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.
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!
Day two of the fund-raising campaign to dethrone Alistair Carmichael – more success – more work to do as we realise the enormity of what is ahead of us.
We woke up to find the new total of the crowd fund to be £36,310. This is fantastic news and we are far further ahead than we ever dreamed possible. We thought that we would have just raised enough for the petition to be lodged at the Court of Session but 2,315 have people contributed. Our thanks to all of them – and of course this being an island community – we know who many of them are – and there are people of all parties and none who have given.
A lot of the mainstream media are saying that this matter should be resolved by the voters of Orkney and Shetland. They don’t seem to grasp that is exactly who we are. They also seem to be implying that we are a conspiracy to drive the LibDems out of Scotland. That is nonsense. If there is a by-election, Carmichael can stand again. That is his opportunity to be given a second chance.
We have problems though. The only system we can use is one that is cumbersome and not tested. The legislation is designed for the 19th century elections before ordinary people even had the vote. It is clearly not fit for purpose. We have had three clear working days betwen Alistair Carmichael confession to organise the petition having to be presented. It needs to get to us, be signed and then taken down in person to Edinburgh to be handed in.
Being politically active does not discredit us. Being a Nat is nothing to be ashamed of.
A strange phenomenon is also clear in much of the press that if we have political views or a past, that is seen in some way to discredit the campaign. One of us has had her name mentioned a lot coupled with the fact that she is an SNP voter as if that is something to be ashamed of. 50% of the Scots population are. Being SNP is mainstream, not extremist. Our personal politics are irrelevant of course. We do not matter much in this. It is Carmichael who has had to hand back his severance pay. He is the issue. Not us.
This is going to be a tough battle – and it is the solidarity across the whole of the UK, not just Scotland that gives us the courage to try it. The trust being placed in us by a great number of strangers is humbling and a huge responsibility. We will do everything we can to make sure that no one is let down, irrespective of the decision of the courts.
The Orkney Vole is flabbergasted and flufluthert. £31,037 is now in the campaign fund. That means we are half way to reaching our goal and after only 24 hours.
Campaigners are aware of the trust that is being placed in them by the people of Scotland. Money will be used in the legal campaign and then to help hungry people get meals. Hopefully, Carmichael will stand down today and save us all a lot of work. #carmichaelmustgo
The crowdfunding campaign, ‘The people versus Carmichael was launched at 10.30 am this morning. By 1.30pm it had raised £5,674 from over 360 contributions raising from £5 to £150. All the money has come from private individuals. Any money not used for litigation will go to supporting foodbanks in Scotland. This is democracy in action, ordinary people saying enough is enough.
A spokesperson for the campaign team said, ‘WOW!
The total target for the campaign is £60,000 – this huge sum is needed to cover any costs that may arise from the case and is the estimate given by solicitors in Edinburgh.