Tag Archives: Alistair Carmichael

Alistair Carmichael ‘leaked Sturgeon memo thinking it was true’

We already know that the civil servant who wrote the controversial ‘Memogate’ memo believed that it was accurate. Now the MP who leaked it has said the same.

The only people who have cast any doubt on the document are those who have an interest in doing so.

If the civil servant had not declared his belief that the information he had written was factually accurate – by which, let’s by clear, he meant it was what he had been told by the French consul-general – then This Writer would be more willing to give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt.

The civil servant did express concerns that the consul-general had misheard the information he had imparted – but, looking at the actual content of that information, it is hard to find any way this could be true. There is no language barrier between three people who are all perfectly fluent in English, for example.

So this issue still comes down to whether you believe a civil servant with an impeccable record for honesty, absolutely no reason to fabricate any information, and no reason to believe he could get away with any such fabrication at the time he communicated the message he did, or three people who were directly involved in what appears to be a politically incendiary conversation, all of whom would have had very strong reasons for being conservative with the truth, if that conversation really did take place as recorded.

You be the judge.

Alistair Carmichael has told a special court he leaked a confidential memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon secretly wanted a Tory general election victory because he believed it was true.

The former Scotland secretary told an election court in Edinburgh he believed the so-called Frenchgate memo was “politically explosive”, because it confirmed that the first minister wanted David Cameron to win in the belief it would further her quest for Scottish independence.

Carmichael denied he had intended to smear Sturgeon when he authorised his special adviser Euan Roddin to leak the memo. He said that until she forcefully denied it was accurate within minutes of the Daily Telegraph publishing it, he felt it revealed facts that were of critical public importance.

“A smear is where you say something about somebody else, an opinion which is untrue and which you know to be untrue,” he said. The memo “was saying something about Scottish nationalists that I believed to be true”.

The case centres on Carmichael’s decision in March to allow Roddin to leak a memo that allegedly summarised Sturgeon’s comments to the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann. The first minister allegedly said she did not believe Ed Miliband, then the Labour leader, was prime ministerial material, and that she would prefer to see the Tories win.

Carmichael said he trusted the honesty of the Scotland Office civil servant who had drawn up the memo, and the account Pierre Alain Coffinier, the French diplomat who briefed the civil servant, gave about the ambassador’s meeting with the first minister.

Source: Alistair Carmichael ‘leaked Sturgeon memo thinking it was true’ | Politics | The Guardian

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No, no, no, Nicola Sturgeon. Memogate ruling does NOT mean the story was ‘untrue’

10-Cameron-Sturgeon-Getty

Nicola Sturgeon has been crowing after the Independent Press Standards Organisation upheld her complaint about the ‘Memogate’ story that caused such a stir for the Daily Telegraph in April.

Ipso has ruled that the story – based on a memo that was leaked, we later learned, on the orders of the Coalition’s then-Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – was “significantly misleading” because “the newspaper had failed to make clear that it did not know whether the account the memorandum presented was true”. It stops short of any suggestion that the story was false.

This means we still do not know whether the account in the memo was true.

A Cabinet Office investigation revealed that the civil servant who wrote the memo had a spotless record of accuracy and believed that it was accurate because it set down what he was told, faithfully.

But the SNP distortion machine has rolled into action to claim that Ipso’s ruling supports Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that the memo – and the story – were not true. This is a claim that we cannot accept on trust because, as one of the people involved, she has something to gain by making it.

In fact, none of the statements made by people who took part in the conversations mentioned in the memo may be taken at face value. The only person whose account may be considered impartial is the civil servant who wrote the memo – but everyone seems very keen to dismiss what he said.

According to The Guardian, Sturgeon said: “Subsequent events have proven conclusively that the story was entirely untrue, and today’s ruling simply underlines that.” This is a lie. They did not; it does not.

“They [the press] have a duty to ensure, as far as possible, that the stories they present to readers are fair, balanced and – above all – accurate. The Daily Telegraph, in failing to carry out the most elementary of journalistic checks and balances, failed in this case to meet that duty.”

Which checks and balances would these be, Nicola? Do you mean the Telegraph reporters didn’t ask you if the memo was accurate? Now, why do you think that would be? Could it be because the memo said you secretly wanted David Cameron to be the next Prime Minister, while open claiming you wanted Miliband – suggesting you were lying to the public? You’re too intelligent not to understand that this means anything you said about it would be suspicious.

Why are you insulting the public’s intelligence by claiming otherwise?

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Vox Political vindicated yet again – this time over ‘Sturgeon’s secret support for Cameron’ memo

This is how the Labour Party responded to 'memogate'. SNP supporters were incensed but it has not been proved wrong.

This is how the Labour Party responded to ‘memogate’. SNP supporters were incensed but it has not been proved wrong.

It was an official memo, it was leaked by the Scotland office – at the bidding of the Secretary of State, no less, and there’s no reason to believe that it is inaccurate.

That is the finding of the Cabinet Office’s report into the leaking of a confidential memo to the Daily Telegraph, which stated that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, had told the French Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, in February that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material”.

The Torygraph story sparked outrage among supporters of the SNP, many of whom attacked this blog for reporting the story. It seems certain people owe This Writer a serious apology.

According to the Cabinet Office report, “The investigation team interviewed the civil servant in the Scotland Office who produced the memo. He confirmed under questioning that he believed that the memo was an accurate record of the conversation that took place between him and the French Consul General, and highlighted that the memo had stated that part of the conversation between the French Ambassador and the First Minister might well have been ‘lost in translation’.

“Senior officials who have worked with him say that he is reliable and has no history of inaccurate reporting, impropriety or security lapses. The Cabinet Secretary has concluded that there is no reason to doubt that he recorded accurately what he thought he had heard. There is no evidence of any political motivation or ‘dirty tricks’.”

This means there is no reason to believe claims that the memo is inaccurate. The “lost in translation” comment cannot refer to the conversation between the civil servant and the French Consul General, and must refer to his understanding, or recollection, of the account he heard of the conversation between Ms Sturgeon and the Ambassador.

The Consul General has, of course, denied that he said any such thing as is described in the memo. He would, wouldn’t he?

The memo was leaked to the Torygraph by Euan Roddin, special advisor to then-Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael. The Cabinet Office report states: “Mr Roddin… told the investigation team that he acted in what he saw as the public interest and that in his view the public needed to be aware of the position attributed to the First Minister.”

Alistair Carmichael, who is a Liberal Democrat, has admitted authorising the leak. Vox Political commenter Joan Edington suggested at the time that it could have come from the Secretary of State, so kudos to her.

He has since apologised and given assurances that, if he had remained Secretary of State, he would have considered this a matter requiring his resignation. Neither he nor Mr Roddin will be receiving their severance pay.

He has also apologised to Nicola Sturgeon, saying “details of the account are not correct”. This is curious, as he has no reason to suggest it.

Nicola Sturgeon has been quick to claim that the report clears her of any dodgy behaviour. This is not true.

The memo, from an impartial source, states that she said she would prefer to have David Cameron as Prime Minister and we have only the comments of people with an interest in denying that claim to back her up.

On balance, it seems very unlikely that she didn’t say she supported Cameron.

It would clarify what seemed to be a contradiction in the SNP’s election campaign, in that the party was attacking Labour hard in Scotland, while apparently claiming it wanted to do a deal with Labour in order to keep the Conservatives out of office. If the SNP’s leader was in fact supporting Cameron, then the “deal” rhetoric was a lie and the campaign against Labour north of the border makes sense.

This would, of course, mean that she was lying, bare-faced, to the public all the way through the general election campaign period.

It will be up all of us to decide what we think is the truth, based on what Ms Sturgeon – and her party – does next.

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Autumn reshuffles – will Britain get the political players it needs?

Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today - but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?

Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today – but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?

Today’s the day – doomsday for some, and a new dawn for others. Both the Coalition and Labour are reshuffling their top teams.

We already know some of the names that have stepped down. On the government side, Michael Moore has been sacked as Scottish Secretary, to make way for fellow Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael. Apparently Mr Carmichael, referring to the upcoming referendum on Scotland seceding from the Union, has said he is “up for it”.

At least nobody tried to put a Tory in, to represent a country where that party has no MPs at all. It may seem beyond the realm of possibility but with the Government of Idiots (and I refer to the term in its classical sense) it would not be surprising.

Deputy Chief Whip John Randall and Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith (who was humiliated on the BBC’s Newsnight last year when, as Exchequer Secretary, she struggled to answer questions about the government’s decision to defer a rise in fuel duty. It seems she had been promoted because David Cameron mistakenly believed she was a trained accountant. This does not bode well for today’s decisions) have both stepped down.

The BBC reported that Ms Smith’s resignation letter stated she had been “only 27” when she became an MP and now wanted to “develop other ways of giving public service” – indicating possible disillusionment with the Coalition government and the way it conducts itself.

Transport Minister Simon Burns has also stepped down – but this is to run for the position of Deputy Speaker, which was left vacant by Nigel Evans after he stepped down to fight criminal charges for sexual assault.

All the pundits are saying the government reshuffle will concentrate on mid-level ministers, with every Cabinet-level Tory secure in their position. What a shame.

Meanwhile, over at Labour, the situation is not so clear. Ed Miliband’s decisions have been unrestricted, and speculation has ranged from whether he will increase Shadow Cabinet representative for women, bring back members of Labour’s old guard (unlikely – he would face criticism along predictable lines from the Tories and besides, this seems to be about bringing in new, more attractive faces), promote people who are loyal to him or (my preference) have a Shadow Cabinet Of All Talents – including critics who happen to be very good at their jobs.

Abraham Lincoln had a Cabinet Of All Talents, if I recall correctly. Some consider this to be part of what made him great.

One person who won’t be a part of Labour’s team is former Minister (and then Shadow Minister) for the Disabled, Anne McGuire. who quit last week after five years in the job.

The Stirling MP was praised by disability campaigners such as Sue Marsh who, in an email, described her as “the one true ally we had on Labour’s front bench”.

And blogger Sue Jones wrote: “Anne will always be remembered by our community for her very articulate attacks on the media’s [mis]representation of disabled people and on the Government’s welfare reforms, in parliamentary debate. I remember her account of private debate, too, on the same topic with Iain Duncan Smith, and such was her ferocity and anger at the profound unfairness of the media’s sustained persecution of sick and disabled people, fanned by Iain Duncan Smith, as we know, that she pinned him against a wall on one occasion.”

But the former Shadow Minister, who is herself disabled, ran into controversy when she agreed to host a fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party Conference, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform, and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers.

Entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’, the event seems to have been a front for insurance companies to try to influence Labour’s thinking on social security in the future. Similar events were arranged by Reform and staged at both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences.

Discussions at the private, round-table policy seminar seem to have centred on ways in which insurance companies could become more involved with social security – what products they could sell to working-class people who fear the loss of income that follows loss of employment.

This is exactly the scenario that the American Unum corporation wanted to create when it was invited into the then-Department of Social Security by Peter Lilley – a weakened state system that either cannot or will not support people in genuine need, particularly the sick and disabled, forcing them to buy insurance policies in the hope that these will top-up their income.

Anne McGuire denied this was the intent of the exercise but it is significant that neoliberal New Labour did nothing to prevent the advance of this agenda during its years in power, including the period she spent as Minister for the Disabled.

People who have suffered under the current benefit regime are demanding – ever more stridently – that Labour should mount a strong attack on the practices of the Department for Work and Pensions, as run by Iain Duncan Smith and his cronies, Mark Hoban and Esther McVey.

Part of this demand is that private organisations such as Unum and Atos, which administers work capability assessments, should be kicked out, and a new, fairer system of determining disability benefits based on a claimant’s medical condition and needs, rather than the greed of private enterprise, should be brought in.

There has been no hope of this with plastic Tory Liam Byrne as Shadow Work and Pensions spokesman, but rumour has it he could be shunted out and replaced by Rachel Reeves. Is this a good move?

The omens are not wonderful. She is yet another alumnus of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford (another notable example of that course’s graduates is David Cameron). Her background is in business. She once interviewed for a job with tax avoiders Goldman Sachs (but turned down the job offer) and has been named by The Guardian as one of several MPs who use unpaid interns.

MPs’ shocking behaviour is par for the course in Cameron’s government

Feeling a bit peaky, David? But the revelations about your Tory friends and Liberal Democrat partners should hardly come as a surprise!

Feeling a bit peaky, David? But the revelations about your Tory friends and Liberal Democrat partners should hardly come as a surprise!

It must have been very difficult for David Cameron, returning from his spectacularly ill-timed holiday in the sun to find that his colleagues had been having a much better time than he has – at home.

It seems that he returned to “crisis talks” at Downing Street, where aides told him of a “sensational love affair” which has potentially significant political implications for him. Apologies for the hyperbolic language involved, but this information comes from the Daily Mail.

The newspaper said it could not disclose the identities of the people involved in these shenanigans, or any details of the relationship, for legal reasons, so the speculation machine has probably gone into overdrive and by the time this reaches your screen, The Sun has probably already disclosed the names of the co-respondents.

For those of us who aren’t that clued-up, it’s great fun to speculate. The paper said they are middle-aged figures, the affair has now concluded, and it does not involve anyone serving in the Cabinet.

Who could it be? Longtime readers of this blog will know that Vox Political has long harboured hopes of a Michael Gove legover crisis – or indeed a Michael leGOVEr crisis (see what we did there?) – but in all honesty this seems unlikely until medical evidence can prove that he is compatible with a human female.

So who, then? Nadine Dorries and Nigel Farage? Peter Bone and a human being? Doubtful. Boris and… Boris and-

Hmm.

It’s probably best not to pursue that line of inquiry. Far more interesting to sit back and wait for the ‘poshed-up’ version of the Jeremy Kyle show, in which all will be revealed.

With the curtains closed, of course – not as the badge of a serial skiver, but simply to avoid the shame of having to admit watching an episode of Kyle.

The worse news is, this wasn’t the only story breaking about government misdeeds. It seems that Cameron’s Liberal Democrat Coalition partners have been playing “pork barrel” politics (yes, it’s the Daily Mail again) by diverting taxpayers’ money into key Liberal Democrat-held constituencies.

We now know that a £2 billion scheme to refurbish roads, pavements and bridges in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency has been reversed, in a deal with private business that took the project off the government balance sheet. A private finance initiative? We all know that PFI projects don’t turn out well for anyone involved other than the companies, so Clegg may have given himself a shot in the foot, rather than a shot in the arm.

The Mail also reports dodgy dealings by Danny Alexander. Apparently Beaker insisted on extra funds for mountain rescue teams, a VAT cut for ski lifts and the retention of the state subsidy for the Cairngorm Mountain Railway – all in his Highlands constituency.

And Lib Dem Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael (who?) apparently forced the abandonment of plans to cut the coastguard service, affecting his Orkney and Shetland constituency, claiming it was “a Coalition matter”.

So it must have been very difficult indeed for the comedy Prime Minister to return from holiday and learn of such appalling behaviour.

Difficult, but not a surprise.

Let’s face it – it’s little different from the way they behave when he’s at work.