On Monday and Tuesday, the legal debate took place in the Court of Session in Edinburgh before two judges. The whole process was televised live and broadcast online. This meant that anyone, for the first time, could follow the proceedings and hear the full arguments presented on behalf of Mr. Carmichael and ourselves. The judges will deliver their ruling at some point – it may be in weeks or months. Both sides hope that the matter will be resolved quickly but accept that further hearings may be necessary.
Inflammatory actions by Carmichael supporters
Since the events in Edinburgh, Mr Carmichael’s supporters have been very active. Sheila Ritchie, a lawyer in Aberdeen initiated a crowd fund campaign to help with his legal costs. Its existence was promoted on Liberal Democrat websites and received widespread press coverage.
I was very glad to see the fund come into existence. This process we are engaged in is burdensome and raises huge financial risk for the petitioners and any MP whose election is being challenged. There is a ‘but’ and its big. Ms. Ritchie cast Mr Carmichael as a hero who was being punished by a totalitarian regime for a simple mistake. They claimed that my colleagues and myself are part of an SNP attempt to crush any opposition to one party rule.
We are not. Our politics are well known now and our party affiliations are all in the public domain. This inflammatory language provoked considerable outrage. Numerous complaints were made on the website itself and to its owners about what appeared to be attempts to raise money through misleading statements that breached its own terms and conditions. I wrote to Ms. Ritchie through the site and asked her to moderate how we were described.
Mr. Carmichael seems have no problem with how the fund has represented him. He was asked to disassociate himself from the language used but refused to do so.
As my colleagues and myself have been attacked consistently for our support being both partisan and outside the constituency, we could have assumed that our opponents would have been careful to demonstrate wide spread local support from a range of political backgrounds. On the contrary, it showed how little actually does exist for Mr. Carmichael both within the constituency and within his own party and nationally.
Although nearly 20% of the money raised came from councillors, ex MPs and members of the House of Lords, the list of supporters had numerous omissions. No donations came from Nick Clegg, Norman Lamb or Tim Farron. Some well-known local Liberal Democrats contributed but not many and not very much. The total amount raised before the campaign closed late on Saturday night was less than 15% of the target with 154 donations. It is hard not to contrast this with the People versus Carmichael fund which has raised £89K from 5,200 people.
Carmichael claims threats of intimidation
On Saturday, the ‘Aberdeen Press and Journal’ reported claims by Mr. Carmichael that his office staff were receiving threatening messages and he was concerned for their safety, alarmed enough to tell journalists but not the Police. This worries me. Everyone has as absolute right to expect their employer to ensure that they are able to work in a safe environment. MP’s staff are no different.
Mr. Carmichael must pass his concerns on to the appropriate authorities forthwith or perhaps he is… , no he wouldn’t, … not again….?
None of this is relevant to the merits of the case. I have total confidence that the judges will administer the law fairly however they decide. The legislation they must use is from the 19th century and so predates universal suffrage. It is hardly fit for purpose, but such as it is, there are rights under it granted to us as voters. The four of us and our 5,200 funders are pursuing these as citizens in a democracy. Mr Carmichael and his supporters are entitled to a vigorous and strong defence to our challenge. It should go without saying that no intimidation is acceptable at all from either side and that we must ensure that the rest of this affair is conducted calmly and in a peaceable way.
No more talk of conspiracies please.
No more threats from either side.
When all this is done, we have to continue to live together.