ALASTAIR CARMICHAEL WON THE BATTLE BUT LOSES £150,000

KEN HOUSTON 

ALASTAIR Carmichael, the former Secretary of State for Scotland, must have begun to look forward to Christmas when, in early December, judges decided against a petition brought by four constituents to have his election as MP for the Northern Isles declared void.

But come February, just like the credit card statement full of already-forgotten pre-Christmas purchases that lands on the hall floor with a dull thud, Mr Carmichael received sobering correspondence informing him that his claim for expenses against the petitioners had been refused.

There is no need to go into detail about the origins of the complaint which, in a nutshell, began with a leaked memo claiming that Nicola Sturgeon had told the French ambassador she would secretly prefer David Cameron as prime minister rather than Ed Miliband. The Daily Telegraph went on to report the First Minister’s alleged comments, which she denied, and the story began to develop as ‘French-gate’.

Mr Carmichael later told Channel 4 News the first he knew of the memo was through a phone call from a reporter but then went on to admit – only after being re-elected – that he had in fact authorised the leak.

Consequently, the petitioners claimed that had the electorate known this before the election, the original result might have been different, especially as Mr Carmichael had won by only 800 or so votes.

The defeated SNP candidate, Danus Skene, insisted that the petition had been brought by four concerned Orcadian residents and not by the party either nationally or locally; however some may accept that Mr Carmichael was not – on this occasion at least – bending the truth when he claimed the petition was “politically-motivated”.

But if the petitioners were not “politically-motivated” perhaps they need a crash-course in politics.

By capturing 56 of the 59 Scottish constituencies at the General Election, the SNP won a famous victory. In fact, it was the best outcome of all, given the remaining seats went to the three parties representing the main strand of Scottish unionism – Labour, Conservative and Liberal-Democrat.

Thus the 50 per cent of Scottish adults (left, right or centre) who voted for these parties still have representation of their unionist views at Westminster.

Did the ‘Orkney four’, and the more than 10,000 individuals who supported them with their cash really want to further dilute the parliamentary representation of those 50 per cent non-SNP voters?

After all, democracy is not about ‘majority rule’ but rather about consensus – balancing the wishes of the majority with the interests and protection of the minority. Winning all 59 seats would likely have done the SNP more harm than good.

On a personal basis, the petitioners have come out of this better than their MP.  

For four ‘ordinary Joe’s’ resident in the far north who were in no way politically-motivated, they managed to raise an awful lot of money through crowdfunding – more than enough, in fact, to cover their legal costs.

Not so Mr Carmichael, who now has to meet his expenses, estimated at £150,000, mainly from his own pocket – an appeal on behalf of the MP has raised just £14,000.

Alastair Carmichael hardly covered himself in glory by his mendacious involvement in the original incident. However, prior to the vote, surely the electors of the Northern Isles had sufficient nous to decide whether the candidate was relating the truth about the leaked memo or committing a bare-faced fib – and on that and other issues making up their minds whether or not to return him as their MP.

By taking things to extremes, Mr Carmichael’s tormentors may have turned just another truth-bending politician into something of a martyr.

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