Leaders: End of the road looms for Alistair Carmichael

Time for Carmichael to go? Picture: TSPL
Time for Carmichael to go? Picture: TSPL
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END of the road looms for under-fire Carmichael

THE decision to replace Michael Moore as Secretary of State for Scotland during the referendum campaign was a surprise move in more than one sense: few saw it coming, and many could not believe that Alistair Carmichael had replaced the talented but cautious Mr Moore.

It was suggested Mr Moore had been removed because he came off second best to Nicola Sturgeon in a televised debate about Scotland’s future, and a more combative character was required to take up the fight. With the benefit of hindsight, Mr Moore’s performance was hardly disastrous; Ms Sturgeon has emerged as a formidable debater on television in recent months, and Mr Moore’s scalp is one of several she has claimed.

But in came chief whip Mr Carmichael, with a reputation as a bruiser, who promised to bring a robust approach to the job. What we wondered was whether he would also bring the required political nous to the position. “I am not going to take any nonsense from anybody, and I mean absolutely anybody,” declared Mr Carmichael. “You can draw your own conclusions there.”

Today, there is no need for drawing conclusions. There is a verdict, and it is a damning one. Mr Carmichael admits that his recent conduct as secretary of state merited resignation, after accepting responsibility for a leaked memo which alleged the Scotland First Minister had told the French ambassador to the UK that she wanted Tory leader David Cameron to win the general election, and that she did not think Labour leader Ed Miliband was “prime minister material”. Not only was Mr Carmichael wrong to leak the memo, but its contents were also wrong. And he was found out. This is not the time for Machiavelli to bow to a new master.

Mercifully for the former Scottish secretary, the UK electorate has spared him the full embarrassment of having to resign from office in shame, following the demise of the coalition government. He can also count himself fortunate that his confession comes after the general election, or he may not have been one of only three Scottish MPs to see off the SNP and retain his seat in the ­Commons.

The First Minister has called on Mr Carmichael to consider his position as an MP “because he clearly contested the election on false pretences”. It is not hard to see where she is coming from, having been the target of this botched briefing.

This unedifying episode further damages the public’s perception of politics, and will only deepen disenchantment with Westminster at a time levels of dissatisfaction in Scotland have rarely been more obvious. Mr Carmichael has cause for great personal regret over this matter, but the truth is that he has let us all down. The call for his resignation is a valid one.

Sweet dreams are turning sour

Poor old sugar. A few weeks ago, its character took a pounding when a television documentary explained exactly what the sweet stuff does to us – type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, ­obesity.

Now the attack has been stepped up, with Tesco announcing yesterday that it is to cut sugar in its soft drinks range. The supermarket becomes the first major retailer to commit to an extensive, open-ended sugar reduction programme.

Sugar is now firmly installed as public enemy No.1 among foodstuffs. Saturated fat can stand at ease for a moment – the heat’s on someone else right now.

It wasn’t that long ago we were all singing along to the feelgood sound of The Archies. Sugar, oh honey honey…

So where did it all go wrong, for this natural substance? And should we banish it from our lives?

The problem is that we have taken too much of a liking to refined sugar, which isn’t natural. It contains no nutrients, and while it gives us energy, it gives us nothing else, other than possibly addiction. When sugar is removed from its natural source, we are liable to eat more of it. And if we don’t burn it off, we store it as fat.

But while we should take this matter seriously and heed the warnings from experts, the secret, like everything else, is moderation. While some foodstuffs contain a surprisingly high level of sugar, such as processed meals and cans of soup, many others are blindingly obvious to spot. It comes down to the choices we make. Sugar should still be enjoyed if it is part of a balanced and sensible diet.