26 May 2015

Malcom Bruce: Alistair Carmichael should not resign

Alistair Carmichael, the former Scottish Secretary, should not resign as an MP for lying about a leaked memo because many politicians are guilty of telling a “brazen lie”, Sir Malcom Bruce has said.

The former Lib Dem deputy leader, who stepped down at the last election, suggested that Mr Carmichael should remain as an MP because so many politicians lie to the public that the House of Commons would be empty if they all resigned when they were caught out.

Mr Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, is under pressure to resign after it emerged that he was the originator of the leak to the Daily Telegraph at the height of the election campaign.

At the time of the leak the then Scottish Minister told Channel 4 News that he had been unaware of the memo until a journalist called him about it for comment. This later proved to be untrue.

The memo recorded a conversation with the French ambassador after a meeting with Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister. The record said that Ms Sturgeon had told the ambassador she would prefer Mr Cameron to remain as prime minister over Ed Miliband.

And an investigation into the leak ordered by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has concluded that Mr Carmichael “could and should have stopped the sharing of the memo” and added that he “accepts responsibility for what occurred”.

The comments contained in the memo were denied by both Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador.

Danus Skene, the SNP candidate who lost out to Mr Carmichael at the election, said that the original leak was a “juvenile mistake” but the lie he told about it later made his position untenable.

Sir Malcolm however, said his apology is enough. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My point is that if you are suggesting that every MP who has never quite told the truth, or indeed told a brazen lie, including government minister, including cabinet ministers including prime ministers we would clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest.

Pushed on whether he was saying that all politicians lie, he added: “No, well the answer is yes, lots of people in public life have told lies and you know that to be perfectly true.

“We should of course hold people to account and if they lie they should take some consequences but Alistair has taken consequences, he has indicted that had he been a minister he wold have resigned, he has forfeited his severance pay.”

Mr Carmichael has indidated that he would have resigned as a minister if he still held that position and said that he will not be taking severance pay that would otherwise be owed to him after he lost his ministerial post after the election.