Congratulations are due to the Orkney people who have started a fundraiser to get the ruinously expensive funds together to take Aliestair Carmichael, Lib Dem MP for Oh-Are-You-Still-Here-Then, to court and to challenge his election. The fundraiser has now reached its target of £60,000, but it’s still possible that legal costs could exceed that amount and there are still two weeks to run on the fundraising period. So if you can, dip into your pocket and give a wee bit. We don’t want the four Orkney petitioners to risk their homes and financial security for bravely challenging the supposed right of our political masters to lie, cheat and smear and to treat us like voting sheep they can take for granted. They’re not just doing this in order to hold their own MP to account, they’re doing it to hold all MPs to account. And Westminster MPs have a long and inglorious track record in unaccountability.
Aliestair has now submitted his legal defence for the case being started against him by a group of pissed off constituents. The shameless MP for Still-Hasn’t-Resigned is going for the Andy Coulson defence – Yes I lied, but it was a lie about something else so nyah nyah nyah. In legal parlance this is known as the defensa colli orichalci or the brass neck defence. It’s a taunting defence, a defence that’s not really a defence, more a statement that you can do what you like and are beyond mere trifles like telling the truth to your electorate. So you can see why it’s the kind of defence that a lying politician would be drawn to like a Labour MP to a John Lewis list.
The politicians who write our laws have in their wisdom decided not to make it an offence for a politician to lie to the people who elect them. Isn’t that convenient? You could almost believe that they’d set things up that way on purpose. But they wouldn’t do that would they? Instead what they’ve done is to frame the law in such a way that only certain types of lie under certain circumstances are a breach of electoral law. The challenge for the Orkney Four’s legal team will be to show that Aliestair’s lie falls into these narrowly defined grounds.
The former Scotland Secretary’s legal defence is a bit like saying that you are not guilty of a charge of bank robbery because you were out of your tree on heroin and out dogging in the bushes in the park and cheating on your partner at the time, and so were unavailable to drive the getaway car even if you were capable of doing so. This might get you off the charge you’re facing, but it’s not going to do a whole lot to portray you as a pillar of moral rectitude and a stalwart of community standards. But then Aliestair isn’t a pillar of moral rectitude, he’s a Lib Dem MP who’s only managed to cling on as an MP because he smeared and lied.
Aliestair has previously stated in his defence that he doesn’t think he should be judged on the lie and the smear, he should be judged on his record as a constituency MP. He wants us all to draw a discreet veil over his career as a cabinet minister on account of it being an unmitigated disaster. Before getting the Scotland Secretary gig, Aliestair was best known for his pomposity and the bicycle pump up his backside which inflated his ego. He briefed against Michael Moore, the previous Scotland Secretary, and angled for Mikey’s job claiming that a bruiser was needed to take on the SNP, and then he was slaughtered by Nicola Sturgeon in the famous debate where he had to beg Rona Dougall to intervene and protect him. And that was the highlight of his ministerial career. That was what he was going to be remembered for before now, when he’ll be remembered for the lie and the smear.
He’s toxic now. During the recent debate in the Commons on the Scotland Bill he did actually make an intervention. No one responded to it, no one commented on it. Instead he was avoided like a plague carrier. Even those who defended him don’t want to be associated with him. Normally you’d feel sad at the poor little party balloon, wafting all alone in the corner. But no one feels sorry for Aliestair, he’s brought it all on himself.
The other plank in the strategy to keep Aliestair in his job is for him to keep out of the public eye in the hope that the little people, the wee electoral sheep like you and me, will get fed up and wander off. Being evil cybernats we have short attention spans and will soon go and do something else, like kicking bins over or sending nasty tweets to JK Rowling. After a month or so we’ll have forgotten entirely who Aliestair is, and he can return to the pompous obscurity which defined his parliamentary career before he humiliated himself with Rona Dougall.
But we’re not going to go away. This is not about vindictiveness, this is not the unjustified mob pursuit of a poor blameless soul. This is about holding the powerful to account, about ensuring that our political masters adhere to the same standards of honesty and integrity that they expect of the rest of us. If a person cannot do their job without lying, cheating, and smearing, then they cannot do their job at all. And when their job entails setting the rules and determining the codes of conduct for everyone else, then there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the kind of underhand and duplicitous behaviour evinced by certain politicians.
We have a moral obligation to hold them to account. Because if our legislators have no morals, neither do our laws or our society. That’s not the kind of country we should aspire to live in, and it’s not the kind of country we will tolerate. That’s why what the Orkney Four are doing on all our behalf is so important, and why they deserve our wholehearted support.
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