Commentary by Derek Bateman
It’s time to leave Alistair Carmichael alone or, to put it another way, let him swing in the breeze. The hot pursuit of terrified prey to the blast of the horn is exhilarating but never dignified. Time to call off the hounds.
To the claim that he can’t be allowed to get away with it, comes the reply: He hasn’t. Having smelled the breath of the pack and have the hair go up on the back of his neck, he is left bloodied and torn, gasping for life…wounded and chastened.
The rest of his tenure will be shadowed by shame and there will be no shortage of willing reminders of his cunning and mendacity. He can no longer make righteous speeches at conference nor berate opponents’ opportunism under the studio lights. There will be those in the winding streets of Lerwick and Kirkwall who cannot meet his eye. He will know why.
This is not justification of a ham-fisted, dirty little wheeze accompanied by an abuse of office with a consequential contempt for constituents. His attempts at explanation have revealed him to be laughably inept at subterfuge or craft and the craven inaction of the party executive has confirmed to all how senile and remote Lib Dem leadership has become.
Today’s error-strewn interview with Malcolm Bruce added incendiary fuel to his plight. To save Carmichael’s skin, we are informed that not only two-faced Al but all ministers – nay, all Members of the House – lie through their teeth. As endorsements go, it has the same effect as an invite to a patio party at Fred West’s.
There is a process which looks likely to lead to suspension from the Commons – meaningless to any unfortunate sanctioned by the DWP perhaps, but humiliating in his own terms.
The Nationalist movement does not need another scalp – if they were war trophies the Westminster haul would already fill an Apache village. There is a point at which relentless hounding becomes unreasonable and loses wider support. The only people still justified in the hunt are the islanders themselves who can shame him into a re-run.
The SNP is already occupying virtually the entire constituency land mass of Scotland and dissent is a small, still voice. Snuffing out one of the last remaining squeaks achieves nothing. And with too much central belt agitation behind it, a campaign to oust him might provoke a Lib Dem backlash. How would it look if Carmichael won again, on a reduced turnout?
I can’t see what harm his continued presence does tactically for the SNP. It is surely a perverse bonus having one each of the opposition as reminders of the election outcome – the fox’s brush momento.
The handling of Memogate has turned election gambit into slapstick and left Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur with a single major issue to contend with next May – the shadow of Carmichael whom they may both wish to body-swerve from now on.
The recollection of some BBC staff who had to deal with Carmichael is of a demanding and pompous individual and I’ve suffered myself from his scabrous tongue. But he’s done his bit for the islands, offered himself for public service and generally acquitted himself honourably. I fear he has undone much of it and will now carry the burden into the inevitable oblivion.
Let him free to walk there alone.