Lucy Allan made a statement yesterday on social media where she blamed activists for her lies. It was not her fault but disappointed people who did not get the MP or Government they wanted. Fascinating this, she seems to be quoting our own Orkney and Shetland MP himself who says the reason he was taken to Court was because we wanted to silence the opposition in Scotland – ‘it’s not me, its them – they should not notice our mistakes or hold us accountable.’
We expect the same standards of politicians that we would of anyone else – that they tell the truth and don’t make up things to smear other people.
This is how MPs are expected to behave- no comment!!!
“8. In carrying out their parliamentary and public duties, Members will be expected to observe the following general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its First Report as applying to holders of public office.
These principles will be taken into account when considering the investigation and determination of any allegations of breaches of the rules of conduct in Part V of the Code.”
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.”
This is the official statement from the Courts on what happened today!!!
A petition challenging the election of Alistair Carmichael as Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland has been refused after judges ruled it had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed an “illegal practice”.
Following an evidential hearing in proceedings brought by a number of constituents, the Election Court held that Mr Carmichael was duly elected and that his election was not void in terms of section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Lady Paton and Lord Matthews had previously ruled that “a false statement by a candidate about his own personal character or conduct made before or during an election for the purpose of affecting his return at the election has the effect of engaging section 106” of the 1983 Act, but ordered that evidence be led to assist in the resolution of the two remaining issues, namely: did the words complained of in the petition amount to “false statements of fact…in relation to the personal character or conduct” of the first respondent?; and were the words complained of uttered “for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election”?
On the first issue, the court observed that the first respondent [Mr Carmichael] had told a “blatant lie” when, in the course of a Channel 4 interview on Sunday 5 April 2015, he claimed that he had only become aware when contacted by a journalist of a memo leaked to the press by his special adviser Euan Roddin, which stated that First Minister and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon had told the French ambassador that “she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM”.
Lady Paton said: “There is no dispute that the words ‘I told you the first I became aware of this, and this is already on public record, was when I received a phone call on Friday afternoon [i.e. Friday 3 April 2015] from a journalist making me aware of it’ constituted a false statement of fact, in other words, a lie. Obviously the first respondent had been aware of the existence of the memo and its contents as described to him by Mr Roddin since the flight to the Faroe Islands in March 2015. Moreover he had authorised Mr Roddin to release the memo to the Daily Telegraph.”
However, on the matter of whether the lie could properly be characterised as a false statement of fact “in relation to [his] personal character or conduct”, the judges were left with a reasonable doubt.
“It is of the essence of section 106 that it does not apply to lies in general: it applies only to lies in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate made before or during an election for the purpose of affecting that candidate’s return,” Lady Paton said.
The judges gave some examples of what might be regarded as false statements of fact in relation to personal character or conduct.
They explained that if a candidate made a false statement that he would never leak an internal confidential memo, no matter how helpful that might be to his party, as he regarded the practice of leaking confidential information as dishonest and morally reprehensible, and he would not stoop to such tactics, when in fact that candidate had leaked an internal confidential memo containing material which was inaccurate and highly damaging to an opponent, they would be likely to conclude that the candidate had given a false statement “’in relation to [his] personal character or conduct” because he would be falsely holding himself out as being of such a standard of honesty, honour, trustworthiness and integrity that, in contrast with what others in Westminster might do, he would never be involved in such a leaking exercise.
“In the present case, when speaking to the Channel 4 interviewer, the first respondent did not make such an express statement about his personal character or conduct,” Lady Paton continued. “We are not persuaded that the false statement proved to have been made was in relation to anything other than the first respondent’s awareness (or lack of awareness) of a political machination. Accordingly we are not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the words used by the first respondent amounted to a ‘false statement of fact in relation to [his] personal character or conduct’. It follows that we are not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an essential element of section 106 has been proved. Even if we were to apply a lesser standard of proof (i.e. the civil standard of ‘on a balance of probabilities’), we would not be satisfied that the first respondent has been proved to have made a ‘false statement of fact in relation to [his] personal character or conduct’ in the course of the Channel 4 news interview…”
That conclusion was sufficient for the resolution of the case, but for completeness the court gave its views on other matters.
On the second issue, the judges were satisfied that it had been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the first respondent made the false statement of fact “for the purpose of affecting (positively) his own return at the election”.
Lady Paton said: “As the first respondent said in evidence, he wanted public attention to remain focused on that important political message, rather than becoming side-tracked by revelations that it had been he and his special adviser Mr Roddin who had leaked the memo to the Daily Telegraph. In his view, if public attention remained focused on that political message, voters who had anxieties about Scottish independence might find voting for the SNP a less attractive prospect…The inescapable inference, in our opinion, is that if the SNP became a less attractive prospect, the first respondent’s chances of a comfortable majority in what had become a ‘two-horse race’ in Orkney and Shetland would be enhanced.”
Furthermore, the judges considered that the evidence established that there was another purpose underlying the false statement, namely a desire not to be identified as being involved in the leak.
“Thus on the basis of all the evidence led before us we are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that another purpose underlying the false statement was self-protection (a self-protection extending to Mr Roddin, provided that neither of them could be identified). Such self-protection would avoid attracting critical comment, losing esteem in the public eye, and being the subject of any disciplinary consequences, all at a very inconvenient time during the lead-up to the election. Such self-protection would avoid his presenting as a less attractive electoral candidate for the voters in Orkney and Shetland.”
The full determination can be accessed via the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website (see link below) from 12 noon on 9 December 2015:
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.
The decision of the Electoral Court in the ‘People versus Carmichael’ case was published today. The judges have agreed that Mr. Carmichael’s behaviour may be covered by electoral law and have dismissed most of the arguments raised in his defence.
So, thanks to you, the law is being clarified – and this is a real victory – candidates can no longer make false statements about themselves at a General Election – they must tell the truth.
The judges now want to hear evidence about the nature, purpose, and context of Mr. Carmichael’s lies and this will probably involve him having to testify on oath.
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.
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.
A crowd funding campaign set up to help pay Alistair Carmichael’s legal expenses has failed in its crucial first 24 hours to raise any significant cash.
This is in marked contrast to our success when we started the legal case against him. On their first day they managed £2,255, we got over £20k.
Mr. Carmichael does have supporters it appears, just not very many, and not ones with deep pockets. We were worried that wealthy friends may bail him out but no chance! ‘Maclom Bruice’ put in £50.00 and the wife of one peer, £100. One of his most vocal supporters in Orkney contributed a whopping £30.00. Carmichael must be worth less to him than a few bottles of wine and a meal. That’s friendship for you.
The fund was set up by one Sheila Ritchie. Its campaign page is beyond satire. Best to quote it in full (forgive me for not linking)
“Everyone in the Northern Isles knows someone who Alistair has helped, and he has fought so hard for his constituents.
During the election he made a mistake which the SNP has blown out of all proportion. They are using a vague law to try and overturn the election result, even though what he did is not related at all to his hard work on behalf of his constituents. This is nothing more than a ruthless attempt by the SNP to eliminate any remaining opposition to them in Scotland. Alistair is a fantastic local MP, and we need to stand up for him now.
He has told me that his defence will cost £50,000. That’s a lot of money.”
Now, we are not ashamed of our politics -but this is not an SNP plot. I wish it was but my colleagues have not yet seen the Nationalist light. They persist in supporting the Greens and even Labour. They consider Ms. Ritchie’s statement to be defamatory and want the page removed or changed. I assume that Mr. Carmichael does not support these slurs and will distance himself from them. Presumably, he would chose not to accept money raised in such a dishonest way.
Sheila does not tell us her politics but according to Caron Lindsay of Liberal Democrat Voice she is a life long friend of Carmichael and did the Go Sober campaign him (I will do just about anything to beat him) and managed to raise £6,000 for good causes, a huge effort for both of them and something to be congratulated about.She nominated the Lib Dem candidate who lost a safe seat to Alex Salmond.
So this campaign page is full of smears about us spread by a person with a grudge.
The repetitions of these unfounded claims are typical of the supporters of a political party which seems to think it can say and do anything to get power – who thinks one morality is permissible for their private lives and another for their political. The major defence that its activists shout out with increasing hysteria is that others tell lies too.
Well, that is not good enough. We know that politics is corrupt and full of liars. That is the reason we have started this campaign and want to carry it through to its conclusion. No more.
The Indiegogo campaign site ‘The People versus Carmichael” is still up and running – we are hoping that the case will be resolved in our favour on the basis of the last couple of days in the Court of Session but we do not know. A further hearing may still be necessary. Thank you for everything you have done so far and please remember us when you get paid next!
One of the odder bits of being involved in ‘the People versus Carmichael’ is the idea fixed in the minds of many who disagree with us that we are an SNP plot. It is very odd to watch speculation about our motives.
Now, I should know what is happening because my name is on the court action – it is listed under my name in all the paper work.
I am a member of the SNP and proud to be so – there are over 100,000 of us in Scotland, and like about 50% of the population I support independence but this does not make me a plotter.
There is no conspiracy.
No secret funds are coming to us (if only and please!).
No one is giving us orders.
I am the only member of the party amongst the four petitioners. One of us is a Green who is getting pretty mad about being mistaken as a Nat, the others are Labour Supporters (I think).
The idea that we are conspirators is a fascinating one – it seems that many commentators cannot believe that non-politicians can be so angry about something like this – and certainly not people who are from remote island communities who must be all naive or stupid.
Speaking for myself, my anger is not manufactured but real. I am angry that any politician should use dishonest tactics, irrespective of their party. That so many think this is acceptable shows how bankrupt much of our public life has become. We are pursuing Carmichael because he is our MP and only his constituents are allowed to do so. The byre gets cleaned up one stall at a time and starting where we are.
Our supporters are drawn from all sections of the political spectrum – many, many are Liberal Democrats who feel betrayed by a man who has himself said that what he has done is dishonest. That is what all this is about – nothing else.
We are four residents of Orkney, voters, no more and no less. That is enough.
We all know what has happened with food banks in the UK since the austerity cuts began under the Coalition. Even Alistair Carmichael admitted there was a link between benefit sanctions and reliance on food banks. We do not believe they should be needed in a civilised country and are so sad that our own MP was part of the Government that has made them a necessity. This is why we think it appropriate to pass on to them any surplus money raised by the crowdfunding campaign that is requesting the courts to declare his election null and void.
So money will not be wasted – since the article published by Bella Caledonia carrying an update appeared last night (August 20th) £4,000 extra cash has been donated and more is coming in every couple of minutes- we are very, very grateful for the support that helps build our determination to bring matters to a decent conclusion as soon as possible.
You can contribute here. Together, we will reclaim our polity and make sure that our politicians are no less honest than anyone else.