Saturday, 3 January 2015
Alistair Carmichael: "We'll keep all our seats"
He also said that the party will retain Gordon, thus preventing Alex Salmond from regaining a Westminster seat.
Mr Carmichael said: "On the doorstep, I think that Alex Salmond is now a much more divisive character than he ever was in the past. The referendum forced him to be on the wrong side of public opinion in the northeast and we've got a very good candidate in Christine Jardine. The message among anti-nationalist voters is already understood - that if you don't want Alex Salmond as your MP you have to vote for Christine Jardine and the Liberal Democrats. I'm not I betting man but if I were I would be inclined to have a punt on us pulling off a surprise win there - it's a David and Goliath fight and I think that David might well pull off a victory again."
I agree Gordon could be very interesting and I'm not convinced this will be the easy gain for the SNP many are suggesting. Alistair Carmichael is correct in his assertion that if the Liberal Democrats can convince voters in Gordon that they're the only alternative to Alex Salmond they have more than a chance. And we do have a good, credible candidate even without the incumbency factor Malcolm Bruce would have provided. As Mr Carmichael concedes, the SNP Goliath is the favourite - but I wouldn't count the Lib Dems out.
What does concern me is the emphasis on the referendum. It's passed. We know the result. As we saw, it was not a matter of SNP supporters versus the rest of us. The referendum was, in any respect, a question on Scotland's constitution future; a General Election is about so much more. It will also be about the record of our party in government. It will be about policy, credibility, and trust. We cannot afford to run a campaign in Gordon with the midset that in some way rejection of independence related to rejection of either the SNP or Alex Salmond.
The Secretary of State was also keen to emphasise that the Liberal Democrats would gain credit for helping rebuild the economy. This "the public will reward us when they realise what we've done in government" line has been oft repeated but regrettably finds little basis in factual evidence. The reality is that the electorate are more likely to punish than reward. That Nick Clegg would like voters to judge the party on the government's economic record does not mean that they will, or that it should be expected.
It's welcome to see Mr Carmichael being so positive. I agree with him at least in respect to Gordon: we do have a good chance if we can convince non Lib Dem voters to elect Christine Jardine to keep out Alex Salmond. But that's a big if, and the SNP could probably play the same game in appealing to people to keep out the Lib Dem. Inevitably, the result in Gordon will come down to which of parties and candidates are on the right side of public opinion - and not merely in respect to the independence question.
None of us want to see Scottish Lib Dem MPs losing their seats, especially stalwarts such as Charles Kennedy, energetic campaigners such as Jo Swinson and Mike Crockart or inherently reasonable and throughly decent MPs like Sir Robert Smith and Michael Moore. But neither opinion polls or election results since 2010 give me much hope that we can hold all of them - if we retained as many as six I'd be delighted.
If we're going to be projecting that kind of result here in Scotland (in the face of recent reversals, a cultural change in the Scottish political conversation and a resurgent SNP), it would also be logical to be predicting signficant gains in England where we should find it easier to hold seats and possibly make a few gains among the likely losses. If we can hold everything we have in Scotland, with limited resources and in adverse circumstances, that would be something akin to a political miracle.
I'm not sufficiently negative to suggest the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be renaming themselves the Orkney and Shetland Residents' Party after the General Election, but effective campaigning must be rooted in realism as well as optimism. I'm also hoping for a "good result" against the odds, but it would appear my definition of "good" will differ hugely from Mr Carmichael's.