Slain in the Ratings: The death of another Kennedy, and yet another assassination attempt

There has been a – deliberate, naturally – obfuscation regarding what is so objectionable about Alastair Carmichael, sole remaining Scottish LibDem MP, and former Scottish Secretary.

True, he comes across as a buffoon. He is also an audacious hypocrite, calling for the abolition of the position of Secretary of State for Scotland, because he regarded it as pointless, before taking the ministerial salary for himself…and allegedly having forced dismissal of his LibDem predecessor Michael Moore in order to achieve that end. And as for Carmichael’s cynical leak of a note alleging that David Cameron was Nicola’s preferred choice of Prime Minister to Ed Miliband? He did not even realise that saying ‘I did not read the memo’ does not give him plausible deniability – it instead adds to his buffoonery, giving him a generous helping of incompetence.

The subsequent ethics investigation launched by Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary standards commissioner, seemed to be a surprise to many, and perhaps raises some doubts as to whether a further police inquiry might also go ahead. Defenders of the Union have been desperate to tie Alex Salmond into this argument – ‘but Salmond lied about advice over EU status, so it is no different’, they say – omitting to note that Salmond submitted himself to a standards investigation into the matter, was fully exonerated, and did so BEFORE he stood as an MP for Gordon…with a 14% swing to the SNP in that constituency delivering him as their MP. A little different, in terms of openness and transparency, then…indeed, some might argue that the fact that the swing was 14% as opposed to in the twenties or thirties, is an indication that he suffered a setback in the polls, in comparison to the bulk of the seats taken by the SNP on Charles Kennedy’s “Night of the Long Sgian Dubhs”.

Carmichael not only authorized the release of a memo to happen within the purdah period of the election campaign, but he denied knowing anything about it, allowing the idea to grow that it was some junior civil servant that had done it…similar to the CBI’s excuses for accidentally coming out as campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the Referendum last year. Except, as with the CBI, under closer scrutiny it became clear that that decision was authorised by several senior members as opposed to the office coffee-gopher. Alastair personally authorised the memo being sent out, so willingly not only tried to damage another political party’s campaign (by saying they would quite like his coalition prime minister to stay in power), but then refused to be honest and take the consequences of possible damage himself before he defended his own seat in the election. Orkney and Shetland had noted a swing towards the SNP amongst council places, and Shetland voted SNP last month, leaving Orkney to vote Carmichael back with a majority in the 800s, down from over 10,000 at the previous general election in 2010. Validation – yet again – of how willing the LibDems have been, to lie while in government (the memo which he read before authorising the leak was dated March 6th, some weeks before parliament dissolved and he effectively ceased to be a minister), not just for tuition fees.

The ‘FrenchGate’ memo was discredited within hours, and seen as a desperate kneejerk response to Nicola Sturgeon’s tour-de-force the previous evening on the Leaders’ Debate, where UK-wide audiences voted her as the winner of all seven parties…including the incumbent prime minister and the leader of the opposition. And one cannot but help see that same desperation to attack opponents of the Union at all costs, in the willingness for critics to attack Alex Salmond yesterday over his generous comments about Charles Kennedy in the wake of his sad demise. Any opportunity for a bitter attempt to character assassinate Salmond is not to be missed by the general press, and so his observations that Kennedy’s heart was not really in the Better Together campaign are not presented as an attempt to rehabilitate a man so fondly regarded by the electorate, so that history does not consign him to being behind the curve of Scottish politics, but an attempt to ‘appropriate’ him as an independence advocate (see the actual quotes below). In truth, Salmond’s remarks may be over-generous, to those of us who remember Charles Kennedy being quoted some months ago as saying that no politician, journalist or academic had any clue as to why the losing ‘Yes’ parties were on a roll since the Referendum result – he may well have recognized that Better Together was damaging the support for the Union, but his bewilderment does not really fit with a man who was in touch any longer, and perceived what had happened over the previous 12 months in Scotland.

Accusations have been shamelessly hurled that Kennedy died because of something called ‘SNP Greed’ (I wonder, do they countenance the existence of the idea of ‘LibDem Greed’? Say, being prepared to lie as a Cabinet Minister in order to hold on to your own constituency salary?), therefore desperately trying to make the party that was the people’s choice in not just last month’s General Election, but also the 2011 Holyrood election, and even won the popular vote for the first time in the Scottish council elections, somehow responsible for his demise….except that who you are blaming with that attack is clearly that same electorate. The voters chose – and you cannot blame the other political parties for being a more palatable choice. Masquerading your attack on the electorate’s choice under the guise of it being an attack on ‘the party’ that defeated him still damns the voters: if anyone, Kennedy was executed by his constituents. Still determined to be behind that political curve, in the face of these three plebiscites, Unionists should take greater care of whom they launch attacks on – and whose death they attempt to bitterly exploit in an attempt to give their existence meaning.

And I cannot but think that the venom of their comments are yet another attempt to distract and deflect from their own wounded compatriot – Carmichael, the LibDem Scottish panda, still trying to limp out of the harsh and unrelenting limelight.


“In terms of the independence campaign, I don’t think his heart was in the Better Together campaign…His heart would have been in a pro-European campaign – that’s the campaign that Charles would have engaged in heart and soul… As early as the beginning of last year, Charles was one of the first unionist politicians to realise that the result [in the Referendum] would be close and said publicly that he felt that the actions of the No campaign were contributing to this.” (excerpted from Alex Salmond’s tribute to Charles Kennedy)
“Don’t hate the media; become the media.” (Jello Biafra, Dead Kennedys)

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