Monday, 7 October 2013

Carmichael's return to the Front Bench

So the first change announced in the Government reshuffle was not replacing the Tories who resigned yesterday, but did involve another change in the Whips Office. It saw Michael Moore replaced by Alistair Carmichael as Secretary of State for Scotland.

With less that a year to go before the referendum the return of Alistair's voice to the debates in Westminster and to the front bench is to be welcomed. His speeches in this Parliament have been confined to moving the writ for the Eastleigh by election as he has been restricted by his whips duties. To have him addressing Scottish issues from the dispatch box like he did in opposition for our party will strengthen the voice for better together. His law training will be able to unravel the bluster and bravado of the Nationalists as he forensically will take apart their arguments.

I'm sure Alex Salmond heart will have sunk a little when he learnt that Alistair was once again taking up the remit for Scotland. It is an area that the Northern Isles MP knows well having shadowed it from 2007-2010 (with a slight gap when he resigned to vote in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty). In those years when the SNP were first in charge of the Scottish Parliament he was as combative against the SNP Government as he was the Labour Scottish Secretary, taking the fight to them on issues where they were letting down the people of Scotland. Now he is able to stand up for the Scots as the Government minister with responsibility in Westminster.

Normally there would be a wee dram to welcome the new Secretary of State for Scotland, but this one is currently going sober for the month to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. So may I suggest joining me with a donation there rather than a dram.

Michael Moore had done a good job since he was elevated as part of the first reshuffle less than a month into the Parliament replacing Danny Alexander as Secretary of State. For three years he has been very vocal and visible is stating the cause of Scotland being part of the UK. I'm sure he will still be very vocal in the Better Together campaign and giving his backing to Alistair in  his new role. But sometimes a change is good, especially in the run in to a important decision. This will be a change in style rather than substance, but as Alistair was the MP leading the General Election campaign for the Lib Dems in Scotland he is the man to have at the helm leading into this referendum.

I also expect his role in the Whips Office to be taken by a non-Scottish Liberal Democrat. We want all the Scottish MPs to be making contributions in the house over the next 11 months adding to the reasons that we are better together and that there are Scots in Government working for the best for fellow Scots who want to ensure that continues into the future.

Update As I was typing this is was announced that Don Foster the MP for Bath has replaced Alistair at the Whips Office.

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