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Saturday 4 April 2015

Telegraph Sturgeon Memo Farce

Her party may only be campaigning in Scotland, but the successul excursion to Media City by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set the right-leaning press off on a display of blind panic. And for why? The idea that the SNP might gain several seats has been pretty much part of the accepted political wisdom more or less since last September’s independence referendum. The panic has led to some suitably creative copy generation.
Nicola Sturgeon

And the press will have to go some to match the creativity shown by the Telegraph, which claims to have seen a memo which, by the most fortunate of coincidences, matches that paper’s agenda perfectly. Moreover, the “full text” of the memo, which has been published in today’s paper, is not shown as an original document, but instead, readers are expected to take the supposed transcript on trust.

Now, far be it for me or anyone else to suggest that the Tel is overplaying its creative abilities here, but readers should note carefully the sub-heading: “Here is the full text of the British Government's account of the French ambassador's meetings at the Scottish Parliament, including her talks with Nicola Sturgeon” [my emphasis]. Not the Scottish Government’s account, and not the French Government’s account, either.

This is the relevant part of the “memo” : “The Ambassador also had a truncated meeting with the FM (FM running late after a busy Thursday…). Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats; that she had no idea ‘what kind of mischief’ Alex Salmond would get up to; and confessed that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material)”. Does something smell just a little ripe here?

Not wanting a formal coalition is already known, as it the belief that the SNP will gain a number of Parliamentary seats. The Alex Salmond line is an outsider’s speculation - he and Ms Sturgeon work closely together - and the comments on Young Dave and Mil The Younger just happen to chime with what the Tel has been pushing for some time.

A source “close to the First Minister” that the BBC’s James Cook finds reliable enough to quote has called the claimcompletely false”. Moreover, “the French consul general in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, has told the BBC Ms Sturgeon had not expressed any preference for a leader". So what of the French ambassador?

The spokesman for the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann … said Ms Bermann had met Ms Sturgeon in Edinburgh, but that the SNP leader had not expressed an opinion on who she would prefer as prime minister”. It’s looking like the Tel is in a minority of one here. What they have may indeed be genuine - but without something to back it up, this may go down as yet another dud Zinoviev Letter.

Almost five more weeks of this creativity to go. Elvis may yet get a look-in.


ashie said...

Taking no sides on this, but the rule generally is that if something is minuted it was said, but not everything which was said is minuted.

Having been in similar positions, could well have been that the FM and French side agreed not to minute something but FCO deliberately or otherwise, left it in.

In the end, he said, she said, they said.

Anonymous said...

Well you might have been correct ashie, except that the quoted minute is not from the meeting, but from the minute of a telephone conversation between the French Consul general and a London official; so there's no way of getting to the bottom of it, and given the Telegraph's openly stated aims, I'd say that it's very questionable at least.

ashie said...

As I said, I take no sides. In any case, it now looks like it wasn't the FCO either!

Eyes are on the Scotland Office.

Anonymous said...

Whatever anyone did or didn't say (and frankly, I'd double check the football scores after reading them in the Telegraph, such is that paper's lack of credibility these days) it's clear they're all bloody terrified of Nicola Sturgeon!

SimonB said...

Has Grant Shapps been seen in the FO?