ALISTAIR Carmichael has said he regrets “enormously” his decision to leak a false memo ahead of the election – but the Northern Isles MP denied lying about his knowledge of it to protect his reputation, instead saying his lie had “a political purpose”.
Carmichael’s evidence was brought to an end at the midway point of the second day of evidence at an Election Court hearing in Edinburgh.
Four Orkney-based petitioners have so far raised nearly £130,000 via online crowdfunding to challenge Carmichael’s re-election. They say voters were unaware of his involvement in authorising his special advisor Euan Roddin to leak the memo at the time of the election, due to his initial denial in a Channel 4 News interview.
The memorandum stated that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had told a French diplomat wanted David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister. Sturgeon described the claim as “100 per cent untrue.”
Reflecting on the leak, Carmichael told the court: “I was doing it for a political purpose.”
It was put to him by the petitioners’ QC Jonathan Mitchell, that he lied in that interview because he was “preparing Euan Roddin to be painted as solely responsible”.
“You were cutting Mr Roddin loose. And by denying any awareness on your part, you in fact put him in the frame. Mr Roddin was just an insurance policy wasn’t he?”
Carmichael replied: “I have never regarded my special advisors in that way. My purpose in that interview was to keep the focus on the story and not the leak.”
Asked whether he “has ever apologised to Mr Roddin for getting him into this mess”, Carmichael said: “We’ve never had a discussion in those terms of getting into a mess. I’ve had no falling out with Euan. We’ve had no contact in these last few weeks.”
In summing up his examination of Carmichael, Mitchell QC listed what he said were “a number of inaccuracies” admitted by the MP.
He said: “You’ve accepted you lied to Channel 4 News and the Daily Record. You’ve accepted that you misled the inquiry and did so in a calculated move over a period of weeks, between 4 and 12 May.
“You’ve accepted that you misled the leader and the spokespersons of your own party and other members of your own party, such as Tavish Scott, by allowing them to believe you and put their reputations on the line for you. And you’ve accepted now that there’s a number of inaccuracies, in your own statements to this court.”
Carmichael replied “yes” to each statement and added: “I have been candid in that.”
Mitchell QC said: “With this catalogue of untruths, why should you expect the court to believe anything you say?”
Carmichael’s response was: “Well because I’m on oath. I’ve already explained what I did and the reasons, and it’s for the court to decide why I did what I did.”
His own legal agent, Roddy Dunlop QC, asked him whether the hearings this week and in September had taken any toll on his family life. Carmichael said: “It has been a difficult few months.”
“Do you regret what you did?” asked Dunlop QC. Carmichael replied: “Enormously.”
Dunlop also took the opportunity to point out to the court that a Cabinet Office findings report following the inquiry in to the leaked memo contained “no suggestion that (Carmichael) misled them.”
The legal challenge is being brought under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Mr Carmichael denies breaching electoral laws. The hearing continues.
Words by Michael MacLeod
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