When political tricks misfire
FORMER Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, the last Lib Dem MP left in Scotland, could soon be gone as a result of a clever little piece of political mischief which has misfired.
Mr. Carmichael, whose Northern Isles constituency covers the Orkneys and Shetland Isles, has admitted he was behind the "leak" of a civil service memo which claimed Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon had said she would prefer to see a Tory government under David Cameron returned in the general election.
The SNP leader denied saying anything of the sort. Describing the leak, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph before the election as a "blatant election dirty trick", she has said Carmichael should seriously consider his position as an MP.
The confidential memo, written by a civil servant in the Scotland Office, was a third-hand account of a conversation between the Scottish first minister and the French ambassador, in March, which Ms Sturgeon was reported to have said she wanted David Cameron to remain as prime minister. Both Ms.Sturgeon and the ambassador denied any such conversation had taken place.
After the story appeared in the Daily Telegraph, the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, ordered an inquiry into how the confidential memo got into the public domain. He discovered that an official mobile phone belonging to Euan Roddin, Carmichael’s special adviser, was used to contact one of the reporters who wrote the Telegraph story.The official cabinet office inquiry into the leaking of the memo said Mr Carmichael's former special adviser Euan Roddin gave the details to the Daily Telegraph - but he had Mr Carmichael's permission to do so.
LIB DEM CARMICHAEL. MP wants to carry on but may have to go.
Carmichael now says he accepted the memo was wrong about Nicola Sturgeon being pro-Tory, and described the leak as “an error of judgment”, He apologised to the SNP leader. He has said he is waiving the severance pay he is entitled to after losing his cabinet job. He said that if he had still been a minister it would have been a resigning matter.
Speaking to BBC Radio Orkney, Mr Carmichael said: "I have said already that I very much regret the position I am in. I have been the member of parliament for Orkney and Shetland for the last 14 years.
I have worked hard for local people and believe that's the record on which I am entitled to rely and that's the job that I am now going to be getting on with. None of that has changed."
On Saturday, the Scottish Lib Dem's party executive agreed Mr Carmichael would not face any disciplinary action and the party's leader Willie Rennie has said the MP "deserved a second chance".
But there have been demonstrations in both Lerwick in the Shetlands and Kirkwall in the Orkneys, demanding that he stand down. Scottish Nationalists insist they are not the only ones demanding he go.
The nationalists have repeated calls for a formal investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into Mr Carmichael's behaviour. SNP MP Pete Wishart said Mr Carmichael must explain if he was sent a copy of the memo. He said: "Mr Carmichael no longer has any credibility as an MP - the best course of action would be for him to stand down.
"Mr Carmichael must now explain if he was sent a copy of the memo before authorising the leak. If he was, he must then explain why he apparently failed to read his own ministerial papers. A formal investigation by the Standards Commissioner would help shed light on these matters."
Stewart Hosie, MP for Dundee East and the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday that Carmichael, who had at first denied involvement in the leak, ought to resign. He said: “This is potentially career-ending precisely because he went into an election suggesting one thing and then we find out – lo and behold, just after the election – it wasn’t true.
“Given the scale of this – a dirty tricks campaign that involved the French ambassador and the Scottish First Minister – all of which is completely false, bogus, made up, really he ought to consider very seriously whether he can be even be trusted by his constituents to remain an MP.”