Carmichael for leader in 2014? As likely as him giving up booze for a year, I’d say.

Carmichael Mark Darcy blogThere are occasions when political journalists get things so wrong that they make themselves look a bit silly. The BBC’s Mark D’Arcy has made me laugh with his latest blog in which he suggests that new Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael might challenge Nick Clegg for the party leadership if we have a poor showing in the European elections next year, but this would happen some 4 months after the vote.

This is how the theory goes:

Faced with the prospect of devastation at the next general election, the scenario runs, the Lib Dems seek to change their leader.

After all they ditched first Charles Kennedy, then Ming Campbell during the 2005-2010 parliament.

And the only change they could make that the public would notice would be to install Vince Cable – the business secretary being pretty much the only Lib Dem cabinet minister the general public have noticed – so the party turns its lonely eyes to Vince.

Except that, if, in the wake of next September’s Scottish independence referendum, Alistair Carmichael is the Scottish secretary who “saved the union” (with a little assistance from Alistair Darling et al) the public will suddenly notice him as well.

And suddenly the affable Mr Carmichael will have emerged from the shadows of the Lib Dem whips’ office, and become a genuine national figure (of course there is the small detail of whether or not the Scots actually vote to remain in the UK – and all bets are obviously off, if they don’t).

There are so many things wrong with this theory, but let me stick to just two:

You can’t call him Al

It’s Al Gore, Al Pacino and Al Capone – but Alistair Carmichael, thank you very much.

And it would help if the headline writers actually managed to spell his name correctly.

We are hardly likely to force a leadership contest less than 8 months before the General Election

The election is on 7th May 2015. The independence referendum is on 18th September 2014. You do the maths. If we’re going to do it properly, a leadership contest would take 2 months. We’re not into coronations in this party. So D’Arcy suggests we’d put a new leader in place with less than 6 months to go. That would be madness. It would be stupid enough to do it after the European elections. Why would we not stick with the leader that the people who are most likely to support us actually like and respect?

But D’Arcy did get something right

There seems to be a narrative developing within the Scottish and UK media that Nick has somehow sent in a bruiser to roughen up the debate ahead of the referendum. Believe me, that’s not a debate that needs any more noise or aggression about it. There’s no doubt that Alistair is pithy and plain speaking, but he’s also one of the most genial people you are likely to find in politics. He also has that rare talent of being able to make people laugh. I think he’ll make it all a lot more enjoyable as he jolts us out of our Referendum Fatigue.

Carmichael’s response to D’Arcy, that he’d “rather stick red hot needles in his eyes” than stand for leader is an example of his plain speaking approach. A little melodramatic, perhaps. A simple no would have surely sufficed. Or that he’d go sober for a year.  If you want to sponsor his Go Sober for October challenge, you can do so here, by the way. And to be scrupulously neutral, here’s Sheila Ritchie’s rival page, but she is over £600 ahead.

If we’re talking bruisers, it’s the fact that Jim Murphy now has more time to spend with the Better Together campaign that worries me. Thanks for nothing, Ed Miliband.

Mark D’Arcy’s mischief making does seem to have had some effect, though. Last night, Carmichael was a 50-1 outsider on Paddy Power’s Next Lib Dem leader. Now he’s a 25-1 outsider.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Paul Pettinger 17th Oct '13 - 5:21pm

    You infer that it would be stupid to change our widely unpopular and disliked leader and argue that we should stick with him because a dwindling number of Lib Dem voters still like him.

  • paul barker 17th Oct '13 - 6:52pm

    Perhaps if the commenters above move their gaze a little they will see an article entirely devoted to polling on Cleggs popularity. They will see Clegg getting 31% approval as against the 10/11% The Libdems average in VI Polls. So the solutin to our problems is to drop The Leader ?
    Not so much insulting our intelligence as our ability to count.

  • I think with devolution the English public won’t accept a Scottish prime minister running things in our country when the Scots are not willing to have English prime ministers running pretty much anything in their country (and nor should they be). If he can’t be prime minister then he shouldn’t be party leader.

  • Peter Watson 18th Oct '13 - 8:31am

    @paul barker “They will see Clegg getting 31% approval”
    Do you have a link to the article to which we should move our gaze?
    Recent polling by Opinium (, yougov ( and Ipsos-Mori ( reports Clegg having a net approval rating between -35% and -50%.

  • Peter Watson 18th Oct '13 - 8:41am

    @paul barker
    I’ve found the article now (! I’ve been away and am working backwards through the LDV articles.
    I don’t think you can compare the 31% approval (and ignore the 57% disapproval) with the party’s poor polling figures and then conclude that is a reason to keep him. The voting intention figures force those polled to choose a single party, and very few are choosing the Lib Dems, a possible reason to ditch a leader. If 31% of those polled approve of Clegg but only 11% would vote for his party, then do we really want to keep a leader who our opponents like? And an elephant in the room is that far more people disapprove of Clegg than approve, giving him such large negative net approval.

  • Paul in Twickenham 18th Oct '13 - 8:59am

    @paul barker – you keep repeating the comment “but Clegg gets 31% approval” regardless of the fact that every time you do so, someone points out the obvious flaws in that argument. Please re-read Micawber’s rule.

  • Paul Pettinger 18th Oct '13 - 6:02pm

    My posts are being so censored I don’t know how to engage with this thread

  • David Allen 18th Oct '13 - 7:10pm

    “you keep repeating the comment … regardless of the fact that every time you do so, someone points out the obvious flaws in that argument”

    Yes, and that’s a deliberate technique, widely used in political argument these days. It often works, provided the repetition is so mind-numbingly consistent that it becomes received wisdom. So, if you are totally amoral, why not go for it?

    Except, of course, that intelligent people might run a mile from you and your party.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    @David Allen: Paul Marshall is long gone from the party. Social Liberalism is the dominant current of thinking . You'd need to back up your slightly cyni...
  • tom arms
    @Mary Fulton, I think a more appropriate quote in these uncertain times is one from Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good ...
  • Anne-Marie Simpson
    Picking up on John McHugo’s and Andy Daer’s comments above, our Party’s policies on Gaza are much more in tune with the public than the other two nationa...
  • Paul Reynolds
    I absolutely agree with the earlier point about Russian state propaganda. There's a lot of it about, especially focused on Germany. For example; 'Ukraine was ne...
  • Paul Reynolds
    Thanks for all the well-informed comments and widely differing points of view. I wish to touch upon 2 points raised; nuclear war and Russian propaganda. The ...