++ Breaking…Willie Rennie: I hope that fair minded people will give Alistair Carmichael a second chance

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie has just issued this statement acknowledging the seriousness of Alistair Carmichael’s actions but saying that the Orkney and Shetland MP deserves a second chance.

I have discussed the serious nature of the publication of the Scotland Office document with Alistair Carmichael. He fully understands the impact it has had on his reputation. He deeply regrets his actions, has accepted responsibility for his error of judgement, apologised to Nicola Sturgeon and the French Ambassador and declined his ministerial severance payment.

I have known Alistair for almost thirty years and have worked closely with him in parliament for almost a decade. I have always been impressed by his energy, dedication and professionalism.  He has served Orkney and Shetland for fourteen years and has been elected on four separate occasions.  It is clear to me that recent events are an aberration.

As a liberal I believe that people deserve a second chance.  I hope fair minded people would agree that Alistair Carmichael should be given that second chance.

Yesterday, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party Executive met and gave Alistair Carmichael its support. He has my support too.

Alistair will now get back to his job representing Orkney and Shetland.

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69 Comments

  • Samuel Griffiths 24th May '15 - 2:33pm

    Not much else that can be done. The SNP would most likely win any by-election. It’s a choice of standing behind Alistair or losing another MP. Life just gets better for the LibDems.

  • Dave Orbison 24th May '15 - 2:55pm

    David Laws, Chris Huhne…. And yes loads in other parties too. But the plea is hardly consistent with being advocates for high standards in public office.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 3:15pm

    Except, Dave, that part of our core values is a commitment to rehabilitation.

  • @Caron. Rehabilitation yes, but not without sufficient remorse by or punishment of the offender.

    Loss of severance pay is not enough.

  • Fully agree with Caron. We should practice what we preach and give everyone a second chance. We should have acted the same with David Laws sooner and with Chris Huhne now.

  • Anne Cunningham 24th May '15 - 3:51pm

    As a fair minded person, I am interested to see that Willie and the Scottish Lib Dem Party Executive are giving Alistair Carmichael their backing over his aberration and I can fully understand why that is the angle they are taking. However, I have concerns about how this will be perceived by his constituents, and the wider electorate, as well as the long-term consequences for the party.

  • I guess it depends o whether there is a parliamentrary equiry that leads to a significant suspension as speculated on in some papers today. If it triggers the recall threshold I would imagine the SNP can scrape the requisite percentage of voters together.

    I also feel that the Party have been a bit quick to decide there is to be no action. Even a symbolic loss of the whip for a period would have shown an acceptance from them that his actions were unacceptable.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 4:17pm

    It seems that the Recall Act isn’t yet law, so that part of it is irrelevant. http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/why-alistair-carmichael-cant-be-recalled.html

    Now, let’s look at a fairly similar situation where a senior Scottish politician gave a very misleading tv interview in which he very strongly implied that the Scottish Government had taken legal advice over an independent Scotland’s EU membership. The Scottish Government spent a small fortune fighting a freedom of information request over this legal advice. It eventually turned out that none had been sought. The politician who gave that interview – Alex Salmond. Lib Dems resoundingly condemned him at the time – and I wrote about it on here. I was told by commenters that I was being way too hard on the poor SNP and I should stop being so negative. Some of them were members of the Liberal Democrats.

    Nobody called for Alex Salmond’s resignation as FM let alone as an MSP for that yet it seems that people are wanting Alistair’s resignation when he has paid a significant financial and reputational penalty for his behaviour. Surely that is punishment enough. This is turning into a witch hunt.

    I find it odd that Liberal Democrats are first to condemn their own and protect others. I’m not suggesting we turn into the SNP and the cybernats for a minute, but they are first to protect their own in robust fashion and condemn others. I’d suggest both groups of people need to get themselves a sense of proportion.

  • Donald Cameron 24th May '15 - 4:24pm

    I agree with Willie Rennie. The Party should support Alistair in his hour of need as he has done so much good for the Party over decades. In my 40 years experience there is no low cunning devices the SNP will not stoop to in their fight for Independence and a result a persons temper may snap just once during a frustrating campaign. He has apologised, now let us be finished with it within the Party and let the Cybernats exhaust themselves.

  • If the memo had been accurate would Nicola Sturgeon have been entitled to a second chance too?

    As individuals everyone deserves a second chance, but as public servants whose actions directly influence the decisions of a wider populace?

    I really really hate what the SNP have done here, but is this really in the best interests of his constituents and perhaps more importantly have the views of his constituents been given due consideration by the Scottish Lib-Dems?

  • Interestingly the Guardian online seems to have edited its article.. Thanks for the link explaining why Caron.

    I still think it wrong that the Party has not seen fit to punish him. He did directly lie when asked by the media. I do not think it was in the same league as pretending legal advice had been sought but it does show that the new kind of politics we had been promised had, by the end of the last parliament, descended into too much more of the same. I wouldn’t want to see an election as I believe the SNP would be almost certain to win it but I can’t help thinking that the lack of any formal punishment by the Party will be seen as tantamount to condoning his actions.

    I also worry that the lack of action against him will lead to calls of hypocrisy when, as is sadly inevitable, a politician of another party behaves badly during the remainder of this parliament.

  • Can anyone help with the protocol here? Carmichael was not an MP but was a minister when he released the civil servant’s report. Carmichael has been re-elected as an MP, he is no longer a minister. Can the Parliamentary standards committee impose sanctions from one parliament to another? Can the committee sanction someone as an MP for their role as a minister? In fact what can they do? What, if anything, would or could have happened if Carmichael had not been re-elected?

  • Alex Dingwall 24th May '15 - 5:35pm

    Sorry Willie but this is not good enough. It appears that when faced with putting our values in to action or opting for political calculation we opted for the latter.

    Alistair breached the Ministerial Code by leaking this memo. He did so without any regard to the potential career damage to the civil servant who wrote it and the First Division Association have rightly condemned this.

    He leaked it without considering the impact on the reputation of the party and by lying about his involvement he made the party complicit when it and many activists attacked early Conservative comments that we were the source of the leak.

    A needless and expensive inquiry was then held for six weeks and at no stage did Alistair reflect upon his actions and step up to admit his role saving the time and expense.

    He ignored the Ministerial Code, he ignored the Nolan Principles and he ignored the standards we set ourselves as a party. It simply is not good enough to say oh look over there those other parties are doing bad things tool. The poor standards of others are not an invitation for us to lower ourselves to their level.

    That our Executive have decided to take no action whatsoever on Alistair’s conduct is deeply depressing. It is naked political calculation which merely confirms the public’s mistrust in politicians.

    When I defected from the SNP to the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2010 I did so in no small part because I believed the party held itself to higher standards in public life. I did not think that was naive, but today it clearly seems so. No censure, no withdrawal of the whip, my party right or wrong no matter the issue – it simply will not do.

    The Executive may think the outrage at Alistair’s actions is just the SNP whining and we can live through this. I think they are wrong.

    It would have been useful for the Executive to have considered the latest editorial in the Shetland News:

    “By seeking to undermine the credibility of the SNP, Alistair has unfortunately undermined his own.

    There is a lesson here for our LibDem MSPs as they limber up for a tough fight to retain their Shetland and Orkney seats at Holyrood.

    Negative campaigning fails to inspire and can backfire.

    An unintended consequence of Alistair’s leak and subsequent confession is the damage it may have done to Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur’s chances of being re-elected next May.

    The best way to resolve this whole matter and restore full legitimacy to the current situation would be to re-run the election we’ve just had.

    Alistair may say that his conduct as Scottish secretary has no bearing on his work as a constituency MP, but he should let his constituents be the judge of that.”

  • Dave Orbison 24th May '15 - 5:50pm

    Caron I’m not persuaded by your arguments. I too fully support rehabilitation of wrongdoers. But rehabilitation should follow after a just punishment. Also, it’s a bit lame relying on the Recall Act not being in place. Wasn’t the whole point of this Act to enable the electorate to be able to remove MP’s who conduct should have led to them leaving office, but instead unashamedly clung to office? Isn’t this one of the main planks of Clegg’s ‘new breed of politics’? Further to analyse this from the perspective of what electoral advantage/disadvantage this would give the LibDems or that the SNP is just as bad or worse, misses the point. I don’t doubt the hypocrisy and double standards in other parties as they seek to exploit yet another low point in public conduct of MP’s. The point is, or rather was, that the LibDems, refreshingly offered a NEW approach in 2010. As the LIbDem machine seeks to protect Carmichael, it simply shows that the LibDems, at the very least are no different that any of the others, at worse, cannot be trusted on this issue either.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 5:52pm

    Alex,

    I’d rather have a leader who acted like a liberal, acknowledged his colleague’s wrong-doing and the penalties he had faced and stuck by him when it’s clear that he has apologised. You act as though Alistair has not been punished. He has given up a five figure sum.

    There are distinct parallels between the Salmond/EU advice situation and on that occasion, Salmond faced no penalty although one was deserved. There was also an occasion where Salmond misled Parliament and had to come back and apologise later the same day. These weren’t resigning matters.

    The SNP stood resolutely by Salmond refusing to accept that he had even done anything wrong in these circumstances and that the horrible unionists were just being nasty, even when nobody was calling for his resignation. Some people, including you, Alex, had a real go at me, telling me I was being negative for daring to question his behaviour. Now the same people are conducting a witch hunt against Alistair.

    People need to ask themselves what is a proportionate penalty for this. Surely the forfeit of a significant sum of money and making a fulsome public apology is sufficient.

    The Scottish Executive did not condone his behaviour. We all felt that the leak was an unwise thing to do but that he had already been punished enough. That, I don’t think, is an unreasonable conclusion to have reached.

  • David Evans 24th May '15 - 5:53pm

    Alistair has clearly made a catastrophic error of judgement which has cast a cloud over himself, the Lib Dems reputation nationally, in Scotland, but most of all, in Orkney and Shetland. My view is that he should be given the chance to rehabilitate himself, whilst acknowledging the massive damage he has done. I believe he should clearly and unequivocally state that he is going to spend the next five years working unstintingly for his constituents, but that he will not be seeking re-election after that time. This would give O&S the time to select and bed in a successor candidate, who would have the time to build their own reputation and draw the sting from the SNP’s cynical demand for their pound of flesh by exploiting the hysteria around the situation currently.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 5:55pm

    . I too fully support rehabilitation of wrongdoers. But rehabilitation should follow after a just punishment.

    You think that giving up a five figure sum and making a public apology isn’t just punishment in this instance? You think that losing his job is appropriate? You think we should just give in to the SNP witch hunt?

  • I agree with Alex Dingwall on this. The decision is bound to be seen as cynical, and may rebound very badly on the Liberal Democrats in Scotland in the Holyrood election – where we might have hoped to make some modest gains.

    In particular I would like to know if the local party in Orkney and Shetland were canvassed in reaching this decision?

  • Jim Alexander 24th May '15 - 5:58pm

    I agree 100% with Alex Dingwall – this simply isn’t Good Enough from the Scottish Exec or Willie Rennie – the conduct from Alistair Carmichael’ falls way below the standards we expect from someone holding the Office of Scottish Secretary – yet no censure on any level – this decision will come back to haunt us in 2016 Elections and reduced credibility in front of the Electorate

    This shouldn’t have been left to the Scottish Exec – the post of Scottish Sec is a UK Govt appointment – it should have been dealt with at Federal Exec Level

    A serious error in judgement sweeping it under the carpet in my opinion

  • A risky decision. This does nothing to break us out of the narrative that’s so far all but destroyed us at Westminster, and if it is allowed to run on into next year, it may well finish us off at Holyrood.

    To be completely frank, I think that letting this go to by-election, even if we lose the seat to the nationalists, would not be the worst outcome. We are essentially now relegated in Scotland, and given the damage that the Conservative EVEL plans will do to Scottish MPs, I honestly believe that our limited resources are best applied in Scotland to rebuilding a decent-sized party in Holyrood, not in trying to overturn some limited parts of the now nigh-unassailable SNP domination of the increasingly irrelevant Westminster scene. For now at least.

    Anything that will damage our chances of recovering at Holyrood needs to be dealt with, likewise anything that lets the crooks and liars narrative gain traction. We have to be better than the other parties on these issues, and we have to be better than this.

  • David Murdock 24th May '15 - 6:33pm

    How much did the inquiry cost? Maybe the party – as a measure of disciplinary action – should have asked him to foot the bill of the inquiry, since it’s apparent he let it take place despite knowing the conclusion… That way, he’s made a personal gesture and the party has been seen to mete out a punishment also.

  • He might have given up a five figure sum, but due to his lies, he has cost the tax payer 1.4 million as a result of not coming clean on the matter.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 6:47pm

    Sharon, I’m glad you mentioned that £1.4 million figure because I was going to ask why the cybernats are so cheerily tweeting away a figure that there is no evidence to support. The Scotland Office is very small and the number of people who had access to this memo even smaller so how it could have cost such a massive amount, I have no idea.

    David, do you think that people should reimburse their companies for disciplinary offences if they are found to be at fault? That would be quite a dangerous and unfair road to go down, I think.

  • Natalie Graham 24th May '15 - 6:55pm

    The question is not whether losing his job is a fair punishment. The question should be, if he had admitted his role in this before the election would he have had that job anyway. Would he still have regained his seat if what we now had been in the public domain before the election? Saying, effectively, it’s OK, you got away with it long enough to get the votes and get back in again is simply not good enough. At the very least Mr. Carmichael should stand down and fight a by-election. Whether he gets to retain his seat should be the call of his constituents, not Willie Rennie.

  • If the £1.4 million is an official figure it will be based on sharing all the costs of government into civil service activity, not the marginal cost… When I was a councillor I was always amazed at how much money needed to be allocated to put in a pedestrian refuge (for example) which took two workmen about 2 days to complete…

    However I do think the honourable thing would be for Alistair to stand for re-election himself in a by-election, which would draw a line under the matter. I do not think the result would be the foregone conclusion everyone seems to expect. In a by-election called for so stridently by the SNP, submitting to the electorate might be seen as the decent thing to do, and Alistair could campaign on his extensive record compared with just one mistake. And if the SNP did win, really we would not be much worse off than we are now, but would have a good chance of winning it back in 2020

  • David Murdock 24th May '15 - 7:05pm

    Caron, perhaps not, since you put it that way…

    I do feel, however, that the party should have shown publicly, somehow, that these actions cannot be condoned.

    I wouldn’t like Scotland to lose it’s only Lib Dem MP, though, so I really hope he doesn’t stand down.

  • I really don’t think you understand the damage this will cause to the reputation of the LibDems…… It’s not just the memo content being released, which Carmichael has admitted was “not accurate”. It’s not even the fact that he didn’t bother to verify its content with the primaries present at the meeting……. It’s the fact that he gave a televised interview brazenly denying that he knew anything about the Memo, until contacted by a journalist….. That was a lie to the media and to the public…..a wilful deceit…..followed by his failure to come clean, prior to the election and we can only assume that this failure was an effort on his part to minimise the damage to his own electoral prospects and those of other LibDems standing, by witholding the truth from the electorate…… His willingness to lie publicly about the Memo and to let an inquiry proceed at great cost to the taxpayer is what will seal his fate……..and if Willie is not careful, it will seal the fate of LibDems in Scotland for many years to come…. I understand the loyalty and I even understand that he is the only LibDem MP in Scotland…… BUT IF YOU ARE REALISTS, THE PARTY MUST COME FIRST AND BOTH WILLIE AND CARMICHAEL KNOW IT….. Holyrood elections are not far away and you are already providing opponents with huge quantities of ammunition……… I fear the misjudgement will prove its already too late for Carmichael and as a result of the party’s position, too late for the LibDems too……

  • Caron, didnt Labour MP Paul Flynn come out with the £1.4 million figure? Whether it is 1.4 million or a quid it is an investigation that could and should have been avoided. I’m afraid it paints the party and Alistair in particular in a truly awful light. He leaked the memo and denied it on camera. It will just be a case of drip drip effect now and not just from the CyberNats that you seem obsessed with, both Labour and Tory will turn the screw and kick the party when it’s on it’s knees. I’m with others who advocated removal of the whip for a spell. As regards the severance pay, yeah fair enough but that will cut little ice with someone who had been paid well as a minister and coins in over £67,000 as an MP now.

  • David Howell 24th May '15 - 7:12pm

    He lied to his constituents . . . He should resign.

    The fact that the LibDems continue to defend the indefensible speaks volumes about the integrity of you party.

  • “I hope fair minded people would agree that Alistair Carmichael should be given that second chance”

    Then let his constituents decide – give them a second chance.

  • Those who throw stones etc of course all other parties never make errors of judgements Mr Howell your comments are ridiculous

  • David Murdock 24th May '15 - 7:41pm

    Unfortunately, I fear that the latter views on here will ring true.

    Party insiders will forgive a long-standing MP and friend, but the electorate out with the party will see it as another reason to distrust a party who cannot be trusted.

  • During the last ten years far worse crimes have been committed by bankers – for which nobody in the UK ever gets punished or even named.

    However, my expectations of bankers is no higher than my expectations of sewer rats. I had hoped for rather better from government ministers, especially Liberal Democrat ministers.

    It is not clear why Alistair Carmichael or his SpAd should be treated any more leniently than an ordinary civil servant caught out for the act of leaking.

    It is not clear why Alistair Carmichael should be treated more leniently that someone who covered up the fact that he was caught by a speed camera and then told lies about it.

  • @John Tilley

    And I would point out that in the latter case we did not lose the by-election (admittedly because of UKIP, perhaps!)

  • Stephen Hesketh 24th May '15 - 9:18pm

    David Evans 24th May ’15 – 5:53pm

    David, that is a sound proposal.

    I do hope the Lib Dem team in O&S have their ears to the ground though.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th May '15 - 9:38pm

    Just tweeted my support for Alistair Carmichael. Either he loses his severance payment, or he goes, but not both. It is a witch hunt because apparently now he lacks integrity. Those in integrity glass houses, such as the SNP, should not throw stones.

    I will try not to get into too much trouble with the cybernats on Twitter. 😀

  • This is a very strange way to rebuild trust in the Liberal Democrats

  • Eddie: hopefully you’re still below the radar. I tweeted that I think he should go of his own free will – for the good of the party, I still do, sorry Caron, I believe in the rehabilitation of offenders too, but a lot of the public don’t and him staying tars us all (again) with the liar brush – someone else disagreed, and I’ve had 2 days of cybernats copying me into their outraged tweets about how he should go.

  • Caron, Do you think that it is acceptable for the Lib Dems to lose Orkney and Shetland next year in the Scottish elections?

  • Eddie Sammon 25th May '15 - 12:06am

    Hi Jennie. I suppose at first I didn’t realise the liar tag was at stake again, but I still feel a general lack of consideration being shown to him by the outraged part of the mob. I would understand the outrage if he hadn’t given up his severance payment.

    Best wishes

  • Jane Ann Liston 25th May '15 - 12:53am

    Gosh, Jennie, how glad I am that I’m not a Twit! Can’t you de-tweet these nasty Nats?

    I agree with Willie Rennie.

  • Alex Dingwall 25th May '15 - 1:33am

    Really wish colleagues would set the SNP to one side. This should not be judged on politics but ethics.

    If you believe Alistair’s actions were not a breach of the ethical standards required of those in public life then set that argument out. But please accept that simply shouting “but Sir, Sir, Salmond senior said bad words too” really is not an argument.

    I respect that our Executive feel the bond of friendship and shared struggle with Alistair but their decision should have been based on the ethical standards we wish to see others follow and which we believe are essential to restore trust not only in our party but in the wider political system too.

    A public apology, once you have been found out after a six week inquiry, is not a ‘punishment’ it is surely the least we would expect. The decision to forego a three month severance package as a Minister while still retaining a generous MP salary is also not ‘punishment’. Certainly not to voters on wage freezes, struggling with bills or reliant on food banks.

    The Executive say they did not condone Alistair’s actions but nothing in today’s statement expresses that in any form that voters or members can understand or take comfort from.

    BBC Radio Orkney report Alistair is in defiant mood.- if that is what he has taken from the Executive decision it merely confirms my deepest doubts and worst fears.

  • Mr Carmichael should either stay because it is right that a person be given a second chance or he should go because it is the will of his constituents. I personally think that the decision on whether he should be given a second chance is a matter for the constituents of Orkney and Shetland not the Lib-Dems but that’s just my personal opinion. Any consideration given to whether it is good for the party or not feels cynical to me – it sounds like something the SNP would do under their “anything for independence” mantra. If this decision is made on a “anything for liberalism” basis then the lib-dems are doing Alistair Carmichael and his constituents an injustice.

    I have only just joined the lib-dems and I did so because I believe that Lib-Dems have the ability to do better and be better than the other parties. And because of this the reasons behind whatever decision is made on this issue is more important to me than the actual issue itself (personally I think he intended his actions to be in the public interest as well as the party’s interest he just chose a really bad way to handle it).

    I doubt I am the only new or even old member who is feeling like this.

  • Link to Alistair’s interview this morning with BBC Radio Orkney – https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-monday-25th-may-2015 – this took up most of the first three minutes or so of the programme. Personally, I was disappointed at his responses. While his past record as an MP is not in doubt I question whether he will be able to represent his constituents effectively in the future: the HoC is an unforgiving place. Liam and Tavish’s Holyrood prospects next year aren’t being enhanced by the ongoing controversy.

  • Martin Pierce 25th May '15 - 10:38am

    I just suspect we wouldn’t have proposed such leniency and focus on ‘rehabilitation’ if it had been someone in another party who had done this. Whatever is now done, it’s another nail in the coffin of LDs setting a higher standard than the others.

  • Jane: no, sadly.

    Adrian, while your compassion does you credit I genuinely think that Alex Dingwall has this right, and I further think that it will damage the party far more to stand behind Alistair than to let him go. There is, of course, an argument that it’s a price worth paying, but as someone who wants to see us recover from the low we are currently at, I’m unconvinced by that argument.

    Clearly others here will disagree.

  • Alex Dingwall 25th May '15 - 11:32am

    Michael

    i do not believe it is unfair to say Alistair lied because that is beyond doubt.

    You say that “Alistair did not at first recall the matter” but that is incorrect. He said that the first he became aware of it was when contacted by a journalist after the story broke. Clearly in light of the findings of the official inquiry that was a lie. Indeed Alistair went further in his denial with Channel 4.

    Asked if the “buck stops with him when it comes to the Scotland Office”, he said: “Of course – as Secretary of State for Scotland I am responsible for the Scotland Office, but you know you seem to be making some fairly substantial presumptions about the role of the Scotland Office in this. “That’s why we’re having a proper inquiry conducted by the Cabinet Office.”Asked if the incident was embarrassing for him and for the Scotland Office, he replied: “No look this is the middle of an election campaign, these things happen. “I understand that the memo in question did actually come from the Scotland Office, but these things are circulated within government.”

    (Herald 5 April 2015)

    What also concerns me is that David Cameron in an interview with the Independent in April very quickly suggested the leak had come from us as he had directly quizzed David Mundell, the Conservative Minister at the Scottish Office and been told he was not the source.

    This therefore laid the accusation at the door of Alistair and our party. I find it inconceivable that neither Nick nor Willie would have asked Alistair, but that is up to them to clarify.

    However an official spokesperson for the party did comment stating categorically:

    “The leak was not from a Liberal Democrat and that is the end of the matter.”

    The Executive could have drawn a line under this with a more robust response. Sadly we are now inevitably headed to a Parliamentary Standards inquiry and further pressure on Nick, Willie and our press team about who knew what and when.

    Within hours of this story originally breaking it was comprehensively trashed. The French Ambassador to the UK had categorically denied it as had the French Consul General and the First Minister. Alistair could have admitted an error of judgement then, he didn’t. When The Prime Minister suggested we were the source of the leak Alistair could have stepped forward, he didn’t. When directly questioned by Channel 4 he denied any role and kept on denying it throughout the six weeks of an official inquiry.

    It was not an ‘aberration’ not a matter of not recalling, it was the deliberate and continuous misleading of Government, party and constituents.,

  • ” A public apology, once you have been found out after a six week inquiry, is not a ‘punishment’ it is surely the least we would expect. The decision to forego a three month severance package as a Minister while still retaining a generous MP salary is also not ‘punishment’. Certainly not to voters on wage freezes, struggling with bills or reliant on food banks.” Exactly. An employee caught out in such an act of dishonesty would be very likely to face dismissal and a future of poverty. The honourable member for whom some people are pleading for understanding, rehabilitation and consideration is a well-educated, middle-aged solicitor who has been in politics for decades. He should have understood that it was necessary to immediately correct any incorrect statement that had been made and to always speak the truth. We really do need truth in politics and for MPs to be held to the highest standards of honesty.

  • No one had an answer to my earlier questions, so I doubt any one will be able to help further; however, I would also like to know what the history has been about ministers and leaks. Has any minister been forced to resign as an MP for a leak? – I cannot think of any. If Carmichael did resign would he be setting a precedent?

  • A Nonny Mouse 25th May '15 - 1:19pm

    I’m getting a bit fed up about all this. Caron has already pointed out why what Alex Salmond did is equal to what Alistair has done, and yet the SNP at the time shouted down anyone who even hinted that he’d ‘misspoken’, never mind outright lied.

    Alex Dingwall – it’s impossible to separate the politics from this. Suppose Alistair had won the seat with a significant majority over the SNP. Would they be bothering their backsides about this if they didn’t think they could win? Not a chance. The only reason they’re interested is to gain one more seat and to marginalise the Lib Dems further – they may pretend to be taking the ‘moral high ground’, but in my experience of dealing with the SNP that’s not much more than an inch higher and, in any case, they fall off it pretty sharpish afterwards.

    Read the report in full (and not the edited accounts on news websites.) It says:

    “The investigation team interviewed the civil servant in the Scotland Office who produced the memo. He confirmed under questioning that he believed that the memo was an accurate record of the conversation that took place between him and the French Consul General……..The Cabinet Secretary has concluded that there is no reason to doubt that he recorded accurately what he thought he had heard. There is no evidence of any political motivation or ‘dirty tricks’. ”

    Now, personally, I don’t think Nicola Sturgeon is likely to have made the comments in full. She may well have described Miliband as “not Prime Minster material,” but ask virtually any voter in the UK and you’d have got that response. However, she is too far a strong political operator to admit even privately to wanting a Tory win, even if that’s what she was thinking. It’s not clear who lost what in translation, though, and I’d be very surprised if a Consul General wasn’t able to translate accurately.

    Alistair admitted allowing the memo to be leaked. That was wrong, and as he says had he still been a minister he would have resigned (as has happened in the past) and has given up his severance pay. However, did he do something so extraordinary that it justifies him resigning as an MP? If the situation had been reversed, and Nicola Sturgeon had a document suggesting that Nick Clegg actively wanted a Tory government and would not under any circumstance work with Labour, would she have released the document – I suspect she would have.

  • @ A Nonny Mouse

    If Carmichael had released the document or its contents openly in the way that Alexander did with the information on child benefit you might have a point. But he did not release it openly; he and his SPAD leaked it to the Telegraph ( why not the Guardian I wonder?) , then denied all knowledge of it, allowed a leak inquiry to go ahead and then only owned up and apologised when confronted with the inquiry findings.

  • “You think that giving up a five figure sum and making a public apology isn’t just punishment in this instance? You think that losing his job is appropriate? You think we should just give in to the SNP witch hunt?”

    I’d say that the issue is serious enough that his constituents should be allowed to determine whether he loses his job. Let them have the final say. It’s hardly guaranteed that the SNP would win.

  • I am also in favour of rehabilitation. But rehabilitation depends on two thing. First the offender must regret what he did, not just getting caught. And second, he can’t keep the proceeds of his wrongful actions – in this case his seat. If his actions swayed enough people to vote for him rather than the SNP then the seat is not his to retain. You would help a burglar’s rehabilitation, but you wouldn’t let him keep the jewellery he nicked.

    I actually think the SNP trying to force a by-election would backfire on them, leaving a nasty taste in the public’s mouth as they give the impression of trying to become a one-party state. They’re so near that already, that he might even keep it. But we as a party come out of this with no credibility, let alone honour. Let’s do the honourable thing, if it’s not too late, and let his constituents decide.

  • Caron Lindsay-“I’d rather have a leader who acted like a liberal, acknowledged his colleague’s wrong-doing and the penalties he had faced and stuck by him when it’s clear that he has apologised. You act as though Alistair has not been punished. He has given up a five figure sum”. Really Caron, is it all about the money? what about honour, and responsibility to the voters who were deceived by his failure to come clean before the election.?

  • Nonny Mouse-” If Nicola Sturgeon had a document suggesting that Nick Clegg actively wanted a Tory government and would not under any circumstance work with Labour, would she have released the document – I suspect she would have”. And your evidence for this is exactly what? Time to stop digging the hole.

  • I think it would do several commentators on this article some good to step away from their internet bubble for a couple of minutes and to just reflect on whether the vast majority of the electorate care about tit-for-tat with the SNP. This debacle plays one way in the real world – the Lib Dems can’t be trusted. No, it’s not fair and no, it’s probably not even accurate but there it is. The man has to go; not because it’s a just punishment or because the SNP want him out but because it’s the only way for the phoenix to emerge untainted from the flames.

  • A Nonny Mouse 26th May '15 - 9:38am

    @Ryan – Sturgeon’s a politician, and a very good one at that. For that simple reason alone, she would release it.

    @Cain – I live outside the bubble. Frankly, most people don’t actually care that much about the story, and the continued battering around does nobody much good. The SNP should just get on with attempting to govern Scotland and maybe start to take action on things like education, health and transport which they have neglected for the last four years in pursuit of their own narrow-minded obsession.

  • I think the answer to the Sturgeon counterfactual above is: If a good politician has clear evidence of wrongdoing (e.g. theft), or of seriously misleading the public (e.g. a witnessed and verified private statement from Clegg that stood in clear contradiction to what had been said in public) – Then yes, a good politician would leak it, and justify the leak as being in the overriding public interest.

    But to return to the actual case, what we’re actually talking about is a confused little document, in which some putative remarks by Sturgeon are quoted, followed by the author’s comment that things must have got lost in translation and that the accuracy of the putative remarks is not to be relied upon.

  • A Nonny Mouse: “Sturgeon’s a politician, and a very good one at that. For that simple reason alone, she would release it. ”

    You think the release of the memo was a *good* political move? What benefit has it brought Alistair Carmichael that offsets the reputational damage and risk of losing his job?

  • After listening to Malcolm Bruce on the Today Programme this morning, I am convinced Alistair Carmichael should stay and fight on. We are all human, he has apologised and forfeited severance pay as a form of penance. What swayed my view was Malcolm Bruce’s pointing out the huge hypocrisy of the attacks on him.

  • Euan Roddin lost his position as SPAD because Carmichael was no longer Secretary of State and in government. All the Lib Dem SPADS lost their positions as the Lib Dems are in opposition.

  • Peter Watson 29th May '15 - 1:56pm

    @John McHugo “What swayed my view was Malcolm Bruce’s pointing out the huge hypocrisy of the attacks on him.”
    As opposed to the hypocrisy of a 2010 Lib Dem campaign that promised more honesty, openness and a new kind of politics?

  • Better he resigns otherwise this is going to drag on for months with the election petition. We need a clean slate even it means losing a by election, which hopefully it will not. If this hangs around we can forget about the Scottish elections next year.
    We have to have a totally clean start.

  • Jim Alexander 31st May '15 - 2:34pm

    The fall out from the Leak and the fact the Party has not taken firm action is going to be bigger than the fact the Sec of state for Scotland leaked Confidential Documents – Tavish Scott stated in the local Press he was told by Alistair Carmichael’s about his role in the leak on Sunday 10th May – however the Official Internal enquiry was published 12 days after this – there are questions being asked why the admission was not reported – therefore people will now ask other questions – what other Senior Figures in the Party Knew What When – this is going to run and run and draw more and more people into it – the credibility of the Party will be called into question – is one seat really worth it.

  • We await the decision of the parliamentary standards committee with interest. All the what if scenarios , will be looked at. All bets are off now, the waiting begins

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