Andrew Tickell, who blogs as the Lallans Peat Worrier wrote in the National the other day – he puts the case succinctly and well –
IT was nothing personal.” That, in a nutshell, was Alistair Carmichael’s defence in court number one in Parliament House yesterday.The Orkney and Shetland MP is trying to persuade Lady Paton and Lord Matthews to dismiss the election petition that four of his constituents have brought against him under the Representation of the People Act 1983.They’re relying on section 106 – which makes it an illegal practice to make false statements about a candidate’s “personal character and conduct” for the purposes of winning election. If the petitioners prevailed, not only would Scotland’s last Liberal Democrat lose his seat, but Carmichael would be barred from elective office for three years. If the procurator-fiscal decided to institute proceedings, there would also be a risk of prosecution and a hefty fine. The personal consequences couldn’t be starker.
Well folks, due to the overwhelming support of all of you, I was able to travel down to Edinburgh yesterday and lodge the petition to hold the electoral court at the Court of Session – it was a hair raising day – the papers had to be accepted by close of business or we would not have been in time – so I was on the early flight and it was delayed by two hours. Talk about timing!
Whilst I was in the airport, a certain MP of this parish walked past but did not recognise me – I don’t think he will be doing that again.
A word in praise of the legal team
Nothing could have happened without the sheer courage of our legal team. I met them all yesterday for the first time – and they were brilliant – they had been working around the clock for days – asking us questions really late at night – and under huge pressure. I do not see how we could have better.
Events over the next few weeks
Now the papers have been lodged this is what happens.
I must pay £5,000 into the court on Monday morning.
The papers must be formally served on Alistair Carmichael this week.
From being served, Mr Carmichael has a week to respond if he choses to and must give the grounds of his objection and he must
Then there is a period of ‘adaptation’ where what is agreed is agreed – and here the basis of his conduct is not in doubt. He has admitted it after all.
The Court of Session officials set a date for the trial – that is the word being used – that could take place in Edinburgh, Lerwick or Kirkwall.
Then it all happens. Witnesses can be called and two judges will take the decision and then of course, there could be an appeal.
We cannot show you the grounds of the petition yet (and here a petition is a formal document going to the Court rather that the 38 Degrees kind of thing) because it has not been served – and now it belongs to the Court rather than us.
Two big things stand out.
It is going to take a long time – we have no idea how long – the Woolas case that took place in England lasted 7 months –
and it could cost anything at all.
So our focus has now to shift towards planning for the length of the campaign.
Fiona McInnes who has been the inspiration behind this keeps saying to me ‘don’t get carried away, stay grounded.’ This is fantastic advice that could serve as our moto as we move into the next phase. There is time to do local events that can themselves be part of the story – and we had some fun generating ideas – the #carmichaelmustgo beetle drive, the Alistair Cake Bake, and so on. Anything we do must be consistent with the aims of the campaign – so please be careful not to give our opponents ammo for the myths that they are spreading about us being a nationalist lynch mob.
There is a blog associated with the campaign tho not part of it – theorkneyvole.com – it is posting regularly on what is happening as well. Please use it too.
When it comes to this next stage, we are not the people in control – you are – we are voters trying to clean up politics – so we have to stay honest, keep kind and organise our socks off.
John Aberdien (the Vole’s old English teacher) writes an excellent piece in today’s Bella Caledonia.
As Sir Malcolm Bruce (“He misconducted himself as a Minister”).splutters a truly dismal assessment of public office on live national radio, saying that if we were to kick out every MP & government minister out of the House of Commons who has told a lie it would be empty, John Aberdein examines the Carmichael saga.
The first stage is to raise an election petition in the Courts. This could begin a process which could have the recent result in Orkney and Shetland overturned. £5,000 must be raised by Friday and the legal team estimates that £50-£60 000 is a realistic amount that will need to be raised in the next month. Any excess funds raised will be donated to foodbanks in Scotland. Donations can be made here.
Tim Morrison, one of the campaigners involved said,
“This is is not a party based campaign. Mr. Carmichael said that he would have had to resign as a cabinet minister over this. We do not understand how he can stay on as our MP. We know that our friends and neighbours want this to happen.
We were all thrilled at the burrow to find an email from that nice rodent Mr David Carmerat who thought we would want to celebrate the Tory victory in Scotland. I immediately sent of for one for Mrs. Vole, little Svein and myself. We will wear them everywhere with pride and I am sure you will all want to buy them too.
In other news: watch out for the new serial starting here next week: the Adventures of C-Man – one LibDem against the world, saving Scotland from the evil Natises!!
Royal Bank of Scotland to leave Stromness – the caring bank shows its love for remote communities!
I almost spluttered on my breakfast sclater. ‘Not by name?’
‘No dear, but it must be you, this is what he said.’
‘…. commented on the use of social media and said that he had seen the use of ‘smear’ tactics’
“There were some unpleasant aspects to it – some of the stuff on social media, in particular.
I don’t know if we’ve learned quite yet how to use social media, or if social media has quite worked out what to do on politics but its not working at the moment.
There was some unpleasant stuff about child abuse investigations. which was not the sort of thing that has ever featured in Orkney politics in the past. It was a downright smear. But maybe thats where politics is now whether you like it or not.’
‘I didn’t smear him. I just wanted to know what Mr Carmichael knew as Chief Whip about Cyril Smith. I wondered if Nick Clegg spoke to him about solicitors’ letters he refused to answer, the ones requesting the party’s files on what had gone on. It all happened not that long ago. We wondered if it might have explained that vote in the House of Commons when the Government refused to give whistle blowers that defence.’
‘That one where some of his own MPs rebelled against the party and voted with all of those in opposition.’
She was getting mad with me. ‘He has been very cross with you. I don’t think you should have been so cheeky’
I sighed, ‘But I liked that picture of him snogging David Cameron. I would have thought a LibDem would have been glad of the attention. Social media lets us make fun of people in power and try to get them to account for what they have done in office. ’
My best beloved rustled her tail in irritation, ‘But he says Orkney politics has never been like this before.’
I look firm. ‘He is right, it has never been so serious. We have the food banks now and we have never been represented by someone whose party has been alleged to involved in a cover up of criminal behaviour by one of its MPs before. ‘
‘‘I suppose that’s why My Carmichael doesn’t like you. You want him to answer for the things his party did when he was in power’
Yes love, and here are the questions again. If he gives us a good answer we never need mention it again. Maybe he will have the time to do it now he is no longer a government minister. We won’t stop until he does.’
When did you first learn about Cyril Smith’s criminal activities as an MP?
When you were chief whip and requests for information from victims were received, were you involved in the decision to not answer the letters?
What files has the party held on Cyril Smith? Where are they now? If they were destroyed, on whose orders?
What advice did you give Nick Clegg on how to handle the situation?
Did David Steel know about the system that was in place that enabled Smith to make one phone call to get out of trouble?
David Steel’s unwillingness to act enabled Smith to continue his activities. Will you disassociate yourself from him?
What practical support will the party offer the people Smith victimised as an MP?
Did Liz Lynne ever tell you about the conversation she had with Martin Digan in 1996? The one she does not remember and is alleged to have burned the files over?
What is the difference between a cover-up and refusing to release the information?
The Best Beloved smiled and patted my paw, ‘I do love you Furry Face, you are my intrepid Vole.’
I smoothed my whiskers modestly, ‘It’s not hard when you are doing the right thing, love.’
‘I was branded a Traitor and victim of SNP spin. It is time to tell the truth.’
After being attacked by Orkney LibDems for voting SNP, Sweyn spoke to the Intrepid Vole. This is his story, in his own words. We were glad to offer him sanctuary in the Burrow and a little fortification.
The Vole: I know this is painful for you to remember but can you tell us about your LibDem past?
Sweyn: The first election I was eligible to vote in was the election of 1979. Both parents were ardent conservatives but I had other thoughts. I voted Liberal for a number of reasons.
The main reason was, despite my being, at the time a member of the armed forces, was the Liberal commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament.
The commitment to the environment was my second reason, long before it became the “Thing” to believe in. They had a commitment to the sick, the disabled, the disadvantaged. The Liberals cared, they gave the only true alternative to the far left and the far right of British politics.
What about the SDP?
Even with the joining of the party with the Social Democrats in 1988 sat well with me as they supported these ideals as well. My interest in politics grew over the years, and I became more involved in helping my party by delivering leaflets and campaigning for my local LibDem MP after his election in the South of England in 1993. He was a great help to me personally after a motorbike accident in 2002 robbed me of a portion of my left leg.
So what has happened that could drive a devoted supporter away? What could have turned you from a path you had been on for 985 years?
Less and less of liberal policy since the mid nineties has reflected true liberalism.
Gone was the commitment to unilateral disarmament.
Gone was the unwavering commitment to de-centralisation.
Gone was the unwavering commitment to the environment.
The very soul of the party was evaporating slowly but surely.
Was being LibDem part of your reason for coming to Orkney and settling in Gairsay?
Yes, When I moved here in 1127 I truly believed I was moving to the heartland of Liberal values. Whilst the population still have those values, I was to find out the party did not. The end for me with the party started the day they jumped into coalition with the Tories. When I voted in 2010 for Alistair Carmichael, it was because I wanted the LibDems to represent me in Westminster. What they did was take my vote and hand it on a silver platter to the Conservatives without a care for my choice or opinion. I did from that point onward feel disenfranchised. I had nowhere to go. Then along came the independence referendum, I chance at last for redemption. Support for the Yes campaign would have been support for liberal values, but no, the party I once had faith in, instead supported a vile campaign against freedom and justice for the people of Scotland. They joined with disseminating lies and spin, making out that all north of the border were scroungers, miscreants and troublemakers. They assisted in the sham of promises they had no intention of keeping. Liberal values no longer.I did the only thing I could, I withdrew my support.
How have they responded to your crossing the great divide?
Since then, I have been accused of many things, ‘Traitor’. being a sheep following SNP spin, even being selfish and caring only about myself. In truth I am still a Liberal person, I still have the very same ideals I had back in 1979. I did not desert the LibDems … The LibDems deserted me. I am now SNP.
“I am not going to have a Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the Scottish National Party,” he said, ruling out a so-called confidence and supply arrangement. ”
“The man is daft as a box of bonxies”
In latest news, the Hogboon is still swithering, ‘My vote is all to play for, I know Alistair Carmichael has done things to hurt real people, that farmers are worse off, expanding and that he wants to deal with the Tories. I am sure that there is no truth in the cover up stories really, honestly, definitely. But I just don’t like change. Things might happen
The Hogboon came rushing in to the burrow clinging to a copy of the LibDem Manifesto.
“Lib Dem are wanting an EU referendum if the EU is after new powers. That’s what the manifesto says. That did not worry me but the Guardian said Clegg is going further and has even refused to rule out supporting Conservative plans for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Its not even a red line!!
He kept on going, “That means he will support it. Risk Big everything. England may pull us out of Europe what with UKIP being more popular than his party south of the Border.”
“Yer farmer will not be happy about that” I stated. “And your folk voted ‘no’ because they were scared of leaving Europe.”
The Hogboon looked worried,”Aye that’s right, it’s a lot of money. In 2012, 607 farmers in Orkney got £19,484,000.”
“They will miss that.”
“They will indeed. The kye are worried. Bessie is losing weight.”
” I noticed that,” I said, “well no wonder, not since Carmichael agreed to those funding changes. The NFU and the Scottish Government thought that was a really bad deal.”
The Hogboon waved his paws in the air, “Aye. Its enough to make a farmer vote SNP”