David Laws has just announced his resignation in a dignified statement at the Treasury.
I'm gutted that he has gone. I genuinely thought that he would stay - partly because it is not clear that he has broken the rules - he certainly has not profited from any breaches of the rules. Also, for the purely political reason that it is early in the new coalition government and troubles now can be got over simply because the new administration is enjoying a honeymoon period. Biut mainly, because he is damn good at the job.
That he has chosen to resign reflects both his character - he didn't want to spend the government's goodwill which might be required later - and his determination to keep the coalition on a sound footing. In 1997, the new Blair Government survived the Bernie Ecclestone donation row but was somewhat tainted from then on. Compare and contrast...
What now for David Laws?
Clearly David has some time to reflect and to try to rebuild everything that has been torn apart over the last 24 hours. I hope that he and Jamie - who has been a friend of mine for many years - will be able to get to grips with their new circumstances in the public eye.
David is and will remain a great talent for the Lib Dems. I have no doubt that, once the investigation is over, he will be able to return to Government if he chooses to. He really is too big a talent to be ignored. It's wrong to compare the dignified and honourable Laws with Peter Mandelson, but Mandelson proved that it is possible to come back to Government after resignation. Both, in their very different ways, are indispensible to their parties.
What about Nick Clegg?
Nick was faced with a very difficult situation. He has just lost the star of the first fortnight of the coalition and had to choose someone to replace him. By picking Danny Alexander he is asking a lot of a man who he has come to rely on for political advice but who has not been at the forefront of economic policy within the Party. He's not David Laws mark 2, but I believe he will do a more than competent job.
Presumably, we will also shortly see the announcement of a new Scottish Secretary. My hope is that it will not be another minister being promoted - if only because the new government has only just started work and to have a long consequential reshuffle now would be incredibly disruptive.
Jo Swinson anyone? - No sooner said than not done as Michael Moore has got the job.