It's hard not to feel extremely sorry for David Laws given the circumstances of his case, although I've been slightly baffled by the suggestions in parts of the Tory/Lib Dem blogosphere over the last thirty-six hours that there was no cause for him to even consider his position. On the face of it, he was quite simply caught bang to rights breaching the expenses regime. Anyway, he's now fallen on his sword, and the dynamics of coalition politics mean that the ripples have hit the Scottish political world straight away. Has Danny Alexander just made history as the shortest-serving Scottish Secretary of all time? No idea, but must be close.
Being inclined to believe in fate, moments like this always make me slightly nervous. There's no immediately obvious reason to think that Michael Moore is any less likely to deliver on the enhancement of Scottish self-government than his predecessor, but I can't help wondering if we might one day look back on this as some kind of 'accidental turning-point'. The first question that formed in my mind was - what on earth was Alistair Carmichael doing in those pre-election Scottish "leaders'" debates if he wasn't even Nick Clegg's second choice for Secretary of State? I could understand him initially being leapfrogged by Alexander, in the sense that Clegg clearly wanted one of his closest confidantes at the cabinet table, but the appointment of Moore just looks like a calculated snub for the man who performed so creditably in those debates. Perhaps the public should have been informed that the Scottish Lib Dems were in fact being represented by Clegg's preferred candidate for Deputy Chief Whip.
Leaving aside the impact on Scotland, I wonder if there may be a silver lining to all this. However talented Laws is, he also just happens to be the Lib Dem MP ideologically closest to the Tories, so his appointment to such a key position didn't inspire much confidence that the 'social liberal' wing of the party was going to hold much sway within the coalition. As Danny Alexander doesn't seem to have much political identity of his own beyond being a leadership sychophant, it's impossible to say definitively that this mini-reshuffle marks a slight shift away from the right, but his contribution to BBC Scotland's recent programme on the welfare system did at least give the impression his instincts on social justice and the protection of the vulnerable are in the right place. Or at least they were at the time of filming - it's funny what a difference a ministerial title can make.