Why did we ‘pick’ on Alistair Carmichael?  The Vole squeaks.

220px-Lord_Foulkes_of_Cumnock
Lord Foulkes

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 Law

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.

Self-talk

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?

CQGTwevWsAAQcLPThere 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.

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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.

This is what the case is about and nothing else.

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Alistair Carmichael MP attacks social media for daring to mention Cyril Smith and ask questions. The Vole replies.

orkneyvoles
Breakfast at the Burrow

Mrs Vole came in from the foraging down at Argo’s today in a bit of a fankle. ‘Well dear.’ she said, ‘looks like you are famous.’

I replied wearily ‘What on earth are you on about?

‘Its Mr Carmichael, the Great Hogboon. He mentioned you in ‘the Orcadian’ today. Not by name tho.’

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.’

Alistair Carmichael elected in crushing defeat due to tactical voting from UKIP and Labour

Alistair Carmichael, official portrait as Secretary of State
Alistair Carmichael in his official portrait as Secretary of State for Scotland

Alistair Carmichael re-elected in crushing defeat. Hogboon and Trow admitted to Hogwarts hospital wing. Vole gracious in ‘victory’.

We all gathered in the burrow to watch the results come in except for Auld Grimmers who was doing some spinning in his grave.  Mrs. Vole will help him issue new shrouds to the vanished hopes of the Liberal Democrat Party later today.  Both the Trow and Hoboon have been admitted to St. Mungo’s Hospital, London for urgent treatment. We hope they recover soon.

Carmichael achieved the nearly impossible feat of keeping his seat whilst losing 27.8% of his vote to Wir Danus, the Skene of Skenes. Indeed, if our wee consituency had gone yellow, Hampshire, Hereford and Hartlepool would also have returned the SNP. In the Scottish election next year McArthur and Scott will have two chances, slim and none.

UKIP and Labour saved Carmichael’s scalp

Turnout out was bigger than last time with all new votes going to the SNP.  The Great Hogboon himself, survived only by what looks like tactical voting from UKIP and Labour both of whom lost ground. Unionism, or what is left of it,  is a continuum that extends all the way from Farage to Murphy. Robert Smith  did well at the hustings and has been a great sport, we wish the others had spoken to us the way he did. Democracy only works when those who have no chance are prepared to  argue their case with other non-entities. Us Voles agree with almost nothing you said but are glad you were prepared to descend into the depths of social media to say it to us.

On the subject of no hopers, the Tory vote appears to have  already been at rock bottom and so went down by only 7 votes. Sources tell us that they will be thrilled to have kept their deposit.

In foreign news, The English National Party has cleverly used fears of the Scots invading Newcastle and Derby to dominate Southland. It has successfully used the stupidity of its coalition partners to do what was feared in 2010 as left wing tactical voters had no where to go with realistic prospects of election.  The perversities of first past the post means that UKIP got  12% of  the vote whilst the Slippery Dems with Nick Clegg  lived up to his name and kept his seat. He said,

“I will be seeking to make further remarks about the implications of this election both for the country and for the party that I lead and my position in the Liberal Democrats when I make remarks to my colleagues later this morning when I return to Westminster.”

When Clegg resigns perhaps the Great Hogboon may stand. It has been done before. When Grimmers led the party he was its only Scottish MP. We wish him all the luck in the world – then we will watch his testimony to the Goddard Inquiry even more closely. Every time we look at the internet we get more shocked by what his party will have to explain.

George Galloway was gubbed and will soon appear on Big Sister Get Us Out of Here on ITV 4.

We expect Boris Johnstone to declare Scotland independent on Tuesday.

Innocent Young Vole smeared by Alistair Carmichael over Inquiry allegations. SSPCA informed.

The Vole and Son, after a public attack by Alistair Carmichael, ask again why he voted against the Official Secrets Act amendment and if elected if he would vote in the same way again.

  • We know he was NOT in office when most of these events occurred but he was Chief Whip when some the stories about Smith’s behaviour resurfaced in 2012. The Liberal Democrats’ Tim Farron, then President of the Liberal Democrats, says that the party has a lot of questions to answer. We would like these answers now. Before votes are cast.
  •  What do senior members of the Liberal Democrat Party know about the criminal activities of Cyril Smith in the 1980s when he was a serving MP? 
  • What did Mr. Carmichael know as Chief Whip?  When did he know it?  What advice did he give Nick Clegg? What attempts were made to contact and support Smith’s victims?

Alistair_Carmichael_at_Glasgow_2014At the Radio Orkney Hustings broadcast last night, Alistair Carmichael committed a petulant attack on my little vole Svein, and myself.

He accused us of telling ‘a blatant lie’ in our blog when we
claimed that the inquiry into historic child abuse had been blocked, or its work made more difficult. This being a consequence of the Government, of which Mr. Carmichael is a member, voting down an amendment to the Official Secrets Act. This was designed to give a specific defence to Special Branch officers who want to testify in public

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Was the Scottish Question Settled? – the Mole and his friend tell all!

mole and rattieAn Orkney Vole is not the smartest beast so the Mole using material from Mr. Lyon tried to tell me all about the Scottish Question, EVEL and how come the people who won the Referendum look so upset.

It now seems a very long time since David Cameron stood at a lectern in Downing Street, declared the Independence Referendum as done and dusted, and in the same speech turned the focus on English votes for English laws.

But now the victors now look like the defeated. The Tories continue to be haunted by Europe and harried by UKIP down south. A directionless Labour are falling apart under a gaff-prone leader, and a disastrous rejection by the Scottish people. The Liberals have lost all credibility since they swapped principles for power and joined a government that punished the poor for the greed of City gamblers. At the same time the SNP have trebled their membership to become the UK’s third biggest party, and the Scottish Greens have increased their numbers by several thousand.

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