Carmichael is a Liar, a Cheat and a Hypocrite
As we predicted, Alistair Carmichael was able to blatantly lie for his own personal gain and do so with impunity. On the face of it this should be seen as a good day for him. However, looking at what the judges have said it is really a bad day for everyone. Carmichael walks away with not a shred of integrity intact. The behaviour of the political class in general has been further tarnished, and the general public are left with the distinct feeling that the rules which govern their day to day working behaviour need not apply to politicians.
Firstly, todays ruling states clearly that Carmichael lied and that he did so to increase his chances of holding onto the parliamentary seat he only narrowly won.
Thus on the basis of all the evidence led before us we are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that another purpose underlying the false statement was self-protection (a self-protection extending to Mr Roddin, provided that neither of them could be identified). Such self-protection would avoid attracting critical comment, losing esteem in the public eye, and being the subject of any disciplinary consequences, all at a very inconvenient time during the lead-up to the election. Such self-protection would avoid his presenting as a less attractive electoral candidate for the voters in Orkney and Shetland.
Now, in a properly functioning democracy this sort of act would be deemed a serious matter that would result in the recall of the politician. However, in modern Scotland the law has sent out a message that it is OK to deliberately tell an untruth in order to become an elected representative: a ruling that will surely lower the standard of candidate behaviour in the future.
It is not the fault of the judges. The law is structured in a way that it is not enough to prove that a candidate has lied to get elected. It needs to be proven that the candidate has uttered a specific type of falsehood, as explained by one of the Judges, Lady Paton:
It is of the essence of section 106 that it does not apply to lies in general: it applies only to lies in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate made before or during an election for the purpose of affecting that candidate’s return
Most voters would be flummoxed as to what the distinction is. However, after reading the judgement it appears that what he did was permissible because he had not stated he would never lie for political gain. The judges gave an example of what a successful case might look like:
If a candidate made a false statement that he would never leak an internal confidential memo, no matter how helpful that might be to his party, as he regarded the practice of leaking confidential information as dishonest and morally reprehensible, and he would not stoop to such tactics, when in fact that candidate had leaked an internal confidential memo containing material which was inaccurate and highly damaging to an opponent, they would be likely to conclude that the candidate had given a false statement “’in relation to [his] personal character or conduct” because he would be falsely holding himself out as being of such a standard of honesty, honour, trustworthiness and integrity that, in contrast with what others in Westminster might do, he would never be involved in such a leaking exercise.
In the eyes of the judges Carmichael’s crime is permissible as at no point did he make himself out to be any different from any other politician. In his falsehood he did not promote himself as a person with high honour and integrity. In this way the judgement can be seen to be seriously depressing in that it is telling us that politicians are just dishonest by nature. They don’t have high levels of trustworthiness so what Carmichael did was normal. It would be an interesting world if all such incidents were reacted to with such leniency.
A: Did you just steal my bike?
B: No, I did not steal your bike.
A: But you are riding my bike.
B: Oh, you got me, I did steal it but I never said I wouldn’t steal it!
A: Fair play, just take it, you deserve it. For a moment there I thought you were the type of person who would say that they would never steal a bike.
The sad thing is, Carmichael is exactly the type of politician who would claim this sort of behaviour is immoral and that he believes politicians should be above it. He did so in a letter to the Shetland Times with regard to a very similar but successful case against Labour MP Phil Woolas. He said:
Everyone knows that politics is a robust trade, especially in an election campaign. No-one would expect candidates to spend their time highlighting their opponents’ virtues but to suggest any smear is justifiable must be wrong.
Most worryingly it betrays an attitude that I had hoped would have been eradicated by the expenses scandals of the last parliament – namely that different rules should apply to MPs than apply to the rest of the population. If Tesco tried to smear the Co-op in the same way it would soon be in trouble. Why should politics be different?
The right to freedom of speech is a fundamental one but it does bring a responsibility with it to tell the truth. The right to smear an opponent is not one we should be defending.
So although technically innocent in the eyes of the law, Carmichael is unequivocally a liar, a cheat and a hypocrite working in a corrupt business. A trade that is poorly regulated and permits behaviour which is far below what the public expects. The only positive thing I can take from this is that by letting him keep his job, we have avoided the odious spectacle of him being awarded a seat in the House Of Lords. We will have to wait 5 years for that.
Image taken from http://www.sunnation.co.uk
Please comment below and enter an email address to receive notifications of new articles. Also, if you enjoy our content you can support the site for less than one pound per month by clicking here.