1. If you want to keep your job, following the rules has lexicographic priority over technical ability. Laws was widely regarded, even before the platitudes that followed his resignation, as superbly able minister. This was not enough to keep him in a job. The message here is that it is better to be a prissy, priggish follower of rules than a man of any other virtues - which is a perfect recipe for mediocrity.
It is in this sense that I agree with James Forsyth, that there’s something very depressing about this affair.
2. Clever people can be stupid. Even if we allow for the fact that Laws’ ability is overstated - journalists and politicians are pathetically easily impressed by any knowledge of finance, statistics and economics - he is a smart fellow. And yet his expenses claim was very stupid. This confirms Dsquared’s old adage, that there are no general purpose experts.
3. Formal legal freedom is not sufficient to create real, felt freedom. Homosexuality has been legal for almost all Laws’ life, and yet - for reasons we needn’t speculate about - he felt he had to keep it “secret from everyone I know for every day of my life.” In a very important sense, then, he was unfree.
The message here is that mind-forg’d manacles can enslave us even when laws do not.
But where do these come from? Social pressure - actual or perceived - is one. But in other contexts, poverty is the origin, as it leads to low aspirations: it’s notorious that many people don’t apply to Oxbridge because “it’s not for the likes of us”.
Herein, I think, lies the tragic paradox of Mr Laws. As an Orange Book liberal, he emphasised the value of legal, formal freedom whilst perhaps overlooking real, felt freedom. But as a human being, he demonstrates that there’s more to freedom than mere law. This - perhaps more than anything else - is why I am on the Left.