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Pressure mounts on isles MP to resign

Alistair Carmichael MP on election night at Lerwick's Clickimin Leisure Complex on 7 May. Photo Shetnews

PRESSURE is mounting on Alistair Carmichael to stand down as northern isles MP after he admitted being behind the controversial leaked memo suggesting first minister Nicola Sturgeon secretly wanted the Conservatives to win this month’s general election.

Sturgeon has described the leak as “a blatant election dirty trick” and called for Carmichael to “consider his position” as an MP.

The SNP’s northern isles candidate Danus Skene, who Carmichael beat by just three per cent on 7 May, questioned why it had taken eight weeks to publish the outcome of the Cabinet Office inquiry into the leak.

Alistair Carmichael's letter of apology to Nicola Sturgeon tweeted by the first minister on Friday afternoon.

Skene said that as both Carmichael and his special adviser Euan Roddin had made a clean breast of their involvement in the leak, the inquiry could have been over in “one afternoon” with its outcome published ahead of the election.

“The fact that Alistair thought leaking information of this kind is the way to play an election is shoddy and shows the depth to which the Liberal Democrats have sunk,” he said.

“It is not the kind of politics the isles deserve to represent them and it’s not the kind of thing that would have been done by Jo Grimond or Jim Wallace.

“The key issue is whether the election result in the northern isles would have been different if he had admitted this when he should have.

“This inquiry involved interviewing a small number of people. It could have been done in one afternoon.

“So one has to assume that either Alistair himself or the political circuit that comes out of the Cabinet Office played the game of making sure this didn’t come out timeously.

“I don’t like it, the whole thing stinks. Whether that is reason enough for him to resign from Parliament is a good question.”

Within an hour of his admission that he was behind the leak and his acceptance that the memo’s contents were incorrect, the question of his future as an MP was already being asked by two petitions on 38 Degrees and Change.org.

Carmichael himself has said he is not going to resign as an MP and intends to continue representing the isles until the next election in 2020, the date he gave last year for standing down.

Alistair Carmichael beats SNP candidate Danus Skene (right) by 817 votes, a margin of three per cent compared to 51.3 per cent in 2010. Photo Shetnews

As he is unable to resign as a cabinet minister he has instead waived the three months ministerial severance pay he would have been due.

He has also written an apology to both first minister Sturgeon and the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann, accepting the contents of the memo were untrue.

At the time of the leak Carmichael said that he was not aware of the memo until he was approached by a journalist, and was famously quoted by Channel 4 News saying: “This is a general election campaign, these things happen.”

On Friday he admitted that he had been aware of the memo’s content before he gave his authorisation for his Liberal Democrat special adviser to leak it to the Conservative-supporting newspaper.

When asked by BBC Radio Shetland whether he would resign as an MP, Carmichael said: “I don’t think this affects my work as an MP.

“I apologised for an error of judgment which I accept was an error of judgment, I have taken the consequences of that and I don’t think I can do any more than that.

“My primary focus is still, and it always has been, to serve the best community interests of the people of Orkney and Shetland…to ensure that we have a strong economic future and that our very distinctive community interests are represented in the House of Commons.

“That has always been my first priority, I have done that for 14 years and what I was talking about today doesn’t change that in any way.”