House of Commons – The Code of Conduct – mmm

This is how MPs are expected to behave- no comment!!!

William_Pitt_addressing_the_House_of_Commons_on_the_outbreak_of_war_with_Austria_(by_Karl_Anton_Hickel)“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.”

Selflessness

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.

Integrity

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.

Objectivity

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.

Accountability

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.

Openness

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.

Honesty

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.”

Source: House of Commons – The Code of Conduct together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members – House of Commons – The Code of Conduct

Summary of the Carmichael Judgement

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: 

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/search-judgments/judgment?id=9452fba6-8980-69d2-b500-ff0000d74aa7

 

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

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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.

image credit  

Orkney Voles against Carmichael – campaign update!!!

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shocked political commentators hearing the ruling today

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.

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Sweyn Asleiferson branded a traitor by Orkney LibDems for voting SNP – ‘they deserted me’ he claims.

Lewis_chessmen_23
Shocked LibDems contemplate their defeat  and look for people to blame.

The well known local trader and traveller from Gairsay, Sweyn Asleiferson tells us why he has left the LibDems and now votes SNP.

 ‘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.

image credit: “Lewis chessmen 23” by Nachosan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lewis_chessmen_23.JPG#/media/File:Lewis_chessmen_23.JPG

 

SHOCK Selkies leave Alistair Carmichael and LibDems for SNP. Zara from Unst tells us why.

Faroese_stamp_580_the_seal_womanZara, a well known Selkie contacted us from Muness in  Unst to tell us why she believes mythological creatures in the Northern Isles should abandon the Liberal Democrats. This is her story.

Unlike hogboons, Selkies are able to pass as human and many are registered to vote. Zara, like many others went to university and so is very passionate about Higher Education.

Until the last General election I always voted Liberal Democrat. Sending SNP MPs to Westminster seemed as useful as sending UKIP ones to Strasburg: that they did not believe in the institution or want to be part of it meant that they would not do their job properly.

I got really excited last time. We selkies believed in Nick Clegg  and thought that a  hung parliament  seemed a great opportunity a chance for the liberals bring new life to tired a “New” Labour that had lost its way. We wanted to create a coalition of social democratic parties that even Trows and Hogboons could sign up too. It seemed the  natural thing to do  and we  even dared hope  he would reach out to the SNP  a few more votes if needed. Nick Clegg betrayed all the mythological beings who voted for him when he made a deal with the Conservatives and  he put his natural opposition in power. He rejected the advice of Charles Kennedy who has since been proved right time after a time and one of few Lib Dems who still has my respect. They could have done so much better, they handled the coalition with Labour in Scotland well but they failed and failed badly.

After campaigning for no tuition fees for students,  the government Carmichael is  part of raised them massively.  He betrayed young people in England and put a tax on them for going to University that his family won’t have to pay. He helped set prescription charges that won’t effect him.

I will not be voting Liberal Democrat  at this election, I can’t trust them under current management. The one party that was meant to  support a different kind of politics turned into  double dealers worse than the rest. 

Carmichael blocks amendment to allow investigation of historic child abuse cases.


Alistair_Carmichael_at_Glasgow_2014This one is so serious that satire is not possible.  We need to know why our MP has behaved like this. 
“The Official Secrets Act 1989 amendment was proposed in parliament to make it easier to investigate systemic child abuse cases which have recently come to light with the leaking of a “missing” Westminster dossier which is said to have contained information about paedophiles in parliament and the house of lords. The Defence of Disclosure to Historic Child Abuse amendment was however, blocked by a majority Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote against it.”

http://normanawards.com/2015/04/06/historic-child-abuse-how-did-your-mp-vote.

Alistair Carmichael voted against the amendment on April 6th this year. [mistake – the vote took place on 23/2/2015 at 9 pm.] We know that a serious offender was Cyril Smith, an MP from his party now dead and so beyond prosecution. We know that he was allowed to get away with it. . Police investigations were blocked and officers made to hand over all evidence which was presumably destroyed,  He was not alone.

The Liberal Democrats are not the only people with reason to be nervous.  The BBC reported today that Lord Janner was known to be abusing boys in Leicestershire children’s homes between the 1970s and 1980s.  As the NSPCC said “something went badly wrong” in the way the allegations were handled and “we need to be reassured this will never happen again”.”

It is surely in the interests of everybody for there to be no appearance of secrets being kept and decisions being made behind closed doors by unaccountable people. We know the pain of this in Orkney perhaps more than most.  We know that practitioners need to be accountable and honest. We know that decision makers should not be able to hide under the Official Secrets Act. It has long been a principle that there is no principle of confidentiality more important than the protection of children.

This post has been amended to remove an image of Alistair Carmichael that was copyright to the Sheltand Times. We apologise to them for this inadvertant breach of copyright. This image is from WIKI.

Lib Dems target student voters – Education / News / The Courier

I was in my burrow and I saw this on the Orkney Throttledband. We have been quiet in the last week but my squeak is back. Iloved this headline in the Dundeed Courier and I wanted to share it with you. They must think stupids are stupid. 

“Willie Rennie emphasised his party’s record on higher education in Scotland as he sought to win back student support.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has reached out to students, pledging to rebuild a relationship tarnished by the broken pledge on tuition fees.

Mr Rennie emphasised his party’s record on higher education in Scotland as he sought to win back student support.

He is calling for the Scottish Government to raise the threshold for student loan repayment in Scotland to match that in England.”

via Lib Dems target student voters – Education / News / The Courier.

My Island Dream – The Tim’rous Beastie

Rackwick, Hoy
Rackwick, Hoy

At this time a year ago, my father died and Christmas was a time of closing the door on the world. But the support of family and friends was of huge comfort to me, and as we approach again this normally festive season, I wonder about those who don’t have such support here in Orkney, or are so worried about money that it certainly won’t be a time of celebration. This is the second Christmas we will have had a Food Bank: doesn’t this seem appalling in such a supposedly well-off, caring community as ours, one that according to a poll published earlier in the year is rated as the happiest and most satisfied? There is a long and proud record of Orkney giving to all sorts of charities at home and abroad, yet under our noses there is child poverty, fuel poverty, a rise in enquiries to CAB on debt; we need social workers, foster carers, mental health carers, drug and alcohol councillors; there is the weekly “walk of shame” in the Orcadian.

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