Saturday, 3 January 2015

Alistair Carmichael: "We'll keep all our seats"

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, is reported in The Herald as stating that the Liberal Democrats will keep all eleven of their Scottish seats at the General Election in May.

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.


cynicalHighlander said...

Good might be saving deposits.

Andrew said...

Actually, if we could save all our deposits that would be equally unexpected and would represent significant progress on 2011.

In fact, real cause for hope wouldn't be rereating to a few strongholds where incumbency has won the day, but seeing more moderate increases in the vote across the country.

I lost my deposit in 2011 in Renfrewshire N&W (or, more correctly, circumstances contrived to lose the deposit; I suspect I had very little to do with it). The odds aren't any better in Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill this time, but I'll do what I can!

Stephen Glenn said...

Andrew it is the SNP who have made next May's General Election results in Scotland about the referendum. They believe that if they can repeat the remarkable results of 2011 in 2015 they will get another referendum within the next Westminster Government.

Andrew said...

Sorry Stephen, when did I say that the Liberal Democrats (or anyone else) have "made next May's General Election results in Scotland about the referendum"? I'm not playing that game.

It's interesting to see how, after reading a piece, people assume I'm saying things that I certainly am not.

What I did say was this: "What does concern me is the emphasis on the referendum. It's passed. We know the result." I don't deny that such an emphasis exists, but I do not apportion responsibility for creating it.

And that applies to everyone. I'm quite dismayed that so many people continue to identify predominantly with how they voted in September, and worse still that they are judging others in accordance with how they voted. It's pitiful to see some Yes voters apparently ignoring the result, and on the other hand No voters ignoring the many lessons and effectively behaving as if the only thing that matters was the "victory".

I didn't write this to point fingers at either side; I was simply observing that a General Election is about so much more than independence, and that what I see as a close fight will be determined in the final analysis by the credibility of the candidates.

The SNP probably won't repeat the results of 2011, but are likely to do much better than in 2010 - if/when they do it should not simply be interpreted as support for independence. There are a number of factors in the SNP's popularity (including the relative weakness of ourselves and Labour).

The SNP have staked a great deal on winning Gordon. They could make huge gains but, if they fail to secure Gordon and their new parliamentary team goes to Westminster without Alex Salmond, no doubt it will feel like a loss regardless of the wider result.

cynicalHighlander said...

@Stephen Glenn

Since none of the unionist parties have put Scotland's interest first before party especially yours and Labour both who were willing to constantly lie to gain a no vote as they thought we would all curl up and get in our box for you to sort everything out so that you could carry on the charade which you have played for decades.

Independence will never go away and will only grow as more and more people see how Scotland has been stitched up to satisfy the the elite in London.

UK Government lobbied US to back Scottish No campaign

One briefing dated February 15 2013 reveals details of a meeting between Marisa Plowden, head of internal politics at the US Embassy in London, and an anonymous official of the Scotland Office who wanted to discuss a Whitehall report on the implications of independence.

Since the LibDems like to spend other peoples money willy nilly please settle your outstanding Police Scotland debt of £800,000 as Scotland can put that to good use.

We the people will decide who has Scotland's interest at heart at the next GE as we don't like to be told what is in our interest by any party activist no matter their colour.

Andrew said...

I accept that "independence will never go away" in the sense that some people will always remain committed to it. As they should be. The Lib Dems haven't given up on a fairer voting system simply because of the AV referendum setback.

I'm not going to answer any of the other points raised because I don't think they're relevant to what I was attempting to say. However, surely the whole point of political activism in the run-up to an election is to convince people that you have their interests at heart?

I might have voted a different way to many other Lib Dems in the referendum, but I don't allow that to define me and I will not accuse those who think differently of not acting in Scotland's interests. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was impressed by the high turnout, with both Yes and No voters doing what they felt was best for their country.

We don't need to move on from the "independence" issue (which, as you say, will be with us for as long as people want to fight for it) but I think we should move on from the kind of rhetoric that regrettably framed much of the referendum debate.

Andrew said...

I have been asked "what else should Alistair Carmichael have said?"

He's entitled to make wild predictions if he wants, which will invariably lead people to disagree with them.

What he could have done, I suppose, is make a statement to the effect that we're going to work hard to keep everything we've got, that we've got excellent hard-working MPs that deserve to be given the chance to continue serving, that we're still very much alive in Scotland, that people will have their say and some will be very surprised, etc.

Or he might have said "making predictions is a fool's game".

He hasn't done any harm, it's good to see the positivity - all I'm saying is that it looks super-optimistic. He's right on Gordon, though - don't discount the Lib Dems.

cynicalHighlander said...

Spreading misinformation from a position of authority is lying Andrew in my book anyway. Crown Estate which the LDs's wanted devolved then refused to devolve it as to the AV nonsense for PR was a nonstarter and GB promoted it prior to the GE 2010 so is that the limit of the LD leadership aspirations when they could of done something to make real; change.

My conclusion is that your party only existed because it showed itself as being not 'one of them' except that they have shown that the are exactly the same, now None of the Above or spoilt ballot is their label.

As to Gordon Jardine has been telling porkies in a leaflet in true LibDem format of wrongly portraying past votes in a completely misleading fashion of how close second place was between the other 3 party's.

Anyway all the best for your personal future as at least you have shown integrity in your beliefs sadly lacking in many others of your party IMO.

Andrew said...

Hello again cynicalHighlander!

"Spreading misinformation from a position of authority is lying" - agreed. I spoke out against enough of it!

But on the question of "who stands up for Scotland's interests", I would suggest that both sides genuinely believed they did, and still do. Voters may well accept the views of one side over another, and while I am not averse to expressing my own (!) I'm not going to adversely judge the motivations of others who think differently.

The AV referendum I was using as an example of how campaigners should keep on believing in spite of a setback. No-one tells us to "get over" the result. We don't stop believing in the cause.

The Lib Dems have never existed purely to be a "none of the above" party - but I accept that we found some identity in that and exploited it to the full, especially in the 1990s.

I haven't seen anything that Christine has put out in Gordon - I mainly know her simply as a conference speaker and she is clearly a very competent candidate. The Lib Dems have been selling their "horse races" in this way for decades and while I agree there are times when these are rather misleading in Gordon, with a majority of 7,000, it's not unreasonable to present the fight as a straight LD v SNP one. The media will do this even if the Lib Dems don't.

Much better, in my view, for a candidate to actively seek to persuade people lend them votes than simply assume they will.

All this said, I hope that the election in Gordon doesn't become all about Alex Salmond. I think voters in Gordon deserve a lot better than a tribal fight for their votes.

"All the best for your personal future as at least you have shown integrity in your beliefs" - thanks for the person compliment, it does mean a lot.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything more nauseating than a liberal democrat?