Alistair Carmichael has won the Orkney and Shetland seat in the general election with an increased majority on a night when his Liberal Democrat party failed to live up to expectations after its surge in the polls following the first of the live TV debates.
Mr Carmichael received 11,989 votes (62 per cent), 9,928 more than Labour’s Mark Cooper on 2,061 (10.7 per cent). The SNP’s John Mowat came third with 2,042 (10.6 per cent), Frank Nairn fourth for the Conservatives 2,032 (10.5 per cent) with UKIP’s Robert Smith bringing up the rear with 1,222 votes (6.3 per cent).
Mr Carmichael’s majority was up by 10.5 per cent to 9,928, the biggest achieved by an MP in the seat’s history, although Jo Grimond still holds the record for the most votes – 12,099 on a larger 64 per cent share of the vote in October 1959. There was a slight increase in turnout to 58.5 per cent (up 4.1 per cent on 2005).
Speaking to The Shetland Times shortly after the result was announced at the Picky Centre in Kirkwall, Mr Carmichael, who was first elected in 2001, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. This is an emphatic reaffirmation of the trust that has been placed by the people of Orkney and Shetland in the Liberals continuously since 1950.
“The campaign which I fought was one for fairness and change and which was rooted in the liberal values that I share with Jim Wallace and before him Jo Grimond.”
He added that he did not think Orkney and Shetland was a safe seat in the sense that some in England were, where the sitting MP could afford to ignore his constituents between elections.
“I think that there will be a natural sympathy for the values of the Liberals as long as we continue to work hard on the issues of importance.” He cited fuel prices and the future of mail delivery services as examples.
Mr Carmichael said that while the vote nationally was disappointing – the party has only increased its share of the vote marginally, and looks likely to end up with fewer seats than in 2005 – it demonstrated that the Labour and Conservative vote had firmed up in the light of negative campaigning. “The scare message was very effective.”
He said voters had clearly sought to “cling on to nurse for fear of something worse”.
Second-placed Labour candidate Mark Cooper said he was “very pleased”, having run a “positive campaign”. He said he believed Mr Carmichael would serve the constituency well: “He has proved so in the past so I don’t see why that will change.”
UKIP candidate Robert Smith saw his party’s share of the vote almost treble from 2.4 per cent in 2005, but he said it was “a bit disappointing”. He said he believed Gordon Brown would be “beyond contempt” if he did not resign, adding that he would “seriously” consider taking to the streets of London in protest if Mr Brown tried to cling onto power.
“I hoped for a bit more,” he said. “I tripled the vote, but it was never about votes – it was about telling the bare truth, and sometimes the truth isn’t the best way forward in politics. I just hope we don’t end up with a Liberal-Labour coalition – that would be morally bankrupt.”
Mr Smith called on Mr Carmichael to reject any notion of his party forming a coalition to keep Labour in power.