debt has grown and we killed off growth. Oopsy daisy.”

  • John Ruddy

    I’m no fan of Byrne by any means – I think he’s a liability for a number of reasons – but one thing he is not and that is thick. He is very clever – perhaps too clever, for his own good (hence the note).

  • Mike Homfray

    Laws,. Byrne – two sides of the same coin.

    But we can’t do anything about laws. We can, on the other hand, return Byrne permanently to the back benches where hopefully he would decide there are more lucrative careers

  • Graemeyh

    David Laws is a shameless charlatan and the worst sort of politician. What he was uncovered doing and why he had to resign after just 17 days in office is an absolute disgrace. If he had any sense of decency he would have resigned his seat. But he didn’t and he hasn’t. He is, in short, disgusting.


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