Pressure mounts on Alistair Carmichael to resign

Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael . Picture: TSPL
Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael . Picture: TSPL

FORMER Cabinet minister Alistair Carmichael has come under further pressure to quit as an MP after he accepted res­ponsibility for a leaked memo which alleged Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to win the general election.

The SNP deputy leader Stewart Hos­ie called for the Westminster standards watchdog to investigate whether Carmichael had broken any rules and said he should “consider very seriously stepping down” from his seat.

Carmichael has apologised to Sturgeon and the French ambassador after a Cabinet Office investigation into the leak, which occurred during the General Election campaign, concluded he “could and should have stopped the sharing of the memo”, and he added that he “accepts resp­on­sibility for what occurred”.

Last night Carmichael was unavailable for comment, but a Lib Dem spokesman said the MP had no intention of quitting.

After the leaked memo app­eared in the Daily Telegraph, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood ordered an inquiry into how the note, which claimed Sturgeon told French ambassador Sylvie Bermann that she would prefer to see Conservatives remain in power, got into the public domain.

Hosie told BBC Radio 4’s Today prog­ramme: “I think it means he should consider very seriously stepping down as an MP.” He added: “This is potentially career-ending precisely bec­ause he went into an election suggesting one thing and then we find out – lo and behold, just after the election – it wasn’t true.”

Carmichael, now Scotland’s only Liberal Democrat MP, said that while he had not seen the document before it was published by the Daily Telegraph, he was “aware of its content and agreed that my special adviser (Euan Roddin) should make it public”.

Hosie said: “Given the scale of this – a dirty tricks campaign which involved the French ambassador, the Scottish First Minister – all of which is completely false,bogus, made-up, really he ought to consider very seriously whether he can be even be trusted by his constituents to remain a Member of Parliament.”

He added: “I understand a complaint has already been made to the parliamentary standards commissioner.”

Neither Carmichael nor Roddin will claim the severance pay they were entitled to after losing their jobs at the general election which saw the Lib Dems ejected from office.

The leaked document was written by a British civil servant following a conversation with consul-general Pierre-Alain Coffinier regarding a meeting between Sturgeon and Bermann.

The investigation into the source of the leak found an official mobile phone held by Roddin was used to make calls to one of the journalists involved in the story.

The special adviser confirmed he had discussed it with the journalist, believing it was in the public interest to do so. Carmichael then confirmed that Roddin had asked for his view on the possibility of sharing the document with the press and that he had agreed this should happen.

When he accepted responsibility for the leak at the end of last week, Orkney and Shetland MP Carmichael said: “It was an error of judgment which I regret. I accept full responsibility for the publication of the document…

“Had I still been a government minister, I would have considered this to be a matter that required my resignation.”

The Lib Dems said party officials would not be launching any internal disciplinary proceedings against Carmichael.

“He has given up £17,000 of ministerial severance pay,” a spokesman said. “We feel that is sanction enough.”

Hosie said there are also questions for Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie to answer.

“Mr Rennie was one of the first to comment on this false story,” he said. “Did the special adviser who gave the incorrect memo to the Telegraph… also call Willie Rennie about it? ”

Speaking in Edinburgh yest­erday, Sturgeon repeated her calls for Carmichael to “consider his position”.