‘Allo ‘allo…

Je suis Nicola! (With heartfelt apologies to our massacred friends at Charlie Hebdo)

How the fading British media has come unstuck over the latest tawdry piece of propaganda orchestrated to smear an elected politician, this time seemingly with the contrivance of the state machinery.


Where to start? Well the source first. The Telegraph has downgraded since its heyday to an Establishment right wing trumpet which is ok if it sticks to comment and editorials. But opinion has infected its reporting, never more so than under Alan Cochrane and Simon Johnson in Scotland. Cochrane admits in his diary of the referendum spiking stories that Alistair Darling felt were damaging to the No side. This is anti journalism and the opposite of what reporting is about – disclosure. It shows the Telegraph will abandon principle when confronted with a political influence. It can’t be trusted. Then there is the resignation of Peter Oborne as chief political commentator who decided the paper was selling its soul to appease HSBC inn order to keep its advertising contract.

The Telegraph is owned by Frederick and David Barclay, the billionaire tax dodgers and the chairman of their holding company is Andrew Neil (an impartial BBC journalist!). The same company also owns the Spectator, the right wing magazine edited by Tory supporting (and also very talented) Scot Fraser Nelson. They shared the French non-story. All involved are virulently anti-SNP.

I don’t blame any paper that gets a government leak from running the story but it is inexcusable not to contact the principals involved, tell them the detail and ask for their reaction. By any standard, as Andy Nicol of the Sun tweets, this is the most basic of requirements. Again the Telegraph fails the test. There is a case here for referring the story to the regulator IPSO for damaging the integrity of individuals without giving them the chance to respond – that is failing to meet professional standards and bringing the media into disrepute.


Who leaked? Clearly someone in the government machine. This requires a formal leak inquiry because we are in the period of the campaign when government must remain objective and this is a straight breach of the rules. Why have we had no such announcement?

The dodgy link appears to be the Scotland Office which has been relentlessly campaigning on social media about the powers coming to Scotland under Smith and suggesting devolution is all but complete. That is a political strategy. Now we find the Consul General briefed the Scotland Office on the ambassador’s meeting with Sturgeon and a Scottish civil servant wrote an account which was sent to the Foreign Office where it was even noted to be unlikely that Sturgeon would have been loose-tongued about a Cameron government. The story coming from Johnson, who is Scottish political correspondent, nails it to Edinburgh so it looks like, surprise, the Scotland Office is running a pro-Union operation in the middle of a general election. Alistair Carmichael would be informed of all this.

There were so many Labour tweets online so quickly, it looks like a tip-off. Setting aside the mildly revolting association of Labour with the Telegraph, it indicates a below the radar political operation against the SNP. It is perfectly possible that one individual made an error in the report by misinterpreting something Sturgeon said but the fact this made it to the Unionist press shows malfeasance. I hesitate to say this, but it smacks of the work of intelligence, a point made by Craig Murray who worked at the Foreign Office for 20 years.

If this is remotely true, there will be a programme of similar material designed to undermine the nationalist threat but which, in my view, will have the opposite effect with a wide range of national opinion regarding the media and British institutions are untrustworthy and destabilising, a profoundly damaging position for any democracy.

While few will be surprised at this underhand and undemocratic behaviour, it chimes precisely with the admission by Sir Nicolas Macpherson, Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, that he abandoned civil service neutrality in the referendum because of the existential threat independence presented to the integrity of the state. Nor did he tell us of this betrayal of ‘British values’ until afterwards. This is the Britain in which we live – unprincipled, mendacious and anti-democratic.

You have to fear too for the Labour Party, so useless and so desperate that it is conspiring against the very principles on which it was founded in order to fool the voters of Scotland. It is a pact with the Devil and a fitting epitaph for the shell of Labour.


The Spectator – and Alistair Campbell – are attempting to justify the story by bigging up the idea that the SNP do want a Tory government whatever the truth about the French report. I am not so sure. Firstly, there was a brutal Tory government in power when we voted last year and it didn’t produce a Yes vote. Second, it would be suicidal for the SNP to rush into a second indyref and lose it. There would be no coming back from that for a generation at least. I do agree that the planned Tory EU referendum offers a chance of a constitutional crisis which could benefit the SNP but look at the stumbling blocks – which coalition partner would agree to hold such a referendum?

The Tories will campaign to stay in as will Labour and everyone except UKIP and they will have British business onside as well as the unions. As in 1975, opinion may start out against but will turn in favour when the risks are presented. Also, Scotland objecting to a UK withdrawal has no legal status in Europe as we are not sovereign. Achieving recognition for a referendum and getting the result accepted is no easy task.

There is the additional risk of a large bloc of SNP members watching a Tory led government and proving ineffectual in stopping it – the Feeble 50 all over again. Far better to show their social democratic credentials and protect Scotland’s interests in an arrangement with Labour to build up their reputation for sound government…and at the same time making life very hard for Labour in Scotland to campaign against the SNP in next year’s Holyrood elections.

I don’t buy it.

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32 thoughts on “‘Allo ‘allo…

  1. Just tweeted this to Kezia Dugdale, A bit of mischief can be fun.

    @kdugdalemsp I was so closed to voting Scottish Labour, but after this I am DEFINITELY VOTING SNP!!!

  2. Why does the memo state that something may have been lost in translation, when the meeting was conducted in English.

    • It will have had to be translated into mandarin for the CS

    • It’s a figure of speech. Similar to Chinese whispers. Either that or whoever wrote the memo wasn’t very well informed about what they were supposed to be writing about.

    • I too thought that strange. Just the usual underhand dealings with which we became familiar during the referendum. These people will do everything in their power to hang on to Scotland and her assets. They can’t afford to lose us which means they are fighting for their very existence…….which is why they are so dangerous. Our freedom can’t come soon enough.

    • I’m assuming the ‘lost in translation’ comes from the Ambassador relaying the story (in French) to the CG who then relayed it to the civil servant involved. Had the ‘story’ came direct from the Ambassador, they wouldn’t have their nice little mistranslation get-out.

  3. Well observed Mr Bateman. It is becoming more and more difficult to believe anything in the MSM. Thank goodness for sites such as yours. Without them I would just despair.

  4. It beggars belief that the FM would make any comment about Cameron or Miliband. It also makes no political sense whatsoever to prefer a Cameron government. Nor do I understand the Telegraph’s rationale, other than mischief-making.

  5. I’ve studied the text the Telegraph released very closely now.

    It doesn’t say who wrote it, who the intended recipient was, or which departments were involved.

    All we have bar the text is the date, and that was nearly a MONTH ago, on the 6th March.

    I’ve noted a marked difference in tone between most of the message and the final paragraph, which is very tabloidy, and low brow.

    My take is that this is a genuine message that somebody has found, then stuck a fake paragraph on at the end, just after Sturgeon did so well in the debate, to discredit her, and released it to the Telegraph.

    The message is quite factual and diplomatic all the way through until it comes to a sentence where it said the French ambassador held a ‘truncated’ meeting with the FM.

    Despite this being the briefest of meetings, it goes on to say how Nicola voiced her opinion about her preference in the GE.

    And then comes the bit that really smells, to my nose:

    ‘I have to admit that I’m not sure that the FM’s tongue would be quite so loose on that kind of thing in a meeting like that so it might well be a case of something being lost in translation’.

    That’s the dead give away. No diplomat would have made such a crass comment about tongues being loose or things being lost in translation. The French ambassador and Consul General speak flawless English, as you’d expect. This is the kind of thing a cretin writes.

    • It was also a crude attempt at covering their backs by adding that there might be some dubiety about what was actually said to add a comment like ‘it might well be a case of something being lost in translation’.

      Smells, smells, (nostrils flaring like Karen Dunbar!)

    • jacquescoleman

      I also think the gossipy last paragraph of the ‘note’ looks very much like an add on at a later date. I also read elsewhere that the Foreign Office denies that such a ‘note’ exists.

      Heywood at No 10 has now set up a leak inquiry to shut himself and the Government up over the matter.

  6. Thirs a richt stramash doon in Lun’on, thon Britis Establisment is fair bowkin whilst wunnerin’ quhit tae dae next an’ hoo thir goan tae exorcise Nicola frae the minds a aw thon thole Englis fowk wha heard an’ saw her speel. I heard said thir ha’en a lookit James Saxth’s book oan witchcraft tae see iffen thit could gie them a guide tae find some Deil’s mark oan Nicola sae they can pit her and her familiar, Salmond, tae the fire. Thits hoo much thir noo shitten thir breeks.

  7. The Telegraph and whoever their ‘leak’ is appear to have started a wee bit of an international incident. Both the ambassador and consul have knocked the story on the head, the FM has knocked the story on the head. The FO have denied all knowledge and now both the Telegraph and HMG have some awkward questions to answer. That is unless they feel like calling both Scotland’s First Minister and French government officials liars.

    Not so much egg on face as full blown omelette.

  8. We’ve had “cash for questions”, “cash for access” and “cash for honours”. Are we witnessing a new currency at Westminster – “memos for mates”?

  9. smiling vulture

    Jim Murphy quote “we’ll never know the truth”

    We do know the truth and that’s why 1000,s more will join SNP

    • Jim Murphy doesn’t know what the “truth” looks like so no hope of his ever knowing the truth.

      • Naa Jim only deals in facts !! Every sentence he starts “the fact is ” except they are not facts as we know them, they’re from Jims big book of amazing unbelievable facts. Honestly, at the debate on Tuesday , count how many times he starts a sentence with ‘the fact is …
        . It did cross my mind , as well as trying to discredit Nicola , there were three women in that debate. Three women all making an excellent case against austerity . Imagine , if the good people of England and Wales started to agree with them , although NS is in the strongest position out the three and that makes her a threat .
        Anyway , I take it an FOI wouldn’t cover the memo so how about we all email our MSP , demanding Carmichael appears at Holyrood to explain the actions of his department , that he runs on our behalf.
        If he turns up, they can also ask if his party has paid their police bill yet?

  10. The Telegraph need to answer for their libelous accusations of Nicola Sturgeon in the high court asap….Or has cameron granted the Telegraph immunity from prosecution and given them a free hand to print whatever they like without any come back.

  11. Margaret Brogan

    Unprincipled, mendacious and antidemocratic is exactly what they are.
    Wasn’t George Square wonderful today?

  12. The fools don’t realise that by trying to discredit Nicola, they’re trying to destroy all hope of good things, a better future. Their lies are grinding us down. We’re being crushed with their deceit. Will we be broken? Are we defeated? Rise Scotland! Rise!

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may tread me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise…

    Maya Angelou

    • jacquescoleman

      Their lies are NOT grinding me down. I’m enjoying this. Gives me a chance to have a go at these Tory/Lab activists and their performing chimps in the media, and there are a lot of the latter.

  13. This could drive a wedge between labour and the SNP, preventing any form of coalition. Miliband is political milquetoast, he will allow himself to be bullied out of power. Yes it would mean the SNP being effectively silenced. It would also mean the end of unionist politics in Scotland. The surge in support for the SNP was a direct consequence of the endless negativity of Scottish labour and better together. It also shatters any notion that the MSM can be trusted. There will be a lot of frustrated anger and it will be directed at every unionist MSP come 2016. A very high price to pay to keep out the SNP.

  14. Sky News has been running with the Sturgeon Telegraph story all day, and their coverage, in spite of the French consul and Sturgeon denying it, disgracefully ignores the denial and continues as if the story is true.

    Democracy in action.

  15. So we roll on to the next televised debates this week. What’s the betting that Murphy will try to use this to prevent Nicola from speaking about anything else? Her best option is to reply that it’s under investigation and let’s talk about our policies. But I’m convinced, like all other rational folk, that it’s a deliberate attempt to discredit a woman who has put the fear of God into the Westminster elite, just by being the honest politician that she is. So few of these about these days! Shame on Miliband and Cameron for using this for their own ends.

    • Hazel, I think there is zero chance of Murphy mentioning Frenchgate. Its blown up in his face.

      • jacquescoleman

        Derek could you clarify who will be in the next debate. I thought it was only Lab Milliband, SNP Nicola, Plaid Cymru, Greens and UKIP. But some here are saying Murphy will be present.

        • jacquescoleman – crossed wires I think. There’s a Scottish Leaders’ debate on Tuesday (with Murphy). The Opposition Leaders’ (UK) debate is on Thursday 16th (with Miliband).

  16. jacquescoleman

    An interesting sidelight to all this is the big grown up reporters all crybabying and whining because they claim they are being abused simply for reporting the news. These are the same people who think nothing of attacking and smearing anyone who disagrees with their views. Shame they don’t like it back.

    I haven’t see any abuse only criticism of the way they have reported this issue, the CATEGORICAL denials of the people who actually attended the meeting SG/FA and their attempts to keep the story running by conflating it with other ideas. I am not a reporter but I believe that even a cub reporter in his first week would have seen that the ‘note’ did NOT contain strong enough evidence to jump in feet first with a smear like Simple Simon and his co-reporter at the Telegraph did.

  17. The fact that the BBC were still running this as their main news item last evening is quite frankly outrageous. Very little mention of categorical denials. Just Ed Miliband and Call Me Dave trying to squeeze out every last drop of ” capital”. But maybe, just maybe, we the electorate are not so stupid as they think we are.

  18. Anyone know what BTP thinks in his part of the World ?

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