The leaked memorandum detailing Nicola Sturgeon’s supposed desire for David Cameron to continue as Prime Minister was one of the more high profile failed attempts of other parties to dent the SNP’s general election landslide. At the time of the leak in April the story gained a fairly high level of coverage. Though, as the SNP were the only party to even pay lip service to fully ending Tory austerity it seemed to make no difference to the final result as the SNP won an unbelievable 56 of the 59 Scottish seats. There was much speculation around who was behind the leak with the name of Liberal Democrat MP and Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, featuring heavily.
At the time Carmichael denied any knowledge of the leaked memorandum but it has since emerged that he was behind it. Since this was revealed at the end of May there have been a plethora of calls for Carmichael to stand down from his position as MP for Orkney and Shetland. It was reported on 9th June that a campaign raising money to stage a legal campaign against Carmichael in order to force his resignation has reached its £60,000 target.
The Liberal Democrat Party have stood by Carmichael who represents 1/8th of their total MPs and their only MP in Scotland. Statements have been made to the tune that Carmichael deserves a “second chance” and he has attempted to defend himself by arguing that he had no reason to believe that the contents of the memorandum were not true. Both Sturgeon and the ambassador involved in the leaked conversation have denied that she made any statement in support of Cameron, even the memo itself had the disclaimer that the words attributed to Sturgeon may have been “lost in translation”. It is clear that Carmichael is desperately trying to cling to his political career and claim some integrity when his deceit has already been revealed. For the Liberal Democrats they are attempting to cling to one of their few MPs in the aftermath of their atrocious electoral showing. If a by-election were to take place it would almost certainly go to the SNP – Carmichael only beat the SNP candidate in May by around 900 votes. However it is unclear if Carmichael will be able to retain his seat what with the afore mentioned crowd funded campaign along with the formal inquiry launched by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner at the beginning of June.
Carmichael’s plight points to the ineptitude and impotence of his political party and broader centre ground politics. Whilst Clegg tried to save his party with a “radical centre” slogan during the general election campaign, the past five years carrying out the Tories bidding only showed voters the true colours of the Liberal Democrat party and their inability to offer an alternative. This can be a key message taken from the general election campaign in Scotland where the Liberal Democrats and more prominently Labour appeared to fail to grasp that the SNP’s popularity sprung from their rhetoric around change and anti-austerity message. With no response to this and wedded to “responsible cuts” they resorted to scare-mongering and snipes (though perhaps not all on the same scale as Carmichael). Even in the aftermath of the election we have seen a failure to grasp that the SNP represented the popularity of anti-austerity as the heads of the Labour Party have lurched to the right with 5 out of 6 (Jeremy Corbyn as an honourable exception) leadership candidates speaking constantly of aspiration, supporting business and continuing cuts.
Carmichael’s actions come from a weary centre ground politics that has no response to the global crisis of capitalism other than to place it on the shoulders of the working class and can only attempt to snipe at the SNP. In actual fact there are plenty of criticisms to be made of the SNP – especially the cuts they are carrying out at local and Holyrood level whilst claiming to be an anti-austerity party. As socialists we condemn the petty intrigue representative of grey centre-ground politicians and instead look to show that to carry out the demands of ending austerity and creating a fairer, more democratic society we need revolutionary change and to take the copious wealth in Britain into the hands of the money through workers’ control of the banks and big business.