The Alistair Carmichael defence fund I mention below has now been launched. Please read my post and consider contributing, as I have. Thanks.
I had intended to defer writing about this subject until (a) the electoral court hearing the case against Alistair Carmichael was concluded and the result known and (b) I was aware of a fund to support Carmichael I could contribute to. But on (a), the fact the judicial process is current doesn’t seem to be stopping his opponents from being all the over the media with commentary every day. And on (b) I am assured a fund will be shortly announced. I will be contributing.
I will be contributing neither because I’m a Lib Dem (I’m not) nor because I think Mr Carmichael is untainted by wrongdoing (I don’t). I’ll be contributing because I think what has happened has gone beyond any common sense of justice to a sort of persecution.
This is my understanding of what happened.
A civil service memo was leaked to the media claiming that Nicola Sturgeon told the French ambassador she wanted the Conservatives to win the 2015 general election. Both parties denied the accuracy of the memo. Carmichael denied he leaked the memo. He was subsequently found to be at least instrumental in it being passed to the media. He then admitted that he’d lied and apologised.
A lot more could be said about the detail of the story but that is its essence. One of the many responses was by some of his constituents in Orkney and Shetland who claimed that the election result there was affected by the lie, that if people had known of it at the time the result could have been different to the extent that Carmichael would not have been re-elected. In the way of things these days they got up an online petition and crowdfunded a case in the electoral court that is now being heard.
There was a withering analysis of political lying in The Guardian back in May entitled Do our MPs lie? Yes, copiously and consistently. It concluded that
Sadly, bringing politics into disrepute, which is blamed for the irresistible rise of political disillusionment … goes unpunished in too many ways to single out this [the Carmichael] case from the rest.
I wouldn’t actually be so harsh as The Grauniad in my judgement on politicians. It’s a hell of a difficult job whose rewards are at best mixed. And if we judge our politicians to be fallible do we claim a sort of pure moral integrity for ourselves? For each lie/terminological inexactitude/economy with the verité that could be evidenced for one political party the same could be proven irrefutably for another. On that hook I could hang the lies/terminological etc etc perpetrated by the SNP in government, in opposition and in the referendum campaign. I won’t but if anyone’s daft enough to challenge me to list them I will.
I used to work for a local authority that introduced an appraisal scheme for its staff. It had to be approved by councillors. During the discussion of it someone suggested that councillors should also be subject to appraisal for their performance. One of them sighed wistfully and said, ‘We get our appraisal every four years.’ And that’s the truth in a democracy. What sort of appraisal will Alistair Carmichael get in the next election, if he stands again? In the circumstances, that for me would be enough punishment. In the meantime, he has accepted that he could not hold ministerial office if the Lib Dems were still in government, and he carries the burden of what he did, and was discovered doing. He will have many uncomfortable moments over the next few years no doubt but in political terms, for me, his lie was not a sackable offence.
If you want a measure of the people who seek to oust him and their motivation, visit the web site of The Orkney Vole, ‘the newsletter of the Yes movement in Orkney.’ Why there’s still a Yes movement in Orkney when their campaign was fought and lost and the national campaign disbanded, God only knows. A more sanctimonious and hypocritical political web site it would be difficult to find. They give the game away in their tag cloud – the most frequently cited subject is not any issue around independence or a further referendum, but … Alistair Carmichael. And their last dozen posts, as I write, feature … Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, Alistair Carmichael, the SNP/RISE, the Labour party, Mhairi Black and, help ma boab, English foxhunting . This gives you more than a clue as to why I describe the electoral court case as a sort of persecution. The Vole also provides a link to Wings over Scotland which tells you something too.
Now where’s that Alistair Carmichael support fund?
Footnote 9 September: it’s here – The Alistair Carmichael defence fund