The commentators I read online seem mostly to think David Laws should not have had to resign - here for example is Matthew Parris. The arguments run along the following lines:
- he shouldn't have to resign because I agree with his views on public spending cuts
- he shouldn't have to resign because he was entitled to keep his relationship secret
- he shouldn't have to resign because he could legitimately have claimed more money had he chosen to arrange his affairs differently
- he shouldn't have to resign because he's a millionaire who didn't need the money
- he shouldn't have to resign because the regulations are wrong
Interestingly, no one has defended the argument that Laws' partner is not his partner under the terms of the regulations. In his statement, he said "At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which ... defined partner as ... 'one of a couple ... who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses'”. Perhaps not, but he must have been aware that his interpretation was tendentious. He could have asked the Standards Commissioner in private for a ruling on this point. This moving interview is unambiguous about the depth of the relationship.
Only the second of the arguments I list merits consideration. And the answer is simple: Laws' should have stopped claiming the money in 2006 when the regulations were changed to forbid payments to partners. I doubt very much that this would have attracted intrusive comment. Or he could have made the relationship public and made a legitimate claim. What he was not entitled to do was ignore the regulations.