Carmichael and The Art of Untruthfulness
It must be pretty confusing for a politician to be on trial for an act that is so ubiquitous in the profession. Our criminal justice system would be on its knees if we prosecuted every unreliable political utterance. And I have heard many a Union-minded Carmichael supporter argue that fact this week; that this is a show trial, that Carmichael is being punished by a braying Cybernat horde for his role in the Better Together campaign. However, they fail to see the difference between Carmichael’s act and most political subterfuge. The deceptive pronouncements of most politicians are promises relating to future events, often opposing voices with distinct views which can’t both simultaneously be true. Depending on who you were listening to an independent Scotland could have been the most prosperous and egalitarian country in the world or it could have been a financial basket case the demise of which would have heralded a cataclysm. There is no way to tell if the disseminators of such clashing views are being duplicitous. They often are and often in a subtle and highly damaging way. Although, most intelligent people understand that the politician’s job is to sell us an appealing version of the future and it is our job to take that vision with a pinch of salt, cling to it for a few years and to eventually hold them to account.
Carmichael on the other hand just lied. He lied about a past event that he had first hand knowledge of. And he lied to his colleagues so they had to initiate a needless investigation that cost the taxpayer money. And he lied purely for selfish reasons, as he knew that admitting to the lie before the general election would mean that he would have lost the seat that he so narrowly won. In any other walk of life, spreading a lie about a person in the same profession as you, and then denying your involvement in order to secure your own employment for the next 5 years would get you sacked. And if Carmichael had a grain of integrity he would have quit and run again in a by-election. However, in this world he will probably keep his seat because a couple of Law Lords are going to spend hours discussing what type of a lie he told and publish a nice wee ruling, at more cost to the tax payer, and that ruling will likely state that his particular type of lie was a permissible way to steal an election.
While we should be sad that the vagaries of constitutional law are going to rescue a shameless and spineless man maybe we should have sympathy for Carmichael as this week, and pretty much most weeks since the referendum we have seen that it is maybe those more common political untruths that are more dangerous.
Those misleading and undelivered promises can have a bigger effect. Like how days before the referendum two prominent politicians and a prominent and trusted news reader appeared on live TV and used words like “Devo Max”, “Home Rule”, “Keir Hardy” and “Federalism”, never fully promising that these things will occur but trying their enthusiastic best to give that impression. To impact what was for them a terrifyingly close result.
And I wonder how many of those undecided and soft Yes voters had their minds made up and decided to give the best of both worlds another chance? And I wonder how many will look at the subversion of democracy that was the Scotland Bill debate this week. When the statements made by Darling and Brown on live TV were forgotten, as the views of the politicians Scotland voted for at the General Election were ignored. How many now feel betrayed that the powers we have received fall miles short of anything that could conceivably be called Home Rule or Devo Max?
Also this week we see two major polls published showing that opinion throughout the UK is against remaining in the EU. The same polls suggest that Scottish people wish to remain. However, during the referendum campaign we were constantly told that it was a Yes vote that was putting our place in Europe at risk. As Darling said pre referendum in response to Salmond’s fear that Scotland would be dragged out against its will by the UK:
“It is Alex Salmond who is playing roulette with the EU. The average time it took countries to join the EU in the last 20 years is about eight years. The last thing Scottish firms need is that uncertainty. It would be entirely self-inflicted.”
Maybe Salmond was gambling but if England votes to leave and we vote to stay then we don’t even have a gambler’s chance of affecting the result. I wonder how many listened to the likes of Darling and believed that they were more likely to remain in the EU if they stayed in the UK. Are these people starting to worry about a Brexit?
And this week we also learn that thousands of tax jobs in Scotland are now at risk. These very same jobs that were used as examples by Project Fear as jobs that would have been lost after a Yes vote. Implicit in this pre referendum scaremongering is that these jobs would be safe if we chose to stay. I wonder how many who work in these offices were swithering on which way to vote and used job security as the deciding factor.
These slippery pre referendum words were powerful as they played on our fears and aspirations. They have been shown to be dubious this week. They join hundreds of dubious indyref promises and hundreds more to come. One can only hope that enough people believed them, remembered them, and feel let down by them that the next time we get to go to the ballot box to decide our fate a different course of action is taken. There is some evidence that support for Independence is growing.
One thing is for sure, I much prefer the less subtle and blatant Alistair Carmichael approach. You know where you stand with a lie like that. You know how to judge the motives and character of the perpetrator. Even as the Law lets him off the hook he will be punished badly if he has the gall to stand again.
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