Carmichael in breach of MPs Ethics? Yet another investigation for Alistair. #carmichaelmustgo

donation imageWe were intending to go slow today because of the death of Charles Kennedy but events have over taken us.

Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary standards commissioner, has launched an inquiry into Mr. Carmichael. She is the parliamentary ethics watchdog and has wide ranging powers to investigate MPs who may have broken the code of conduct.

The relevant sections of the code are

  1. Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.
  2. Information which Members receive in confidence in the course of their parliamentary duties should be used only in connection with those duties. Such information must never be used for the purpose of financial gain.
  1. Members shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, or of its Members generally.

Looks to the Vole like a fair cop. Some of the discussions about the leak took place whilst he was still an MP before Parliament dissolved. Carmichael said in the Orcadian last week,   “… I have damaged my relationship of trust with you …..one of the biggest regrets about my current position is that I have inevitably contributed to the already low esteem in which Parliament is held.

Having already said that and admitted the leak it is hard to see what he could say to justify himself to the House. If she thinks a breach has occurred it will then be up to a committee of the House of Commons to decide his fate. This is less likely to be as serious as some of the penalties that could be waiting for him after thea proceedings which we, the four petitioners, have initiated in Edinburgh. I wonder how the Police are getting on with theirs. Lots of frying pans and fires to be jumping around.

Yesterday, Nichola Sturgeon was in Orkney – she did not meet with us or seek any meeting with us, or us with her. This is what she said.

“When Alistair Carmichael finally admitted to leaking the memo about me, the inaccurate memo about me, obviously in an attempt to smear my reputation, he apologised to me and I have accepted that apology.

“But I said then and I think now that the people who were really wronged in this episode were the voters in Orkney and Shetland, because during the election campaign Alistair Carmichael said that he knew nothing about this, and only after the election did he come clean.

“So he misled voters in Orkney and Shetland and, yes, I do think he owes people an apology and I think he should give them the opportunity to vote again in possession of all the facts.”

Pete Wishart of the SNP said ‘The people of Orkney and Shetland need an MP who is fully focused on representing them and the needs of the constituency.”

Now that’s what you would expect them to say.  Very little attention has been paid to how Liberal Democrats feel about what is happening. Many agree – these comments come from LibDem Voice – where a lot of angry people feel very betrayed.

“As a fair minded person, I am interested to see that Willie and the Scottish Lib Dem Party Executive are giving Alistair Carmichael their backing over his aberration and I can fully understand why that is the angle they are taking. However, I have concerns about how this will be perceived by his constituents, and the wider electorate, as well as the long-term consequences for the party.”

“I guess it depends o whether there is a parliamentary enquiry that leads to a significant suspension as speculated on in some papers today. If it triggers the recall threshold I would imagine the SNP can scrape the requisite percentage of voters together.

I also feel that the Party have been a bit quick to decide there is to be no action. Even a symbolic loss of the whip for a period would have shown an acceptance from them that his actions were unacceptable.”

And by far the most damning of all

“Sorry Willie but this is not good enough. It appears that when faced with putting our values in to action or opting for political calculation we opted for the latter.

Alistair breached the Ministerial Code by leaking this memo. He did so without any regard to the potential career damage to the civil servant who wrote it and the First Division Association have rightly condemned this.

He leaked it without considering the impact on the reputation of the party and by lying about his involvement he made the party complicit when it and many activists attacked early Conservative comments that we were the source of the leak.

A needless and expensive inquiry was then held for six weeks and at no stage did Alistair reflect upon his actions and step up to admit his role saving the time and expense.

He ignored the Ministerial Code, he ignored the Nolan Principles and he ignored the standards we set ourselves as a party. It simply is not good enough to say oh look over there those other parties are doing bad things too. The poor standards of others are not an invitation for us to lower ourselves to their level.

That our Executive have decided to take no action whatsoever on Alistair’s conduct is deeply depressing. It is naked political calculation which merely confirms the public’s mistrust in politicians.

When I defected from the SNP to the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2010 I did so in no small part because I believed the party held itself to higher standards in public life. I did not think that was naive, but today it clearly seems so. No censure, no withdrawal of the whip, my party right or wrong no matter the issue – it simply will not do.

The Executive may think the outrage at Alistair’s actions is just the SNP whining and we can live through this. I think they are wrong.

It would have been useful for the Executive to have considered the latest editorial in the Shetland News:

“By seeking to undermine the credibility of the SNP, Alistair has unfortunately undermined his own.

There is a lesson here for our LibDem MSPs as they limber up for a tough fight to retain their Shetland and Orkney seats at Holyrood.

Negative campaigning fails to inspire and can backfire.

An unintended consequence of Alistair’s leak and subsequent confession is the damage it may have done to Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur’s chances of being re-elected next May.

The best way to resolve this whole matter and restore full legitimacy to the current situation would be to re-run the election we’ve just had.

Alistair may say that his conduct as Scottish secretary has no bearing on his work as a constituency MP, but he should let his constituents be the judge of that.”

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