Writer Shaun Milne takes a look at the Alistair Carmichael saga
“IF a Lib Dem lies to the trees in the forest… then the trees are probably to blame.”
Watching the Carmichael fiasco unfold makes me feel as if I’m living in a parallel dimension – one where up is down, left is right, Jim Murphy likes Red Kola, and Liberal Democrats lying through their teeth isn’t really a big deal.
Alistair Carmichael, the then-secretary of state for Scotland, agreed to leak a memo to the Telegraph; the veracity of which he hadn’t bothered to check. It was a move that tried to paint SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as having a secret desire to see David Cameron remain prime minister – wee Nicola loves them Tories.
The SNP and their cultish acolytes are just bullying poor, slightly-honest, Alistair Carmichael who simply made a boo-boo.
It was a deliberate attempt to smear Sturgeon, the SNP and Ed Miliband, which fell apart quicker than a meticulously constructed Lego Millennium Falcon at a toddlers playgroup. Carmichael then lied about having prior knowledge of the leak, on national television, during the purdah period of the General Election campaign.
Why, oh why, are all these Nationalists making such a fuss? It’s not really a big deal. It was Sturgeon’s fault, actually. The SNP and their cultish acolytes are just bullying poor, slightly-honest, Alistair Carmichael who simply made a boo-boo.
This brave man, Scotland’s last surviving Liberal Democrat MP, standing tall against the Nationalist hordes who are sweeping across the land, should be allowed to get back to work. That work being his position as MP for Orkney and Sheltand, which he won on a majority of a whole 817 votes.
Eight-hundred-and-seventeen. Look, a squirrel!
I would like to say that I’m surprised by the reaction of many politicians and commentators to this news. I would like to say I’m shocked by their brazen attempts to defend the indefensible, rewrite the narrative, and try to paint Carmichael’s actions as a battle between sensible people and the nasty SNP.
Sadly, none of it surprises me and that in itself says something. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling nothing but contempt and mild despair at the media’s behaviour during the independence referendum, the General Election, #frenchgate and everything in between.
Yes, exceptions do exist. There is a serious debate to be had about the relationships between rising ‘alternative media’ and the ‘damned MSM’ – more on this later, stay tuned – but the overwhelming disconnect between reality and many in the British and Scottish media has become something of a parody.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling nothing but contempt and mild despair at the media’s behaviour during the independence referendum, the General Election, #frenchgate and everything in between.
Looking back when this story leaked at how quick Scottish Labour, the Scottish Lib Dems and the press were in dragging Nicola Sturgeon’s name through the mud, it defies logic that Alistair Carmichael alone was responsible for the leaked memo.
I disagree with the man’s politics, his party and a lot of what he claims to stand for, but he has always struck me as a relatively honest politician, if a little misguided. The public’s hammer of unamused anger will fall hardest on him but it looks like it will fall on him alone.
That much is clear, but who else was involved? Who else was briefed beforehand and how did it come to pass that so many people were already out of the gates shouting ‘Sturgeon is the devil itself come at last!’ milliseconds after the ‘leak’ had been passed on?
In the end I don’t think we’ll get any answers to these questions. No light will be shed and the public will be left not knowing if there were any other players involved. Carmichael’s deputy at the time, Scottish Conservative MP and current Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, must surely have been aware of what was going on, and if he didn’t does that not highlight serious issues with the Scotland Office?
How far has this web been spun? Who birthed this most ingenious of political chess moves? Like waiting for the next series of Game of Thrones, the Lib Dems will hope the public will get distracted during the interim and turn their attentions to the next big scandal, which is probably pre-packaged and sitting off-stage as I type.
Compare and contrast the relative silence and back-peddling on this issue with the wall-to-wall hysteria surrounding the ‘absolute chaos’ at Jim Murphy’s rally in Glasgow or the outrage over Neil Hay’s arguably innocuous tweets.
The overwhelming disconnect between reality and many in the British and Scottish media has become something of a parody.
Most of the mainstream media portrayed scenes of carnage, violence, intimidation and of a country on the brink of some sort of civil war when a handful of numpties shouted down Murphy. It was as if the Dark Lord Sauron himself was standing as an SNP candidate in Edinburgh South, planning on turning Arthur’s Seat into Mount Doom, the way that Neil Hay’s comments were spun.
Yet Alistair Carmichael deliberately lying to the electorate mere days before he was elected as an MP on a thread-bare majority is just business as usual?
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie, who was quick off the mark during the initial leak, has come to the defence of Carmichael, insisting that the whole thing was an ‘aberration’ and that Carmichael should be allowed to go about his job as MP because he said sorry.
Sir Malcolm Bruce has also defended Carmichael, claiming that all politicians lie so we should just shut up about it. These people have influential roles in running the country and implementing policies and laws. Slightly worrying, no?
Michael White, writing in the bleeding Guardian, has also thrown his hat into the Carmichael Defence Ring – it’s like the Judean People’s Front but less professional – claiming the Nats are overreacting, and making out that politicians need to lie because the public are too stupid to be trusted with the truth. In the Guardian.
It feels like I’ve stepped through the Stargate and I’m now standing on another planet where everyone should just accept how shit politicians are and stop trying to bloody change things. This is how it is! Your elected representatives lie through their teeth! Will you stop going on about it?
It goes almost without saying that if an SNP politician had made the same errors in judgement as Carmichael that the media would be awash with calls for Nationalist blood and Sturgeon’s resignation.
It feels like I’ve stepped through the Stargate and I’m now standing on another planet where everyone should just accept how shit politicians are and stop trying to bloody change things.
It would be played out for weeks and all the usual suspects, many of whom are currently circling the wagons to defend Carmichael, would be getting sore digits from all the finger-pointing and sore throats from all the cries demanding the entirety of the SNP disband, go home, take up knitting, and leave the politics to the ‘real politicians’.
The fact these people, these commentators, elected politicians, try to dismiss Carmichael’s actions and turn it around into an ‘SNP bad’ story just goes to show you how out of touch they are.
Following from Nick Clegg’s tuition-fee farce, you’d think the Liberal Democrats would be quick to condemn any similar situations and jettison the deadwood. Apparently not.
Dear Scottish Liberal Democrats, I’m not the prophetic type but I cannot foresee your 2016 Holyrood results being anything other than dismal. Best of luck, though.
We, the people, the plebs, the voters, deserve better than this circus. We deserve better than the twisting-with-the-wind principles of our elected representatives who chop and change their tune at will. Just because your actions were against the ‘dreaded separatist menace’ doesn’t mean you should get a sodding knighthood or even a box of cookies.
You weren’t defending the realm. You weren’t acting valiantly. You were using your position in government to undermine and smear the democratically elected first minister of Scotland as well as bringing foreign dignitaries into the stooshie. That is not acceptable behaviour and no amount of shouting ‘SNP bad’ will change that.
We, the people, the plebs, the voters, deserve better than this circus.
“I would have resigned if I was still in the position,” Carmichael said. You’re still in an elected position, Alistair, and should it not be up to your constituents to judge you in light of all this?
Resign or insist on a by-election but by Christ do it with some sincerity and humility. Two things you and your colleagues have been lacking in recent times.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats better get their act together quick or they’ll soon find themselves going the way of Scottish Labour. Can you not see the writing on the wall? That wall, there! No, there! Stop looking at the ground!
Maybe the only way to save yourselves is to get Jim to help draw up a plan, he ‘thinks in pictures’ these days, after all.
Picture courtesy of the Liberal Democrats