David Laws on Marr: I want to expose how NHS chief was leant on to encourage debate on NHS funding

It’s the second week of David Laws’ coalition revelations serialised in the Mail on Sunday. This week we have him telling us that:

To take them in turn:

You have to wonder why we bought and publicised the £8bn figure, too. It’s all very well for David Laws to tell Andrew Marr today that Norman Lamb was always sceptical about it, but I seem to recalls making a massive thing about how we were the only party who was going to meet the £8bn request in full. If we knew that the figure was nonsense then, why on earth did we not say loudly and lay out the choices that the nation faced in a much more realistic way?

On Marr, David Laws emphasised how the Lib Dems helped IDS veto Treasury requests for further welfare cuts, confirming that Osborne saw it as a cash cow.There are problems with this analysis, though.  Danny Alexander seemed to be hand in glove with Osborne on a lot of this stuff, at one point calling people affected by the Bedroom Tax “bedroom blockers.” Also, a lot of the really awful ideas, from the rape clause to the capping at two children were IDS’s idea.

Theresa May at one point said she’d bring in the Head of MI5 to publicly back the Snoopers’ Charter. Nick Clegg described it to Cameron as “gay marriage on stilts” – comparing it to how same sex marriage had gone down in the Tory Party. It’s a pity he didn’t have the same attitude on secret courts. Her reaction to Norman Baker’s appointment is just as we Lib Dems thought it would be. It’s interesting, though, that even Norman didn’t slate her too much when he resigned. When Miriam Gonzalez Durantez edited the Today programme at New Year, she talked about how May and Nick were a million miles apart, but he had an admiration for her for always doing what she said and being meticulously prepared for meetings. Lynne Featherstone echoed that sentiment when I spoke to her earlier this year.

The meeting with Eric Pickles does not show Cameron in a good light. Cameron wanted to make private landlords check immigration papers. Pickles was dead set against this. They had a massive row and Cameron stormed out.

Laws says that way back in 2012, Cameron and Osborne were petrified of Boris. They offered Clegg a sort of electoral pact for the 2015 election. The fireworks that would have ensued if they had tried to get that one through the party would have been interesting to see. A combination of two fingered salutes and a two word response involving a word that rhymes with “duck” would have been the more muted reaction. It was undeliverable, undesirable and would have ruled out the possibility of any fightback.

If we hadn’t had all the IDS furore, Laws’ revelations would have been top of the headlines today. There is some very interesting stuff in the book. I’m looking forward to reading the full story in context when the book is published on Tuesday.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 20th Mar '16 - 12:15pm

    This is actually more important than the resignation of IDS, because it affects many more people and because the sums of money that the Chancellor and the PM want to save from the NHS are three times what was achieved during the previous government.
    IDS has presented himself as a departmental minister fighting within government for the interests of his department, with himself in charge. He will have difficulty doing the same outside government because of the competing spending needs of other departments, because of the usual tribal loyalties for the May 2016 elections, the comments of the welfare minister in the Lords and the overwhelming importance of the EU referendum on which he disagrees with the PM.
    The policy which should change is the planned reductions relating to higher rate taxpayers, which cannot be afforded at the moment in an uncertain economic outlook.

  • What an awful awful mess. Laws gets a book deal Danny a high paying finance position Nick is still an MP and most likely waiting for the ‘right’ job while decent Liberal thinking people have had to watch the party they believed in torn to pieces and heading further into the mist. The attitude and hardness of ‘Bedroom Blockers’ Danny drove voters like me away. Good to see the Top Team are doing so well though. Grown up politics in its full blooded reality.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Mar '16 - 1:36pm

    David Laws and I are on more or less opposite wings of the party but what he reports is likely to be pretty reliable. As for Mr Alexander, he’s now on the other side of the world and let’s just hope he stays there. I do think that things might have gone a lot better in the Coalition if David Laws had not had to resign his job.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Dawson 20th Mar '16 - 1:59pm

    It is intriguing to see how Labour Party member Simon Stevens was so susceptible to this Tory pressure.


  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Mar '16 - 2:08pm

    I’m still enjoying this nugget of insight from last week’s episode:

    ‘Clegg says Cameron told him (Laws): ‘Michael has gone a bit nuts recently … I’m being driven around the bend by him… he is a Maoist… outrageous, wants to be the darling of the Tory Right.’

    So Gove is both Maoist and nuts, and this from the horse’s mouth.

    Ha ha.

  • Laws is the ‘classical liberal’ who wanted to cut Government spending to 36% of GDP – rather odd that – when you consider he, at one point, personally increased government spending by £ 40,000.

    Presumably his book was written purely “altruistically”.

  • Sadly David Raw destroyers of the Lib Dem party will all do very well after there dabble in Government just a shame that a party who once ran major Local Authorities and was looking at really changing two party politics is heading to oblivion. Nice to read about how well they are doing post coalition though.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Mar '16 - 5:08pm

    Government ministers were, again, unavailable to be interviewed on the Sunday Politics, maybe they dislike Andrew Neil, but there was a cabinet member on the southeast slot.
    Greg Clark, the minister for local government, was asked about academy schools, housing and devolution. His answers will be on the BBC I-Player.
    A quick question could have been tried, was he approached by the PM about the vacancy at welfare? Other ministers, government MPs and Peers could be asked the same thing.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Mar '16 - 5:18pm

    As I’ve said before: A friend bought me David Laws’s book on the coalition – 22 Days in May – and it was brilliant. I read it so quickly because I couldn’t put it down. I imagine this one will be riveting too.

    At the time I was a bit more of an economic liberal than I am now, but it will be interesting to see if government has changed David Laws’s opinion on things, or whether it is mainly a report on what happened in government.

  • Am I alone in finding this tittle-tattle, less than a year since leaving office, rather distasteful?

  • crewegwyn – you are not alone. Thankfully his career in politics is dead.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Mar '16 - 8:37pm


    It’s not tittle-tattle. It’s an insight into the reality of the Tory party in government.

    Considering that party has great support in the media and has very powerful and wealthy friends, I fail to see why ex-Lib Dem Ministers cannot shine a light behind the scenes.

  • @David Raw
    “… personally increased government spending by £ 40,000.”

    One should always look for the silver lining, just think, if he hadn’t been an MP the taxpayer may also have had to fork out a pile of dosh on prison accom.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Mar '16 - 8:54am

    Local government minister Greg Clark was on the media on 21/3/16 announcing that IDS’s replacement would be announcing today that the controversial changes to disability payments would not be made. The alternatives may take a while.
    Greg Clark is softly spoken and polite, but the entire cabinet agreed to the cuts, according to what Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on 20/3/16.
    It is reasonable to give the new Welfare Secretary a little time to master his brief.
    The Chancellor is usually very willing to appear on the media, but did not make this announcement.
    IDS’s statement that he is a “One Nation” Tory is hard to swallow. His statement that decisions should be made for all the people, and not just those who vote for his party, would be good if it were what the current government has been doing.
    IDS must know that many people who have become disabled have voted Tory in the past. They worked in industry and suffered industrial accidents, they have served in the armed forces, etc. Most “disabled people” are partially disabled and therefore have abilities.
    “Compassionate” Conservatives, “persuaded by the whips” look at their majorities.
    All these issues can affect the referendum. This is about decisions made by the current UK government. Referendums are often affected by the popularity of those who call them. The political stakes are high.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Mar '16 - 9:02am

    Greg Clark MP was not asked by BBC1 whether the PM had offered him the post of Welfare Secretary, which is a pity, but if he is the man doing the media rounds maybe others could ask. He would probably answer a direct question. The answer/s might be interesting.

  • When considering why trust is still an issue with voters it is worth considering that senior Lib Dems, including one assumes the then leader, signed off on telling the country that they were the only ones willing to fully fund the NHS KNOWING that they would be doing nothing of the sort.

    Some people would call that politics to me it’s just lies…

    Tim needs to get a grip of the integrity issue, statements to the public should be true not word play. It would be nice to go into a voting booth with a genuine alternative option rather than the “least worst” option.

  • @Steve Way
    Surely it isn’t always the big things that turn the public away, if there is a constant drip/drip effect then that will provide a mood music that sticks in the public mind. Mr Laws is probably one of the people that provided that music, gets caught fiddling his expenses, Lib Dems seem to claim he was trying to do the public some sort of favour by not claiming even more, all MPs give him a slap on the wrist, Lib Dems bring him back into Gov, Lib Dem Leader puts him up for peerage. All this happened over an extended period of time, ensuring that the public were constantly reminded about the original wrong doing.

  • I know that all political parties are coalitions of people with differing outlooks, but it is tiresome when an article like this become an excuse for one or two people to have yet another go at the Lib Dems who served in the coalition government. Be tolerant and consider it possible that one or two people might have joined the Lib Dems because they actually liked what Clegg, Laws et al did in government (increasing tax thresholds, pension freedoms, pupil premium etc). Now that we can see what the Tories are like when they govern on their own, you might think the country would be nostalgic for the coalition years.

  • Peter Reisdorf 21st Mar '16 - 8:28pm

    On the £8bn, Norman Lamb refered to the £22bn savings that were also said to be required as a “stretch target”. From my understanding of the term “stretch target” I said at a hustings dedicated to the NHS that I thought it unlikely they would achieved and more than the £8bn would be needed as a result. So David Laws’ revelation came as no surprise to me. Surely I wasn’t the only person who came to that conclusion. Part of the problem I suppose was staying in the coalition to the bitter end, which required our ministers to say what was agreed in government. Many people argued against that, but Nick Clegg (surely our worst leader since Lord Rosebery) was determined to stay in government.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Mar '16 - 1:17pm

    Steve Way 21st Mar ’16 – 9:19am No. Please see the interview with David Laws on BBC1 Daily Politics of 22/3/16. Tory Andrew Lansley has agreed that the “efficiency savings” required of the NHS are “heroic”. Please also note that the Liberal Democrat general election manifesto is different from the Torys’.

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