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Why are people attacking the UK’s ambassador to the US over leaked memos?

Boris Johnson and Kim Darroch: One of these men is a competent diplomat and the other is a buffoon who rarely thinks before speaking. Which is which?

The Western Hemisphere seems to be losing the plot over Kim Darroch, the UK’s ambassador to the United States.

It seems he described US president Donald Trump as “incompetent” and “insecure”, and his administration as “inept” and “uniquely dysfunctional” in diplomatic memoranda that were not meant to become public knowledge.

Mr Trump has made a fuss, saying Sir Kim should be removed from office because “he is not well thought-of in the US. We will no longer deal with him”.

He has been supported by his good buddy Nigel Farage, who has called for the senior diplomat to be sacked.

It seems the leak was carried out in revenge for the ambassador’s alleged failure to promote a pro-Brexit UK.

Messrs Trump and Farage also seem well-briefed on this aspect of it, after the information was given to pro-Brexit hack Isabel Oakeshott.

Mr Trump tweeted:

The operative part is “I have been very critical about the way the UK and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit. What a mess she and her representatives have created. I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.”

And Mr Farage said a future government under Boris Johnson, the Tory leadership front-runner, would be expected to remove Sir Kim: “If you take Boris at his word, people like Kim Darroch simply shouldn’t be around.”

How very unprofessional of them.

The simple fact is that it is Kim Darroch’s job to brief the UK government on his view of US political figures.

As a Foreign Office representative stated: “The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country.”

The fault lies with the Brexiteer (presumably) who leaked the memos – not with the ambassador.

And that is why (for a change) I find myself agreeing with Conservative politicians.

I agree with Liam Fox, who said: “Malicious leaks of this nature are unprofessional. They are unethical. And they are unpatriotic. Because they can actually lead to damage to that relationship which can, therefore, affect our security interests.

“I will be apologising for the fact that either our civil service, or elements of our political class, have not lived up to the expectations that either we have, or the United States has, about their behaviour, which in this particular case has lapsed in a most extraordinary and unacceptable way.”

At the time of writing – and to the best of my knowledge – Boris Johnson, who has been treated favourably by both Mr Trump and Mr Farage, has yet to comment on this matter.

Was this all a stunt to make BoJob look useful on the international stage?

Source: Theresa May has ‘full faith’ in Kim Darroch but rejects his view of Trump | Politics | The Guardian

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Amber Rudd has directly lied to Parliament and the country. The only statement left to her is her resignation

Keep walking, Amber Rudd: Has she even bothered to read the files she’s carrying in this image?

First she said there were no deportation targets, in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

Then she said there were targets after all – she just didn’t know about them.

Now we see that Amber Rudd did know there were targets – she just lied to us all that she didn’t.

(Or she was so derelict in her duty that she signed off on the Home Office report mentioned below without reading it – an unforgivable sin for a secretary of state in the UK government.)

Read:

“Amber Rudd’s insistence that she knew nothing of Home Office targets for immigration removals risks unravelling following the leak of a secret internal document prepared for her and other senior ministers.

“The six-page memo, passed to the Guardian, says the department has set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18” and boasts that “we have exceeded our target of assisted returns”.

“It adds that progress has been made on a “path towards the 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the home secretary earlier this year”.

“The document was prepared by Hugh Ind, the director general of the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement agency, in June last year and copied to Rudd and Brandon Lewis, the then immigration minister, as well as several senior civil servants and special advisers.”

It took Ms Rudd more than eight hours to respond to the leak. She did so with a series of late-night tweets that suggest she is determined to keep going, despite having broken the Ministerial Code in such a serious way that she should have resigned already.

Here they are, together with a few comments on them by notable figures:

Jonathan Ashworth: “Hopeless. For goodness sake just resign.”

David Lammy: “Was it in your ministerial Red Box? Did you sign it off without reading it? If not does your office sign off documents regarding deportation without you reading them? Is deportation insufficiently important? What other documents does your office sign off without you reading them?”

Peter Stefanovic: “If a Labour Home Secretary had failed to read an internal Home Office report linking a rise in violent crime to a fall in police numbers, failed to spot systemic issues in Windrush scandal & was not aware of specific removals targets you would call on them to resign. TIME TO GO!”

Ms Rudd has her supporters. They are the usual suspects:

Here’s an interesting point, though – if Ms Rudd resigns, or is removed by her prime minister, she’ll have a chance to supplant Theresa May:

Interesting thought – and one to which we may return on Monday, or shortly thereafter, depending on what Ms Rudd says in her statement… if she lasts that long.

The Labour Party appears to be split (as usual) on the subject. Diane Abbott – the Shadow Home Secretary – tweeted: “1.3.c of the Ministerial code: “Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.””

Sadly another branch of the Parliamentary Labour Party – the part that, I don’t know, joins a lying fellow member to form what is essentially a lynch mob for a fellow party member who has done nothing wrong but happens to be a member of an ethnic minority – had something else to say.

Miserable. Labour – the Labour that represents the interests of the whole of the UK rather than its members’ selfishness – has no common ground with anybody in the Conservative government. Not a single one of them. And those of us who know that had some hard words for Mr Woodcock and his ilk:

Fortunately Mr Woodcock belongs to an incresingly sidelined and irrelevant gang.

And Ms Rudd’s day is over. Whether she realises that today, tomorrow, on Monday or any time after that, won’t make muuch of a difference.

Cabinet office leak inquiry lurches from farce into fiasco

Control freak: Theresa May[Image: Getty].

Control freak: Theresa May[Image: Getty].

According to a source on Twitter, the Cabinet Office has launched a “leak inquiry into how memo banning leaks was leaked, which has now been itself leaked”.

It will be a waste of time and (public) money.

But at least the rest of us can enjoy a good, honest laugh at Theresa May’s control-freak antics.

How silly she is!

It’s just a shame she’s the prime minister.

Afterword: Mrs Mike’s comment on this is priceless.

She said, “Has Mrs May never heard of Tena?”

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Leaked memo shows Theresa May has ordered crackdown – on leaked information

Downing Street has declined to comment on the report [Image: Getty].

Downing Street has declined to comment on the report [Image: Getty].


Satire is dead:

Theresa May has ordered a crackdown on unauthorised leaks by ministers and civil servants with a warning that culprits will face instant dismissal if they are caught – a leaked memorandum has revealed.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood wrote to senior officials informing them the Prime Minister had demanded urgent action to tighten security in Whitehall.

Embarrassingly for No 10 however, his memorandum was leaked to The Mail on Sunday just days after being issued.

Source: Theresa May orders crackdown on unauthorised leaks by ministers and civil servants, leaked memorandum reveals

The article goes on to report that “in his note – dated 28 November and marked Official-Sensitive – Sir Jeremy referred to a “spate of leaks and unauthorised briefings” which had appeared in the media on Brexit, the US elections and the Autumn Statement.

“Leaking is corrosive and undermines trust and good government. Leaks are never acceptable but the regularity and cumulative impact of recent incidents mean we must now collectively take exceptional action,” he wrote.

Those of us who remember the classic comedy Yes, Prime Minister should be laughing at this, as it echoes so clearly the discussion (I believe in the episode Man Overboard) about “good” leaks and “bad” leaks.

A “good” leak is, of course, one that presents the government of the day in a favourable way; a “bad” leak is the opposite.

So at one point the Prime Minister, Jim Hacker, states: “I occasionally have confidential press briefings, but I have never leaked.”

To this, his faithful civil servant Bernard Woolley replies: “Oh, that’s another of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he’s been charged under Section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.”

Indeed, national security is mentioned in the (leaked) memo – but the threat to anybody found releasing confidential information is not confined to that.

Sir Jeremy’s memo states: “Anyone found to have leaked sensitive information will be dismissed even where there is no compromise of national security.”

So there it is. This leaked memo reacting to the leaking of memos shows British politics is now a parody of Yes, Prime Minister – therefore it is a parody of a parody.

Who will have the last laugh?

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Damning #Brexit memo is a wake-up call for us all – including its authors

Theresa May delivers her Mansion House speech, but nobody's listening: Brexit has already made her the laughing stock of the world.

Theresa May delivers her Mansion House speech, but nobody’s listening: Brexit has already made her the laughing stock of the world.

Members of ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm Deloittes may be waking up to an uncomfortable truth about their friends in the Conservative Government today (November 15) – that a Tory will turn on anyone.

The firm has spent six years helping the Conservatives push their punitive agenda of cuts and privatisation but – after a memo on ‘Brexit’ was leaked to the press – suddenly the Tories don’t recognise Deloittes’ work.

This is despite the apparent fact that the consultant from the firm who wrote the report (titled ‘Brexit update’) was working for the Cabinet Office, according to The Times.

The memo said Whitehall departments were working on more than 500 projects related to leaving the EU and may need to hire an extra 30,000 civil servants to deal with the additional work. That would undo much of the Tories’ work in shrinking the civil service, of course.

It identified a tendency by Theresa May to “draw in decisions and settle matters herself” as a strategy that could not be sustained, and highlighted a split between the three Brexit ministers – Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis – and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and his ally Greg Clark, the business secretary as “divisions within the cabinet”. So the Conservative Party is divided again – and we know that divided parties don’t win.

It said major industry players were expected to “point a gun to the government’s head” to get what they wanted after Nissan was given assurances that it would not lose out from investing in Britain after Brexit. We all knew this already.

Perhaps most damningly, it stated that “no common strategy has emerged” on Brexit, despite extended debate among the permanent secretaries who head Whitehall departments.

This is not what the Conservatives want the public to hear, so of course they have disowned the memo, claiming it was “unsolicited”, was not a government memo and the government rejected its contents. They would, wouldn’t they?

The government also tried to smear the memo’s authors by claiming it was a pitch for business – but then, government departments habitually ask firms to submit such work, so this is not proof that the memo was not requested by ministers.

The fact that it fell to Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling – the Transport Secretary – to pass these comments lends them no authenticity whatsoever.

David Davis is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – what does he have to say about it? Nothing.

Grayling said he had no idea where the report came from and denied that it had been commissioned by ministers. But then, what would he know about it? He’s the Transport Secretary.

His comments – like “I have a team of people in my department who are working with David Davis on issues like aviation, but I do not see the scale of the challenge that is in today’s newspaper” – are those of a man who is only seeing part of the project, rather than the whole.

Meanwhile, in her Mansion House speech, prime minister Theresa May told an audience of dozing businesspeople that Brexit was an opportunity for the UK to “step up” to a new “global role”.

As what? The world’s clown?

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Alistair Carmichael ‘leaked Sturgeon memo thinking it was true’

We already know that the civil servant who wrote the controversial ‘Memogate’ memo believed that it was accurate. Now the MP who leaked it has said the same.

The only people who have cast any doubt on the document are those who have an interest in doing so.

If the civil servant had not declared his belief that the information he had written was factually accurate – by which, let’s by clear, he meant it was what he had been told by the French consul-general – then This Writer would be more willing to give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt.

The civil servant did express concerns that the consul-general had misheard the information he had imparted – but, looking at the actual content of that information, it is hard to find any way this could be true. There is no language barrier between three people who are all perfectly fluent in English, for example.

So this issue still comes down to whether you believe a civil servant with an impeccable record for honesty, absolutely no reason to fabricate any information, and no reason to believe he could get away with any such fabrication at the time he communicated the message he did, or three people who were directly involved in what appears to be a politically incendiary conversation, all of whom would have had very strong reasons for being conservative with the truth, if that conversation really did take place as recorded.

You be the judge.

Alistair Carmichael has told a special court he leaked a confidential memo that claimed Nicola Sturgeon secretly wanted a Tory general election victory because he believed it was true.

The former Scotland secretary told an election court in Edinburgh he believed the so-called Frenchgate memo was “politically explosive”, because it confirmed that the first minister wanted David Cameron to win in the belief it would further her quest for Scottish independence.

Carmichael denied he had intended to smear Sturgeon when he authorised his special adviser Euan Roddin to leak the memo. He said that until she forcefully denied it was accurate within minutes of the Daily Telegraph publishing it, he felt it revealed facts that were of critical public importance.

“A smear is where you say something about somebody else, an opinion which is untrue and which you know to be untrue,” he said. The memo “was saying something about Scottish nationalists that I believed to be true”.

The case centres on Carmichael’s decision in March to allow Roddin to leak a memo that allegedly summarised Sturgeon’s comments to the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann. The first minister allegedly said she did not believe Ed Miliband, then the Labour leader, was prime ministerial material, and that she would prefer to see the Tories win.

Carmichael said he trusted the honesty of the Scotland Office civil servant who had drawn up the memo, and the account Pierre Alain Coffinier, the French diplomat who briefed the civil servant, gave about the ambassador’s meeting with the first minister.

Source: Alistair Carmichael ‘leaked Sturgeon memo thinking it was true’ | Politics | The Guardian

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No, no, no, Nicola Sturgeon. Memogate ruling does NOT mean the story was ‘untrue’

10-Cameron-Sturgeon-Getty

Nicola Sturgeon has been crowing after the Independent Press Standards Organisation upheld her complaint about the ‘Memogate’ story that caused such a stir for the Daily Telegraph in April.

Ipso has ruled that the story – based on a memo that was leaked, we later learned, on the orders of the Coalition’s then-Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – was “significantly misleading” because “the newspaper had failed to make clear that it did not know whether the account the memorandum presented was true”. It stops short of any suggestion that the story was false.

This means we still do not know whether the account in the memo was true.

A Cabinet Office investigation revealed that the civil servant who wrote the memo had a spotless record of accuracy and believed that it was accurate because it set down what he was told, faithfully.

But the SNP distortion machine has rolled into action to claim that Ipso’s ruling supports Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that the memo – and the story – were not true. This is a claim that we cannot accept on trust because, as one of the people involved, she has something to gain by making it.

In fact, none of the statements made by people who took part in the conversations mentioned in the memo may be taken at face value. The only person whose account may be considered impartial is the civil servant who wrote the memo – but everyone seems very keen to dismiss what he said.

According to The Guardian, Sturgeon said: “Subsequent events have proven conclusively that the story was entirely untrue, and today’s ruling simply underlines that.” This is a lie. They did not; it does not.

“They [the press] have a duty to ensure, as far as possible, that the stories they present to readers are fair, balanced and – above all – accurate. The Daily Telegraph, in failing to carry out the most elementary of journalistic checks and balances, failed in this case to meet that duty.”

Which checks and balances would these be, Nicola? Do you mean the Telegraph reporters didn’t ask you if the memo was accurate? Now, why do you think that would be? Could it be because the memo said you secretly wanted David Cameron to be the next Prime Minister, while open claiming you wanted Miliband – suggesting you were lying to the public? You’re too intelligent not to understand that this means anything you said about it would be suspicious.

Why are you insulting the public’s intelligence by claiming otherwise?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Sturgeon U-turns over £30bn cuts claim

150527sturgeoncharter

This is not a good week to be a supporter of the Scottish National Party or its two-faced leader.

She and her party, turned, turned and turned again over whether to vote on the Tories’ forthcoming vote on repealing the fox hunting ban. Does anybody know what the SNP’s current position is? Will MPs vote, despite it being an issue that doesn’t affect Scotland, or will they abstain – despite the fact that this makes them worse than the Labour Party the SNP pilloried for abstaining from votes that were much less important in comparison?

Last Friday we discovered that the Cabinet Office had ruled that a memo, suggesting she had lied about wanting to support a minority Labour government led by Ed Miliband – because he’s not “prime minister material” – and would prefer David Cameron to continue, was not a fake but was real, and the civil servant who wrote it believed the information in it to be correct (although he did express reservations as to whether his informant had correctly understood what she was saying).

Yesterday (Tuesday), she U-turned again – this time on her claim that the Charter for Budget Responsibility, which Labour supported, would require that party to support £30 billion of government spending cuts during the 2015-20 Parliament.

This blog made it perfectly clear that the Charter itself requires no such thing – and, now that Labour has been defeated, it seems Ms Sturgeon feels the coast is clear enough for her to admit the same.

The Times is saying she has reversed her opposition to the Charter, and the Financial Times states: “Nicola Sturgeon said the Conservatives’ own ‘charter for budget responsibility’ contained enough flexibility to allow higher-than-planned spending while still reducing the UK’s deficit.”

Here’s Patrick Wintour of The Guardian:

150527SNPcharterwintour

The difference is written clearly in the graphic at the top of this article. On April 7: “Cuts that are required… £30 billion”. On May 26: “Flexibility to increase spending.”

Two-faced.

Clearly, young Nicola owes the Labour Party – and former Shadow Chancellor (now ex-MP) Ed Balls – a rather hefty apology.

Of course, this doesn’t just show that Sturgeon was lying when she lambasted Labour for showing the same support for the same Charter that she’s showing now.

It shows that she was lying when she claimed the SNP would support a minority Labour government. She and her party did everything they could to ensure that such a government would never be elected – in this case, casting doubt on its financial reliability.

And that, of course, makes it all the more likely that she really did say she wanted Cameron to continue as Prime Minister, in that oh-so-hotly-disputed conversation with the French ambassador.

The SNP’s most ardent members and supporters will never admit this, of course. They hate any criticism (as has – again – been noted by this blog; read the article and the comments) and refuse to pay any attention to rational arguments.

But the evidence is clear for everybody else. It seems the Tories have another set of 56 new allies in the House of Commons.

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Vox Political vindicated yet again – this time over ‘Sturgeon’s secret support for Cameron’ memo

This is how the Labour Party responded to 'memogate'. SNP supporters were incensed but it has not been proved wrong.

This is how the Labour Party responded to ‘memogate’. SNP supporters were incensed but it has not been proved wrong.

It was an official memo, it was leaked by the Scotland office – at the bidding of the Secretary of State, no less, and there’s no reason to believe that it is inaccurate.

That is the finding of the Cabinet Office’s report into the leaking of a confidential memo to the Daily Telegraph, which stated that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, had told the French Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, in February that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material”.

The Torygraph story sparked outrage among supporters of the SNP, many of whom attacked this blog for reporting the story. It seems certain people owe This Writer a serious apology.

According to the Cabinet Office report, “The investigation team interviewed the civil servant in the Scotland Office who produced the memo. He confirmed under questioning that he believed that the memo was an accurate record of the conversation that took place between him and the French Consul General, and highlighted that the memo had stated that part of the conversation between the French Ambassador and the First Minister might well have been ‘lost in translation’.

“Senior officials who have worked with him say that he is reliable and has no history of inaccurate reporting, impropriety or security lapses. The Cabinet Secretary has concluded that there is no reason to doubt that he recorded accurately what he thought he had heard. There is no evidence of any political motivation or ‘dirty tricks’.”

This means there is no reason to believe claims that the memo is inaccurate. The “lost in translation” comment cannot refer to the conversation between the civil servant and the French Consul General, and must refer to his understanding, or recollection, of the account he heard of the conversation between Ms Sturgeon and the Ambassador.

The Consul General has, of course, denied that he said any such thing as is described in the memo. He would, wouldn’t he?

The memo was leaked to the Torygraph by Euan Roddin, special advisor to then-Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael. The Cabinet Office report states: “Mr Roddin… told the investigation team that he acted in what he saw as the public interest and that in his view the public needed to be aware of the position attributed to the First Minister.”

Alistair Carmichael, who is a Liberal Democrat, has admitted authorising the leak. Vox Political commenter Joan Edington suggested at the time that it could have come from the Secretary of State, so kudos to her.

He has since apologised and given assurances that, if he had remained Secretary of State, he would have considered this a matter requiring his resignation. Neither he nor Mr Roddin will be receiving their severance pay.

He has also apologised to Nicola Sturgeon, saying “details of the account are not correct”. This is curious, as he has no reason to suggest it.

Nicola Sturgeon has been quick to claim that the report clears her of any dodgy behaviour. This is not true.

The memo, from an impartial source, states that she said she would prefer to have David Cameron as Prime Minister and we have only the comments of people with an interest in denying that claim to back her up.

On balance, it seems very unlikely that she didn’t say she supported Cameron.

It would clarify what seemed to be a contradiction in the SNP’s election campaign, in that the party was attacking Labour hard in Scotland, while apparently claiming it wanted to do a deal with Labour in order to keep the Conservatives out of office. If the SNP’s leader was in fact supporting Cameron, then the “deal” rhetoric was a lie and the campaign against Labour north of the border makes sense.

This would, of course, mean that she was lying, bare-faced, to the public all the way through the general election campaign period.

It will be up all of us to decide what we think is the truth, based on what Ms Sturgeon – and her party – does next.

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New scandal hits Westminster: Memogate!

Does she prefer him to Miliband? It would help her cause to have a government to fight against, but there are too many unknowns about the Telegraph's story for anybody to be certain - yet.

Does she prefer him to Miliband? It would help her cause to have a government to fight against, but there are too many unknowns about the Telegraph’s story for anybody to be certain – yet.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been quietly telling other people that while she outwardly says Ed Miliband should be the next Prime Minister, she secretly supports David Cameron – or has she?

The details are in a memo allegedly “seen” by reporters for the Daily Torygraph. The story broke the day after Ms Sturgeon struck a chord with the British public in the televised leader debate with support for many of Mr Miliband’s policies, and on the same day that it was claimed the Conservative Party was putting together a deal with the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

150404toryUKIP

SNP cultists (the rabid members of that party’s following who refuse to see any wrong in what its leaders do) instantly leapt on the story, demanding that it was not true, that its writers should resign and its publishers apologise, and all the usual things they say.

The basic details of the story are that Ms Sturgeon told the French Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, in February that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material. The comment forms part of a leaked memorandum written by “a senior British civil servant” and dated March 6.

The story states: “It is a common diplomatic courtesy if an ambassador to the UK visits one of the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for the British Government to be given an official readout of the conversation although the SNP leader, who has only been in position since the autumn, may have been unaware of this formality… The disclosure of her private comments may undermine Miss Sturgeon’s new-found popularity.”

Spokespeople for Ms Sturgeon and the French Embassy have stated forcibly that the story is not true. The Foreign Office has denied the existence of such a memo and the Scotland Office… well, the Scotland Office says it doesn’t give out information about them. Hmm.

In response to repeated calls to show proof that the memo exists, the Torygraph published what it described as the “full text of Nicola Sturgeon memo” – but failed to show photographic evidence that would indicate that it was an official government document (not that the SNP cultists would have accepted this – they have already said they would not).

As a reporter, the situation disturbs This Writer. The libel laws of this country are extremely robust and it would be the height of foolishness for any newspaper to risk prosecution under those laws, just to drive the ‘Crosby wedge’ between two political parties (Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby campaigns on a ‘divide and conquer’ basis, meaning that he will seek to end alliances by any means).

Journalists are warned to make sure every detail of a potentially contentious story is supported by hard evidence – and also to get ‘balancing’ comments from the people named in the story if possible. If not, they should have the right of reply. The Torygraph story did not contain any such remarks from Ms Sturgeon when it came out, but does carry the claim that it is untrue at the time of writing.

Scottish Labour leapt on the story as evidence that Ms Sturgeon is not to be trusted; the argument is that, obviously, if you want independence, it is easier for your cause to have a government you can actively fight – witness this tweet from ScotLab: “Devastating: reporting Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs Cameron

And this one, from Frances Hinde: “Sturgeon has calculated that a Tory gov. is best for her aim of breaking up UK- course she wants a Tory government.”

Scottish Labour followed up the tweet with this image:

150404sturgeonpublicprivate

Mark Ferguson of LabourList took a more balanced view: “For many of the SNP’s online hardcore base, this Sturgeon story will be viewed as conspiracy. Pause for thought for undecided voters though.”

The Guardian’s Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell tweeted: “French consul general tells no such views given by ‘absolutely no preference was expressed’ on outcome.” But then, the French consul general would say that, in order to prevent ill-feeling against France itself.

Simon Johnson, the story’s co-author, responded: “The man said what he said in private to the UK Government. It’s in black and white,” and then stopped tweeting for the evening – which some may also have viewed with suspicion.

Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK fame, tweeted: “Try as I might I just can’t imagine Nicola Sturgeon discussing possible election outcomes the way that is being suggested.” He continued: “The Sturgeon / French story is a non-eye witness London civil servant version of events that all participants say did not occur. Odd that.”

Perhaps we would be best-served by asking what this achieves. Mhairi Grealis tweeted: “The question here is who stands 2 benefit from trashing Sturgeon. No SNP voter will buy this so..?”

Is this true? Certainly no SNP cultist would, but they are only a certain percentage of the Scottish population. Many are planning to vote SNP because they have been persuaded to; this could persuade them back…

… but only back to Labour. What does the Conservative Party have to gain from this?

You see, the bottom-line assumption has to be that the aim of the story is to benefit the Conservatives. The paper responsible for all this isn’t called the Torygraph for nothing!

The SNP’s Angus McNeil tweeted the following image:

150404labourgun

The trouble with this cartoon is that it claims an innate racism in the Labour Party that isn’t there. “That’s the Scots telt!!” says the Labour apparatchik, as though Labour thinks all the Scottish people need somehow to be put in their place. It’s a gross assumption from the SNP cultists, and one that does them no services at all.

“The Telegraph provided Labour with a gun – they duly obliged,” he tweeted. But this claim that Labour shot itself in the foot by seizing on the story only works if the majority of people who were persuaded to vote SNP aren’t persuaded against the SNP again by this story. And that is by no means certain.

Certainly, as a maxim, it is true that Labour would be ill-advised to put too much credence in a Tory-supporting newspaper’s story, without a lot more evidence; there remain too many uncertainties about this story to predict the likely outcome.

Perhaps Eoin Clarke is right: “Labour & SNP have both ruled out a Coalition. UKIP & the Tory Party have not. Torygraph smear is to divert attention.

Maybe. But at the time of writing the story is still the Torygraph‘s lead, and we have a possible source for it in the Scotland Office.

The rabid SNP supporters will do their cause no favours by denying it outright and pointing the finger at Labour; Scottish Labour will do its cause no good by blindly supporting it and pointing the finger at the SNP.

Perhaps we should all look to the Torygraph and its reporter Simon Johnson – and pile on the pressure for hard facts.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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