Not often appropriate to praise David Cameron here, but he did the right thing yesterday.
He may have done it later than other people would have liked and hung his feet rather about accepting the inevitable. Not only has Grant Schapps resigned his ministerial post for the conduct of his staff in a previous role, but an independent lawyer is going to lead an inquiry.
Schapps said in his resignation speech said that although he did not feel he was directly responsible, that responsibility should lie somewhere.
“Although neither the party nor I can find any record of written allegations of bullying, sexual abuse or blackmail made to the chairman’s office prior to the election, I cannot help but feel that the steady stream of those who raised smaller, more nuanced objections should have perhaps set alarm bells ringing sooner.
“In the end, I signed that letter appointing Mark Clarke director of RoadTrip and I firmly believe that whatever the rights and wrongs of a serious case like this, responsibility should rest somewhere. Over the past few weeks as individual allegations have come to light, I have come to the conclusion that the buck should stop with me.”
I would like to think that Shapps has learned from looking at how other parties have handled allegations over misuse of power. The continued debate over the role of Lord Rennard within the Liberal Democrats would be an example. The behaviour of the ‘nasty’ party and the ‘nice’ party stands in rather sharp contrast.
THE Orkney Four may have to relaunch their crowdfunding appeal as the bills for their groundbreaking court case against MP Alistair Carmichael start to drop through their letterboxes.So far, they have raised more than £131,000 on the indiegogo.com website, but the costs have been escalating because of a combination of factors, including several court hearings – apart from the actual “trial” – and the site’s fees, a percentage of cash raised.
When I was but an adolescent Vole and visiting my relations, the London Voelles, keen and adventurous, I would go in to the Stockpot (not the one on the stove) all sleekit and bristling for adventures. And no never, no more!
It feels these days as if every time I venture into the West End I will pass a raft of unfamiliar shiny expensive shops and restaurants and then stumble upon one last holdout from the London that I grew up with. “How on earth has it survived,” I’ll think. And then a week later, I’ll find out on Twitter that it hasn’t.
So it is with Soho’s Stockpot, the cheap and cheerful bistro on Old Compton Street that was more than a cafe but wasn’t quite a restaurant. This closes on Sunday after decades of serving starving Soho dilettantes.
I started coming here in my early 20s. It was the first time I felt like a proper grown-up because I wasn’t simply eating at Burger King. It was utterly, ineffably London, as if they had distilled the very essence of the city and mixed it into the gravy that they…
WAS it a “budget for building” as George Osborne would have us believe? Was it a cocky Autumn statement complete with the customary joke about a new pothole fund? Was it surprisingly liberal since Holloway Prison will now finally close so female prisoners can be housed in smaller, more “humane” local surroundings?
Or was all of that knocked into a whopping great, ermine-lined cocked hat by the biggest victory for campaigners in years over the massive, no-holds-barred, egg on yer face, just plain wrong, policy in tatters that was Gideon’s U-turn on tax credits?Honourable ladies and gentleman, I humbly suggest the latter. The only thing the Iron Chancellor got right about tax credit cuts was scrapping, not postponing or “tapering” them. And that was a bit of a surprise to everyone.
“What’s clear, though, is that voters are also wary of that traditional flexibility with the truth, and inclined to accept it only from politicians who have proved themselves trustworthy in big-picture terms. If Carmichael’s untruths about his effort to smear the First Minister have been received with special outrage, for example, that perhaps also reflects some pent-up anger about the Liberal Democrats’ over-enthusiastic acceptance, in coalition, of a right-wing austerity programme that betrayed many of their own founding principles and priorities.”
JOYCE MCMILLAN for The Scotsman 13.11.15
THURSDAY LUNCHTIME; and while heavy November skies hang threateningly over the city, the social media remind us that all is happiness and good cheer in Edinburgh’s Rose Street, where the mighty Hollywood mega-star George Clooney has dropped by for a coffee at the Social Bite, a coffee shop which encourages its customers to buy an extra meal or drink for a homeless person, when they pay for their own snacks. Clooney, of course, is not only a hugely successful actor, but a forceful campaigner for human rights; and to say that people love him is to understate the case – indeed if he were to run for President of the United States, he would no doubt win in a landslide.
The truth is, though, that a large part of Clooney’s appeal resides in the fact that he is a showbiz star, and…
The persistent question we are being asked again and again is why we are not challenging other politicians who have told lies.
There are many obvious examples to choose from – ’no top down changes of the NHS’ Cameron springs to mind and of course, ‘I am so sorry’ Clegg.Much of this has been said in this blog before, and in other places, but it seems to need to be said again as Lord Foulkes campaigns against one of the judges in something that seems to be an attempt by a member of the legislature to intervene in what is an unusual judicial process but still a judicial process.
I need to stress in this post that this is me squeaking as the Vole. I am not speaking on behalf of the other petitioners who are more than capable of speaking up for themselves and, not being a lawyer, I am no Andrew Tickell. He has been by far the most accurate and astute commentator on the case so far, not because he is on our side but, because he has been shown to be right again and again.
The case is under legislation passed by the UK Parliament of which I am a member and have a share in responsibility https://t.co/0b4r2lzqVO
The most important reason for bringing this case against Mr. Carmichael alone is a matter of law.In the UK the only people who are allowed to challenge an election are constituents within 21 days of the result.The grounds on which this can be done are very specific and date from legislation that has roots older than universal suffrage. The four of us, the named petitioners, are able to do this because we are voters in the constituency who could raise the£5,000 necessary to start the process. We are not allowed to do this against anyone else. The only people who could have challenged Mr. Salmond were members of his constituency.
This is not double standards but the law.
Political lies are exempt and IndyRef2 is not relevant in law. Nor is it about the truth of the memo.
This case is not about anything that Nicola Sturgeon said or has done. The content of the memo is not at issue – what is important here is the leak and the subsequent lie.
No politician can say what is going to happen in the future, not even Ms. Sturgeon because she is not a prophet. She may not be in office next year or the year after, nor is it reasonable to expect her to have predicted how this last election would have run from the standpoint of 18 months ago. No incoming chancellor knows the full details of the economy before coming into office and so ‘no new taxes’ is one frequent promise that is nearly always broken – it is not so much a promise as an expectation.
We have already crossed the first big hurdle. The judgement of September 29th set the precedent that false self-laudatory language by candidates is not allowed. They must describe themselves clearly and honestly – think of this as rather like the legislation in place to regulate how estate agents talk about houses. In itself, this should help make elections cleaner.
Many legal experts thought that this first stage would have finished us but then some of those people said Mr. Carmichael would never have to appear in Court.
Personal or political?
There is no question that Mr. Carmichael lied. The questions that remain are about the context and purpose of the ‘mis-truth.’
The best defence that Mr. Carmichael can use is that he told a political lie to influence the outcome of a national election. That is perfectly legal. The case we are making is that he made false statements about himself to influence the outcome of a local election and this we have to establish to a criminal standard of proof.
The judges decide
The Court, in its own time, will send a certificate to the Speaker of Commons that will declare whether the election is to be upheld or not.
The decision is not for the House of Commons to make or for the Speaker.
Lord Foulkes is simply wrong when he thinks that the Speaker has any existing power to challenge the decision of the Court or to intervene in any way. There is no mechanism for this in the legislation nor is there any appeal from the Court. The Woolas case established that a decision can be judicially reviewed if something has gone wrong with the procedure. I think that the only way that the process can be stopped by the House of Commons is by immediate and retrospective legislation – an unusual process that would smack of maladministration and seems impossible politically.
We need a new system
Clearly this system is not perfect. It is cumbersome, antiquated and expensive. The length of time it takes and the very narrow grounds on which it can be implemented are huge causes for concern. The cost of the process is astonishing both to bring and defend. Consultation is currently taking place about how the situation can be brought up to date and in line with international standards. No doubt our experience, and I mean of both sides, will become part of this.
No other mechanism exists in the United Kingdom to challenge a sitting MP. Legislation was passed by the last Parliament to enable their recall but is not yet in force. That dishonest, corrupt or abusive behaviour by our elected representatives cannot be challenged by voters is dreadful- we need mechanisms in all our elected bodies to make sure this process of accountability can happen in a fair and efficient way.
Has the process been fair?
There is a great deal of Twitter anxiety about the impartiality of the process due to the background of one of the judges. From my experience, as one of the petitioners, the Court has been scrupulous and taken great care to ensure that both sides agreed the process that took place. This has been necessary because of the novel situation we find ourselves in and the sheer lack of precedent. The Liberal Democrats made it very clear to Tom Gordon of the Herald that they accept the impartiality so far. I agree. I believe that we have had as fair a hearing as possible. The results will come soon – we all have to wait – and there is nothing anyone, including members of the House of Lords, should try and do to influence the judges now.
This has nothing to do with the SNP.
When Tavish Scott MSP on TV called this process a show-trial, he was disrespectful and wronged the victims of the real show trials where verdict was pre-ordained and the purpose was to demonstrate guilt.
We have no idea what the outcome will be and, now, nor does anyone else. Mr Scott did not stay to hear the rest of the evidence, but then, he seems to think this is a plot to unseat him.
Our motivation is not at issue and we are carrying out this case within our legal rights. If it had no merit at all, it would have already been dismissed.
I know that none of our opponents believe us but this has nothing to do with the SNP. We have had no guidance from the Party or any cash. Many of its members support us but then so do many Liberal Democrats. It is clear from comments in LibDem Voice that some of them wish that Mr. Carmichael had just gone away. This is also born out by the failure of his attempt to crowd fund his defence, notable only for its lack of contributions from many political heavy weights or anyone much outside the party.
Immediately after initially posting this Lord Foulkes got in touch and asked me to confirm that I am a member of the SNP. I am. I pay my subs each month but I am not an office holder and have never been to a meeting. Indeed, I have attended more Liberal Democrat meetings in my life (but long ago and to support a flatmate). Oh, and I have never met Ms. Sturgeon let alone taken an instruction from her.
If we win…
I am not trying to predict the case – that is for the judges – but there is no doubt that we are closer than we were. Closer is not winning by any stretch of the imagination.
The outcome, if successful, is a by-election. If that happens, if, if, if, both the SNP and the LibDems will put a lot of resources in to win the seat. That is not our concern at the moment – it is only since the Referendum that this seat could be considered marginal in any way.
As one of his constituents, I want a new vote now that we know how our MP has behaved. He will not be a candidate in any by-election because, if Mr. Carmichael loses, he could be debarred from public life for a number of years. In that case, the Liberal Democrats will be able to put forward a new person and we can all make a fresh start. They may even win and then, perhaps, even, keep their seats in the Scottish Parliament.
Operation Gappus, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love Liam & Tavish’s Lib-Dems
On the 3rd of November 2015, 17 MSPs voted in favour of monstrously expensive weapons of mass destruction which can never be used. These included Lib-Dems Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott, of Orkney and Shetland respectively. There’s no mention of this in the pretend “newspaper” they’ve been dropping on the Northern Isles, oddly enough.
The other 96 MSPs voted to reject the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which is estimated to cost at least £167 billion. Not that Westminster will pay any heed.
Magnus Erlendsson, saint of this parish and very fine artist has put the originals of some of his cartoons for sale in the Christmas show at the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness for the whimsical, if not devilish price, of £666 a piece.
Although our fund could do with the cash, I hope the old saint keeps the money for the originals for a new reliquary for himself. The old bones could do with a new shrine.
Contact the gallery on 01856 850209 directly to get your very fine piece of history.
All the Voles, even Granny who hates social occasions, trundled along to have a look. Both pieces are hanging in the middle of the main hall where they caused a bit of a stir – not everyone is appreciative of political art as Mrs Vole and little Sweyn. Many people seem to suspect that I may be the real artist but even a vole-of- all-trades like myself could not pretend to be such a fine artist.
Cary Welling, one of the Orkney 4 has also got two very fine images on show. She has long been a distinguished photographer and an activist before this current fuss. Her very fine collection of Greenham images is online. They are fantastic in their own right and as historical (we are old) documents.
Cary was good enough to be holding me up high enough to look at her work when we realised that right beside us was a certain MSP for Orkney deep in conversation with a troglodyte and an owl. Now the MSP behaved impeccably but some of the other mythological creatures did not do quite so well.
It was rather sweet really. The more fanatical Carmichael Defenders are doing their best to snub us to make sure that we know the full weight of their displeasure. As they are mostly very middle class, and used to having their own way they are hardly able to do more to our faces than huff and puff. Granny Vole had to leave to stop herself laughing.
One trow was rather braver than the rest. As he is not a fool and not a bad sort, I assume he was drunk. He started to shout at me in front of the most excellent mulled wine.
That particular trow thinks, and he has said that he has read every word I have written on this so will read this too, that I am a hypocrite for not attacking Alex Salmond.
In the cool light of a hangover, I have to accept he has a point, not the point he made, but another point which he should have made but did not.
Independence campaigners are not holy, we are not consistent and we have made mistakes. Some dodgy characters will be sitting on the SNP benches with nasty little secrets that they don’t want the electorate to know about. These will come to light sooner or later.
When they do we will need better mechanisms for challenging sitting MPs. The Recall Act supported by the Lib Dems in the last Parliament is now in urgent need of coming into force. I hope it is used to challenge dishonest politicians very soon. It is easy to guess that there will be quite a move against Michelle Thomson when that day comes – and that is not a comment on her innocence or guilt.
We also need this kind of mechanism in the Scottish Parliament very badly. As the Unionist parties argue themselves into oblivion the only mechanism to hold SNP politicians to account will be through voter activism. Sooner or later governing parties get lazy and a bit careless on matters of detail. I hope this doesn’t happen to the SNP but we need to watch them carefully.
What exactly constitutes the political centre, anyway? Is it even a real thing? And why are we so in thrall to something so vague and ill-defined?
The political centre ground: people talk about it all the time. It is meant to represent the silent majority, that great conclave of wise and sage-like citizens who – unlike us hotheated partisan folk with our strong beliefs and awkward ideals – remain serenely above the political fray, calmly and methodically weighing competing policies against each another before arriving at their pragmatic, irreproachable voting decision on polling day.
Every British political party leader since Thatcher left office has been in hot pursuit of the political centre ground, happily throwing established party orthodoxy and revolutionary thinking alike out the window, preferring to court the good opinion of people who took a good look at Labour’s managed decline of…
During the last war, a number of Italians who were captured in Orkney were held prisoner on an uninhabited island. They were allowed to construct a chapel from waste materials and raised funds by putting on a dance band. 70 years after the end of the War the chapel is still there. They prisoners were popular, some never left.
Our islands are a better place because they were here.
I was thrilled when people sent me this link to Karine Polwart singing the ‘Freedom Call Ye’ there on a bleak Orkney day.
“I wish no harm to any human being, but I, as one man, am going to exercise my freedom of speech. No human being on the face of the earth, no government is going to take from me my right to speak, my right to protest against wrong, my right to do everything that is for the benefit of mankind. I am not here, then, as the accused; I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.”
He died because he gave his coat to a homeless man. As a result he caught a that aggravated his TB.
The song says that when he comes again, there will be an end to injustice in this country and unnecessary foreign wars. ‘Scotland the Brave’ will no longer be heard as an imperial anthem but as a song of peace.
Everyone who is at home with freedom is welcome in Scotland. It is to our shame that so much of the response of our politicians to what has been happening is the exact opposite of activity that builds hope and reconciliation.