Nicola Sturgeon faces similar press trashing to Clegg in 2010 – but with added misogyny

I might have some fairly fundamental disagreements with Nicola Sturgeon on the best future for Scotland, but I have a great deal of time for her as a human being and as a politician. She is a much cleverer tactician than Alex Salmond ever was. I am perfectly happy to argue with people on their political outlook, but I’m not struck on the sort of nasty personal mudslinging that we see at PMQs, or in Labour’s deeply misleading personal attack on Nick Clegg last year and I sure as hell am not going to make up my mind how to vote based on how someone eats a bacon sandwich. Nor, I suspect, are the rest of the population.

It appears that after her very good performance in Thursday’s Leaders’ Debate that Nicola Sturgeon is, highly predictably, being done over by the right wing press in much the same way that Nick Clegg was in 2010. Remember Nick Barlow’s wonderful way of dealing with that – the #nickcleggsfault meme on Twitter where Clegg was blamed from everything to the weather to the cat being sick?

Of course, Nicola is getting much different treatment to a man. Her clothes come in to it. The Daily Fail describes her as a “glamorous power-dressing imperatrix.” Wow. A woman goes out wearing smart clothes. How remarkable. Of course, if she rocked up for FMQs in Parliament in her jeans, they’d have something to say about that, too. On appearance, women really can’t win.

The Telegraph’s splash is a bit different. Last night, when I read their account that she’d told the French ambassador that she’d prefer David Cameron to be Prime Minister, it didn’t seem right to me. Apart from anything else, the Nicola Sturgeon I know has more sense than to be so indiscreet. The paper bases its story on a memo written by a UK Government official who wasn’t even at the meeting in question and who actually doubts its veracity. It’s all very third hand and clearly questionable.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that SNP strategists who, after all, have winning independence as their prime objective, feel that a majority Tory government at Westminster would increase support for separation. That’s why Alex Salmond has been doing so much trolling about the SNP’s demands in a hung Parliament. He wants to scare voters in Middle England into voting Tory for “stability.” This story, however, is just so palpably questionable. It didn’t take terribly wrong for the French to deny it, either, as the Guardian reports:

The Telegraph claimed that the allegation was contained in a leaked UK government memorandum, thought to come from the Foreign Office, which sets out an official account of the meeting from France’s experienced consul general in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier.

But Coffinier told the Guardian that this was untrue. He said he had checked his notes of that meeting, which took place at Holyrood after first minister’s questions on 26 February. “I have looked at my notes and absolutely no preference has been expressed by anyone regarding the outcome of the election,” he said. “Which suggests neither Nicola nor my ambassador said anything.”

The Telegraph has so far not bothered to amend its story to reflect that denial. The Telegraph has got it right with some ridiculous stories about the SNP before. My favourite is the one about the 7 month battle over Alex Salmond’s breeks, which only really becomes a story because of his government’s cavalier approach to freedom of information laws.

There are many valid reasons to attack the SNP, not least that they’ve been so obsessed with independence these last four years that they’ve taken their eye off the ball on actually running the country. The prospect of a group of SNP MPs voting on counter-terrorism legislation given their nonchalance about civil liberties is not fun. I mean, they’ve presided over unprecedented stop and search of children, allowed armed police to be used for routine patrols and not done anything when senior police, including the chief constable, tell Parliament things that we later find out aren’t true. If you care about these issues, it’s really important that there are lots of Liberal Democrats there to prevent a parliamentary majority or the sort of draconian measures both Tories and Labour are capable of implementing.

Today’s headlines, are, I suspect, only the start of the onslaught for Nicola. I suspect she, like Nick Clegg before her, will be massively unworried by the disapproval of the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Caron, yes the way Sturgeon is being treated by some of the right wing press is terrible. But it’s really nothing compared to the slurs poor Miliband has endured, both the sun and the telgraph lied about the outcomes of the debates the other day, calling them a disaster for miliband, where at worst, his performance was better than average, and indeed better than most given immediate polls. The Daily Mail had a headline linking the son of a labour councillor who went to Syria to to Miliband, not to mention their outrageous attack on his dead father, calling him a traitor.

    Then there’s the years of mocking him for his physical appearance, not marrying his wife in a timely manner and so on.

    This is far more personal than anything Sturgeon has had to deal with, although should she end up holding the balance of power I don’t doubt it will get just as nasty.

    Let’s face it, large parts of the press are unaccountable and incredibly unprofessional, and the PM, to his absolute shame, has indulged them, even going so far as to appoint the criminal, Andy Coulson, to Downing Street, something that should have been a resigning matter once he was convicted.

    There is a profoundly corrupt and undemocratic alliance between the tory party and the right wing press.

  • Bill le Breton 4th Apr '15 - 11:00am

    As soon as I saw this last night, I thought: classic FCO?spooks playbook: the Zinoviev Letter

    It is further vexing to hear the Today programme feature the story for at least three minutes this morning before mentioning almost in passing that the French Ambassador had denied the story.

    The BBC had done the same with the £3000 tax accusation without reference to the IFS rebuttal.

    And finally, why does the BBC always feature a ‘What the Papers Say’ on every possible news programme. Who cares? No one reads them any more. They are propaganda and not conveyors of news. And then they too often choose politically committed people to comment on them.

    Best TV so far in this election? A Newsnight piece devoted to the extraordinarily good discussions in their homes by themselves of three families.

  • It seems Willie Rennie has no such judgement, clouded as it is by hatred. He could not wait to add his voice in support of a story that is obviously untrue to anyone who knows anything about Scottish politics.
    From the telegraph website…

    “Mr Rennie said: “It is astonishing that Nicola Sturgeon can look people in the eye and declare the SNP would never support the Conservatives in government when in private she secretly wants them to win.” ”

    As far as we are aware Willie Rennie still does not have the decency to publicly apologise and admit that he has been “had” by the tory press.

  • BTW – congratulations to the campaigners for Michelle Thomson, who managed to get that very clear little yellow poster onto the TV screens at various opportunities thoughout the day yesterday.

    I estimate that to buy that amount of spot advertising would cost well into six figures. Liberal Democrats might want to watch and learn how to maximise a media opportunity. So much better than unveiling a poster in the wrong car park in the wrong constituency- as they now say in Hazel Grove.

  • Frank Booth 4th Apr '15 - 11:26am

    Hmmm. I think the dynamic is slightly different to Clegg last time. Osborne and Crosby appear to have decided that the SNP are the last best hope for the Tory party. You could see it in Osborne’s talking up of Sturgeoon’s performance in the debate. Those posters of Miliband in the pocket are obviously designed to annoy the English about the SNP influencing Labour but I suspect they are also intended to encourage Scots to vote SNP. As much as the SNP say they won’t do a deal with the Tories, Cameron knows the more seats he has than Labour the better the chances of staying in power.

    So on the surface this story doesn’t appear to help the Tories. More likely would be a Foreign Office attempt to harm the nationalists. The FCO probably has more to lose than anyone fromthe break up of the UK. What is maybe more surprising is The Telegraph taking the story up since they’ve been doing all they can to help Dave stay in power see Private Eye. Maybe the story was just too good and the struggling Telegraph couldn’t say no? Check what Peter Oborne had to say about the newspaper.

    As for the Mail and its misogyny, it’s no surprise. They still don’t like career women unless they’re Tories and preach family values.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Apr '15 - 11:31am

    Al, Willie Rennie doesn’t have a hateful cell in his body. His response was reasonable when told that she had said this. He has made a further comment this morning:

    “The First Minister might deny reports of her tété a tété with the French but we all know a Conservative-only government is the result of this election that the SNP want to see. A Tory PM governing alone in Downing Street and veering to the right fuels nationalist fires back home.

    “”Despite her fluffy, positive words about working with the rest of the UK we know what she really thinks. Her sole ambition is to break up the UK.”

  • The press has very little traction in Scotland so this is much more about trying to scare voters in England. The BBC and a lot of other news outlets are all getting a bit meta. As far as I can tell most of the election coverage seems to consist of Journalists interviewing journalists about whether or not what other journalist are saying is damaging. Plus of course most of the BBC current affairs flagships are dominated by conservative sympathisers. .

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Apr '15 - 12:20pm

    Nick, the best things on the internet are these sorts of accidental successes.

  • Philip Thomas 4th Apr '15 - 12:24pm

    This is a straightforwardly Pro-Labour story. I don’t think it is true- Sturgeon wouldn’t be foolish enough to let her true preference be known.

  • Steve Comer 4th Apr '15 - 12:41pm

    The Daily ‘hate’ Mail really is a nasty misogynist rag, and I’m baffled why so many read it. It still seems to market itself as a ‘paper for women’ yet a cursory glance at the right hand portion of its website shows how much it hates half the population.

    I expect the hysterical attacks on Nicola Sturgeon by the Tory Press in England will be probably boost her popularity in Scotland! I want Lib Dems to hold seats against the SNP, but if the SNP can take the Labour rotten borough seats in the central belt of Scotland, and wipe the smirk of Jim Murphy’s face then I’ll be delighted

  • David Allen 4th Apr '15 - 1:07pm

    “Coffinier told the Guardian that “I have looked at my notes and absolutely no preference has been expressed by anyone regarding the outcome of the election,” ”

    One suspects that (a) M.Coffinier is of course telling the truth; (b) the Telegraph is therefore playing Zinoviev letter tactics, as Bill le Breton has said; (c) Sturgeon did nevertheless say something about the election to the French; (d) it might very well have been words to the effect that the SNP would be well placed to influence future developments in the event of the Tories gaining first place in the election.

    So the real question, for both Cameron and Sturgeon, is: In the event of a result in which the only practical governing coalitions are either Tory / Labour or Tory / SNP (in each case, either with or without adding further smaller parties), what would you do?

  • Caroline

    You’re right on your instincts.
    No diptel (fco notes to civil servants) would ever write stuff like that. It also isn’t a conversation the french diplomats need to have. The basic issue is a fabrication from cchq. If it was a leak from a civil servant, i’d suggest something very wrong with the impartiality of civil servants as very few have much time for the telegraph.

  • David Blake 4th Apr '15 - 1:39pm

    I looked at the font page of the Telegraph for Thursday and two thirds of it was anti-Labour stories. I just wish our papers would grow up. They’re the first ones to condemn PMQs and yet their coverage of the election is very similar.

  • Our favourite non-doms the Barclays, Murdoch and Rothermere still think it’s 1992 in terms of setting the media agenda. Well maybe not Rothermere, as he’s turned the Mail online into what Kim Kardashian did next, but his political editors haven’t got the memo.

    What’s more interesting to me about Sturgeon for me were the very significant numbers of people in England who had no idea who she was before the Debate.

  • Tony Greaves 4th Apr '15 - 2:15pm

    There are still almost five weeks to go. The British media has a notoriously short attention-span. How are they going to keep the election story going for another five weeks?

    Expect a lot more stuff like this – stories with no basis in fact, invented and promoted by the media themselves with the help and support of the ever more corrupt Whitehall machine. Most will be to help the Tories but not all.


  • Bill le Breton 4th Apr '15 - 2:29pm

    Tony, perhaps they are going to keep the story going by diverting attention from the FCO and towards the Scottish Office as the origin of the “”””leak”””””.

  • Frank Booth 4th Apr '15 - 2:35pm

    Tony – it’s hard to see how this story helps the Tories. What to make of it all, who knows?

  • FO say the memo is not one of theirs. Finger of suspicion now pointing at the Scottish Office and Alistiar Carmichael and his SPADs. Perhaps Mr Rennie could be asked to confirm or deny whether this was a Lib Dem leak?

  • one thing I had wondered, the SNP’s seats at the moment used to be ex-tory seats in the highlands mainly. they need ti crack the central belt, and that means being lefter then labour. i do not for one moment think that this disgraceful non-story came from the SNP but it might help secure the vote in their heartlands. if it benefits anyone it is ScotLab, but there’s been so much phoney outrage from Ed and Jim that they’ve already over-worked that.
    Anyway, surely it’s true that Cameron looks more of a PM than Miliband?!

  • David Allen 4th Apr '15 - 3:45pm

    Frank Booth – The Tory instinct is to hit all opponents hard, bring them to their knees, then negotiate from strength.

    That’s what the Bullingdon trains them to do – Smash up the plebs’ pubs, just to prove that you can, never mind the fact that you then have to peel off the top layer of Dad’s wad to pay the costs. You have proved that you are Tory leadership material.

    That’s how the Tories dealt with the Lib Dems. The Tories made a deal which they massively gained from, alongside happily trashing the Lib Dems’ brand. That’s how they will seek to deal with the SNP.

  • First, after seeing 4 politicans put on very competent and dignified performances, showing why it is both stupid and dangerous to ‘keep women out of politics’ whether by design or intent, it is just depressing to see the media still see them at best as fashion labels.

    Second, I have no love for the SNP (despite being impressed by Nicola in terms of ability), but even I groan at this. 1, if it was said, it was a personal comment, politicans are allowed them, even if we disagree. 2, it seems the most flimsy, bottom of the barrel reporting we have seen, with little to no evidence, that is denied by all. First, it is extremely rare for Embassies to have contact with devolved regions, without some FCO involvement. Secondly, the convention for the Embassy to pass on communications they have had been a devolved Administration and the FCO is not to just pass on every piece of informal chat said, but to pass on key administrative information. The personal perferances of one political leader in our internal election system is not administrative information that is the place of the FCO to get involved in. If this had been said and then recorded in a diptel, then just about every civil servant in the FCO could see it – one would think that all concerned would have more sense than to spreading POLITICAL whispers among the whole of a government department worldwide, considering how that would seem to breach just about every part of the Civil Service Code. What is much more likely is that there was something very boring said at some non-event, which some nobody half-heard and thought to make a quick small pennies off by selling, and then the Telegraph ‘accidentally mis-reported it’ .

  • Sorry, dyslexia. This should read:

    . Secondly, the convention for the Embassy to pass on communications with devolved Administrations regards key decisions, formal agreement or top line information; the FCO does not just pass on every piece of informal chat ever said…

  • Just a note on that leaked memo, the new statesman are suggesting it came from Alistair Carmichael’s office

  • g,
    So now everybody, except of course CCHQ, has been linked to this lie…
    For those wondering what the Tories have to gain; it’s yet another “Milliband weak; Cameron strong” smear story….*

    What is most disgraceful is not the Telegraph/Mail/Sun ‘rubbish’ (it’s what they do), but the eagerness with which the BBC picked up the lie and ran with it even after the denials from those supposedly involved….**

    * David Cameron, campaigning in Abingdon, said: “What’s Nicola Sturgeon told us today? Well she’s told us – she’s being anointed as this great genius – she’s told us something that I said about four years ago, which is Ed Miliband is not up to the job of being prime minister. I think we knew that already

    ** The BBC’s James Cook made a comment which basically said, “This story might not be true but it ought to be”

  • paul barker 4th Apr '15 - 5:19pm

    A classic Westminter Bubble story but Labour are going big on it. Whatever the intentention of the Telegraph Labour see it as a last lifeline in Scotland.

  • expats

    So now everybody, except of course CCHQ, has been linked to this lie…

    Leaking it is undoubtedly skulduggery, but it’s not a lie, the memo is genuine, the only question is whether it is an accurate account of the conversation. It’s worth noting that Nicola, for all the high dudgeon, has not actually denied the substance nor the sentiment, just the words.

    So it’s probably true that the SNP want to deal with the Tories as they know that makes independence more likely, we didn’t need a memo to tell us this though.

    Don’t the electorate have the right to know this?

  • Philip Thomas 4th Apr '15 - 6:26pm

    @James I think the Labour party has stronger cards (against the Tories- most of them also our cards against the Tories, although we have some extra ones) than that, although I agree it is an argument in their favour.

  • g 4th Apr ’15 – 6:00pm ……………. It’s worth noting that Nicola, for all the high dudgeon, has not actually denied the substance nor the sentiment, just the words.

    Hardly! On the BBC TV News, this PM, she restated her hatred of all things Tory and how she will have no truck with any such government…As the SNP is almost certain to be the 3rd largest UK party, co-operation (informal or otherwise) with them will probably determine the survival of any UK government….

  • Galen Milne 4th Apr '15 - 10:03pm

    Nicola Sturgeon should have been rebuked on at least two occasions. The first was when she attacked Cameron on European by commenting it was better to seek concensus and work together in the (European ) union – yes we know that Nicola that’s why the majority of Scots voted NO thanks in the referendum. And when she attacked Clegg recruiting fees – when the FACT is the SNP promised to wipe out Scottish student debt in Scotland. – and after 1@8 years of nationalist rule my daughter is still paying back her debt. A balanced article would be most welcome instead of raising issues re her dressage.

  • @g
    “Leaking it is undoubtedly skulduggery, but it’s not a lie, the memo is genuine”

    Though Sturgeon stated on the radio earlier that the memo was written by somebody who was not there, which does reduce its credibility somewhat.

  • Allum Bokhari 4th Apr '15 - 11:08pm

    The mainstream press (left and right) is utterly merciless to insurgent parties. Happened to us, to UKIP, to the Greens . Not surprising to see it happen to the SNP as well, but I expect it will only increase their popularity.

    I’d really like the press to be more mature to ALL smaller parties. After all, there are, a lot more of them around these days.

  • The story is presumably enabled and planted by the Tories, though clearly without any strategic sense. Alienating at the outset a party they may need to woo after the election is an own goal; whereas if it actually damaged the SNP in Scotland (unlikely) it would strengthen Labour.

    I found Rennie’s comments not very reasonable and certainly uncharitable. Perhaps his view is that an election campaign is no place to show charity. If so, I cannot agree.

  • Is anyone even sure that this ‘document’ supposedly obtained by the ‘Telegraph’ is even real?

    A Foreign Office spokesman cast further doubt on the memo’s alleged contents, stating on Saturday that they were “not aware of any such document” and as Sturgeon said, .“The bigger question, and one I am raising today with the head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, is who wrote this memo, as the Foreign Office are now appearing to deny all knowledge of it”

    After all, this will not be the first time the right wing press have bought forgeries…

  • Who cares if the memo exists? The SNP are trying to break up the country. Under the Tories they have surged forward to within a whisker of independence. The Lib Dems are failing big time when both SNP and UKIP are on the march stirring up nationalism and xenophobia

  • Alistair: I cannot equate SNP with UKIP. In the wake of the NO vote we shoud be working with SNP to achieve ‘home rule’ or ‘devo max’ type devolution for Scotland.

    The leaked/ fabricated memo is clearly aimed at undermining the SNP, benefiting both Tories and Labour in a most extraordinary way. The timing tells us all. Danczuk is raising some scarcely believable stuff against us for which his timing rather puts his motivation in doubt.

  • The UK is already ‘broken….It’s no longer “if”; it’s “when” Scotland becomes another country….

    Labour, like the Tories and Libdems before them, are ‘history’ in Scotland. In my lifetime the SNP has gone from a ‘handful of loonies’ to almost certainly the third largest party in the whole of the UK…..Like it or not the next ‘Referendum’ will be pro independence…..The ‘immediate’ post referendum backtracking by the coalition on the promises made and the current ‘demonization’ of the SNP by Tory/Labour/LibDem has strengthened their hold on Scotland…….

    It looks very likely that whoever ‘wins’ in a few weeks will be dependent on the SNP’s “Yea or Nay” to stay in power….

  • Alistair 5th Apr ’15 – 7:57am
    “stirring up nationalism and xenophobia”

    The people who stir up ” nationalism and xenophobia”are traditionally Unionists.
    In Northern Ireland it is the Union Jack Waving, Marching Band, Ulster Lodge, No-No-No lot.
    On the mainland it is their sister party The Conservative and Unionist Party.
    UKIP (being just renegade Tories themselves) follow naturally in that role.

    But to accuse the SNP –which by any objective measure is Scotland’s SDP — of this crime is clearly nonsense on stilts.
    How can one of the most pro-European parties in the UK be accused of Xenophobia?

  • Thomas Robinson 5th Apr '15 - 10:16am

    The Lib Dems have lost control of themselves, vying with SLAB to exemplify bitterness towards the SNP.

    I will, unlike Rennie and other Scottish Lib Dems, abstain from final evaluation of the events, but if I were Alistair Carmichael I would be very afraid that someone in his Scotland Office has let him down badly

  • Can anyone reveal if there are any Conservative SpAds working in the Scottish Office?

    I am told that the answer to this question may have some relevance to the current stramash.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Apr '15 - 10:34am

    John makes an important point. There is indeed a Scottish minister, David Mundell in the Scotland Office who had a Special Adviser.

  • Thomas Robinson 5th Apr '15 - 11:13am


    I suppose you think that Sturgeon hated her English granny or that the 28% of those born in England who votedYyes hate themselves

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 11:50am

    expats 5th Apr ’15 – 8:37am
    “The UK is already ‘broken….It’s no longer “if”; it’s “when” Scotland becomes another country….”

    “Like it or not the next ‘Referendum’ will be pro independence…..”

    I really do not believe that SNP wants independence – but devo-max. In this way they will have control on most of what they want control of – but the luxury of having the UK Treasury to underwrite any debts they should incur – this is important to them now that the oil price is predicted to remain low – at least in the medium term.

    It seems to me that the two main parties are becoming extremely desperate [along with the civil servants] – they know that the their cosy relationship in running the nation as a virtual dictatorship are numbered – now that a Labour/SNP coalition now seems a certainty.

    The L/Ds would do well to acknowledge this and join the national parties to press for federalism – in this way the Party will have a clear identifying policy to separate it from the others. Without this, come May 8 – the Party’s future will look extremely bleak.

  • Jedibeeftrix,
    I think you are confusing resentment with xenophobia. A lot ofr Scottish people simply resent what they see as English rule and this can manifest itself as anti-English sentiment, But if you went back to in time to Southern Ireland you would find vehement Anti English sentiment and now you find virtually non. In other words the union to a large extent drives anti English resentment. This is basically about history and identity. IMO the SNP will keep plugging away until they win. Who they favour as leader in England is probably neither here nor there to them. The pattern is pretty clear. The political Parties associated with the union are dying off in Scotland. The Conservative have one seat. Labour look like being reduced to below 20 seats and the Lib Dems to a handful.
    The flip side is that the rise of the SNP is driving anti Scottish sentiment in England with lots ant lots of pundits basically trying equate the English parliamentary interests with what is good for Britain. What I find interesting is that the Parties that most wrap themselves in the Union Jack are probably doing the most damage to the future of Britain. Neil Kinnock was warning people about this years ago.

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 1:43pm

    Glenn 5th Apr ’15 – 1:17pm

    “Who they favour as leader in England is probably neither here nor there to them”

    If the SNP supported the Tories – they would seriously damage their reputation and virtual monopoly in Scotland. They are categorically against the existing austerity measures – to support the Tories would mean that some of Osborne’s unnamed additional cuts would have to be granted.

    Hence Sturgeon’s explicit statement about supporting Labour immediately – even if they do not hold the most seats.

  • Tony Greaves 5th Apr '15 - 2:02pm

    There is no reason why the party with most seats has to form the government. The party that must form the government is the one that can secure sufficient support to do so in the Commons. The FTPA will then mean that they have a good chance of surviving for some time, perhaps for five years.

    Tony Greaves

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 2:19pm

    Tony Greaves 5th Apr ’15 – 2:02pm

    Yes – Sturgeon only made her intentions absolutely clear in order to ‘kick into touch’ the contents of the leaked document that both Labour and the Tories [and much of the media] had sought to take advantage of.

  • Spads in the fco
    Arminka Helic
    Naweed Khan
    Denzil Davidson
    Chloe Dalton

    Spads in Scotland Office
    Euan Roddin

    At the time the real diptel was sent around whitehall, all of the above would have been on the circulation list. The question is which one would have a telegraph editor in their address book

  • Glenn
    Even with my one good eye I recognise what you say as correct. “… the Parties that most wrap themselves in the Union Jack are probably doing the most damage to the future of Britain. ”

    As Billy Bragg put it — ” …used to want to plant bombs at the Last Night of the Proms”

    Any objective international observer visiting the UK would recognise the SNP as a social democratic party in the European mainstream. They would see in the SNP leader a capable, intelligent First Minister with more political skill and integrity than all the Unionist partiesim Scotland put together. She should be a natural ally for Liberal Democrats. We should be lining up shoulder to shoulder with her in this General Election in opposition to austerity and Trident.

  • Philip Thomas 5th Apr '15 - 4:03pm

    That is the tragedy is it not- that this social democratic mainstream party is focused on breaking up the United Kingdom and abandoning her natural allies to the Tories? If only the SNP were like PC, if only they were content with devolution!

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 4:42pm

    Philip Thomas 5th Apr ’15 – 4:03pm

    “If only the SNP were like PC, if only they were content with devolution!”

    Why are you convinced that the SNP are intent on breaking up the UK – whilst the price of oil is predicted to be low in the medium term – blowing a large hole in their previously prepared budget?

    Why would they not be content with devo-max? This does not carry the threat of the large corporations leaving Scotland – as they threatened to in the lead up to the Referendum – and was probably the reason the Referendum was not won.

  • David Allen 5th Apr '15 - 5:04pm

    “Why are you convinced that the SNP are intent on breaking up the UK?”

    Well – They made a pretty good try at doing so, only a few months ago. Now, one can’t prove that the Pope won’t turn Protestant tomorrow – but one wouldn’t bet on it!

    It may very well be that the SNP will now set their sights on devo-max, as what is realistic when the price of oil is low. Wait and see what happens when the oil price shoots up again, that’s all I can say!

  • Frank Booth 5th Apr '15 - 5:26pm

    So suspicion is on Tory Spads leaking this. I still think that is unlikely. Yes the memo undermines Miliband but who has most to gain from this memo becoming public? It is surely the Labour party. I just cannot see the Tories releasing something like this unless they are very, very stupid. I also notice not a single Tory seems to have mentioned it. Are people suggesting the Tories are so cunning that they are deliberately keeping quiet so as to not provoke suspicion?

  • Philip Thomas 5th Apr '15 - 5:38pm

    @John Roffey: did you watch the leaders’ debate? Nicola Sturgeon gave an outstanding performance but she also made it very clear that her ultimate aim was independence- references to the temporary nature of the SNP’s presence at Westminster, for example.

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 5:48pm

    David Allen 5th Apr ’15 – 5:04pm

    “It may very well be that the SNP will now set their sights on devo-max, as what is realistic when the price of oil is low. Wait and see what happens when the oil price shoots up again, that’s all I can say!”

    The SNP have also learned the threats the big employers have made and will make about leaving Scotland if Scotland tries to leaves the UK.

    I am not pressing this issue to be a ‘party pooper’ – but if it is accepted that the Party has no real hope of being included in the next government now – there is still the opportunity of changing what is a failing strategy.

    There is little doubt that if, as now seems all but certain, the next government will be a Labour/SNP coalition [without the need of any other party] – the ‘Big Issue’ during the next five years is going to be the fact that under our convoluted mix of central and devolved government – 5.3m Scots can and almost certainly will be controlling the actions the UK [pop 64m] government.

    Federal government is the only real solution to this problem – it gives a chance to the Party to get ahead of the game by adopting a federal solution as its key policy – rather than living in the past by continually disputing the impact of the Party in the coalition [which does not appear to work].

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 5:59pm

    Philip Thomas 5th Apr ’15 – 5:38pm

    I didn’t watch the whole debate, however, from the SNP Conference::

    Nicola Sturgeon’s address to SNP conference | Scottish National Party

    28 Mar 2015 … Remember the slogan: Scotland shouldn’t leave the UK, we should lead the UK.

    When she took up the leadership of the SNP – she said that she believed that Scotland would leave the UK in her lifetime.

    That doesn’t sound is if another referendum is presently on her mind.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Apr '15 - 6:24pm

    @sfk There is another Special Adviser in the Scotland Office who works for David Mundell, the Tory Minister.

  • Philip Thomas 5th Apr '15 - 6:26pm

    @John Roffey- precisely, leaving the UK is still her long-term objective.
    Federalism makes sense I guess. But some policies must be kept at national level.

  • “Of course, Nicola is getting much different treatment to a man. Her clothes come in to it.”

    Just to show that male politicians’ clothes sometimes come in to it too….

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 6:42pm

    Philip Thomas 5th Apr ’15 – 6:26pm

    “…precisely, leaving the UK is still her long-term objective.
    Federalism makes sense I guess. But some policies must be kept at national level.”

    Yes they do – but NC’s ‘Coalition experiment with the Tories’ has failed – and should the Party managed to drag itself back to being in the same position again – which is unlikely in my opinion given the new political dynamics – in a decade or two’s time – it would fail again for the same reasons.

    However, devo-max for all of the regions would provide the Party with the opportunity to be included in the decision making process for all of the regions. It would therefore be in the interests of the Party to press for as little power to remain at national level as possible.

  • Philip Thomas 5th Apr '15 - 7:36pm

    I don’t think the experiment failed. I think we had real power for the first time in decades and we used it to implement some of our policies and block some Tory ones. I think we can do it again and do it better (although perhaps conditions will not be right for the repeat experiment in the next parliament). On the big issues I care about- Europe, Human Rights, Immigration- federalism is not a relevant solution and we must have power at national level to influence policy on them.
    I agree if we are to have devo-max for Scotland (and of course, we must have that, given the promises made last year) then the other countries in the UK should have devo-max, but I don’t think this will particularly help our party- English devolution will be a gift to UKIP for example.

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '15 - 8:17pm

    Philip Thomas 5th Apr ’15 – 7:36pm

    “I don’t think the experiment failed. I think we had real power for the first time in decades and we used it to implement some of our policies and block some Tory ones. I think we can do it again and do it better (although perhaps conditions will not be right for the repeat experiment in the next parliament). ”

    I use failed in terms of an experiment in so far as halving the deficit in the life time of this parliament – is the same as promised by Labour – without the vicious attack on the poorest and weakest and the very clear Tory plan to reward the richest at the expense of the poorest. This has been NC’s justification for entering the coalition – and this will leave the Party with [according to almost all predictions] with less than half and probably less than a third of the MPs it had in 2010.

    Out of government and with a serious depletion of its MPs – how will the Party recover its fortunes after 7 May? It has no distinguishing policy that sets it apart from its challengers. Party representatives will never, or hardly ever, be called to give their opinion on the issues of the day by the TV news channels. PR is likely to benefit the Greens and UKIP most.

    Because the Party has been that of the protest vote [now gone] members have got used to, as the third largest party, seeing their representatives on the news channels over the years – at least from time to time – I don’t think most members appreciate how debilitating it is for a party to rise with this major handicap.

    Without media coverage – the Party will be lucky to survive. Returning to its former status will take a great deal of time and I would suggest well below an evens bet.

  • ” halving the deficit in the life time of this parliament – is the same as promised by Labour ”

    It’s clear that as the coalition managed to halve the deficit, a Labour government would have seen it grow.

  • Philip Thomas 5th Apr '15 - 9:31pm

    I hadn’t realised the implications of ceasing to be the third largest party. I had naively assumed that as the SNP are confined to Scotland we’d continue to be effectively the third party nationally. But even if that is true you are right to point out the loss of money and power. An extra incentive to make sure we get as many seats as we can in this election!

  • Jane Ann Liston 5th Apr '15 - 9:58pm

    I thought we had already lost the Short Money back in 2010, when we ceased to be in Opposition? Certainly, there were many redundancies in the party offices right after the election.

  • “There was some article that said that the Liberal Democrats received almost £1 million per year in parliamentary short money for being the third biggest party. That’s gone.”

    I’m not sure this is accurately sourced. When I looked at the way short money was allocated it is on a formula based on votes and seats won regardless of whether you are the 3rd, 4th, whatever party. There is a an extra amount for the leader of the opposition’s office btu thats about it.

    The party lost Short money in 2010 when it became part of the Government (which makes sense). AFAIK there’s no suggestion that if it returns to opposition it will no longer be eligible.

    Perhaps worth noting is the final year of Short money allocations the party recieved c.£1.7m, the cost of Lib Dem ministers Special Advisors is (from government sources, c.£1.5m)

  • What is so wrong with nation states wanting independence from a government many hundreds of miles away and led by a Party which has been rejected in successive elections by the citizens of that nation ? i honestly am bewildered by Lib Dems being so against Scottish independence – the ultimate form of localism.


  • David Evans 6th Apr '15 - 12:02am

    Of course the European MEP’s staff numbers have collapsed already. This is being felt in many parts of the country as now many people have no Lib Dem at any level of government to rely on when the local Tories and/or Labour choose to trample on them. This is why it was essential that Nick was made to go after May 2014. Sadly he wasn’t and all those people now have no-one to fight for them. Also whatever short money we get will be less than in 2009. Likewise with councillors being lost there is a lot less time and money from that source as well. Things will go quite a long way until it all unwinds to a new equilibrium.

  • John Roffey 6th Apr '15 - 9:34am

    It does appear that, the much needed, change of strategy has taken place since the leaders debate – with both NC & DA attacking the Tory’s desire to look after ‘the bosses’ – their donors – at the expense of the weakest and poorest [see the Guardian and Independent]. It also appears as if this change has given the L/Ds a small boost.

    These attacks should increase the number of seats held by Labour and give an outside chance for the Party to hold enough seats to be in a position to form a coalition with Labour after the GE. However, these attacks are a double edged sword for objective observers might ask – why did the negotiators not simply just say ‘no’ to the harshest of measures – with the threat of leaving the coalition.

    Nevertheless, the change does return the Party to its traditional role of ‘centre/left of centre’ and should help to repair the severe splits that have formed as a result of its shift to the right – which should encourage its former supporters to return.

    It does seem that the strategy change is too late and the coalition experiment will cause major damage the Party. However, if it is united, it will significantly help its chances to ‘Rise Again’!

  • John Roffey. It’s quite simple – the “attacks” are forward looking towards what the Tories would do in majority government not backwards looking towards what the coalition delivered

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 12:45pm

    Do you want England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, to be consigned to Tory/UKIP/DUP rule for the majority of the time? Do you want those countries to leave the European Union and erect a massive fence across the border with Scotland to keep “immigrants” out? Do you want to destroy the economy of the 6th richest nation on earth and end its influence in foreign affairs?
    If so, support Scottish Independence!

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 1:05pm

    (Scotland would probably emerge out of this relatively prosperous, like the Netherlands or other small rich countries in the EU, although worse off because of the basket case to the South).

  • Seeing as there is all this focus on the SNP, a party which definitely restricts itself to talking for less than 10% of the electorate, perhaps someone can explain why Nick Clegg uses the formula of, in the event of a hung parliament, talking to the party with the most MPs first. Isnt this rather limiting? Also, why not talk first to the party that won the most votes rather than the party with the most MPs?

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 3:28pm

    Not all that limiting. You have to talk to someone first, and, in the broken system we have, the party with the most MPs is the best coalition partner all other things being equal, because it makes for a bigger majority (or, as in 2010, a majority full stop). You can always talk to the second biggest party second (indeed, while negotiating with the first-that strengthens your hand).

  • John Roffey 6th Apr '15 - 4:30pm

    Philip Thomas 6th Apr ’15 – 3:28pm

    Judging by the articles by NC & DA – all hopes of a further coalition with the Tories have been abandoned – whoever is the largest party in terms of seats or votes.

    No doubt driven by the recognition that the only hope now for being in a coalition is with Labour – if both of the Parties can increase their actual number of MPs beyond what is currently predicted.

    The only chance now for the Tories seems to be that UKIP withdrew their candidates in those marginals where this is likely to lead to a Tory victory. Farage would choose this course to ensure a referendum on our membership of the EU – but UKIP candidates and the majority of members it seems, not surprisingly, are against this strategy.

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 5:06pm

    @John Roffey
    I rather doubt that the Tories are going to block coalition with us because we said nasty things about them during an election campaign: they might block coalition with us as a tactical preference for minority government.
    The attacks on the Tories are not designed primarily or even secondarily to help Labour- they are a strategic necessity given the number of Tory facing seats we are contesting (and that those seats contain large blocks of voters who need to be reminded we aren’t the Tories because otherwise they might vote Labour or Green). It is also strategically important because the natural tendency during an election campaign is for voters to move towards the government, and we want to make sure this benefits us rather than the Tories (one reason for all the argument about whose idea the low-tax policy was).

    As for UKIP, there are UKIP supporters out there who won’t vote for UKIP in a General Election (I have canvassed one). Their numbers are going to be crucial to Tory fortunes. Farage does seem to be doing his best (without actually giving the game away) to encourage this- he’s running a very lax campaign.

  • John Roffey 6th Apr '15 - 5:40pm

    Philip Thomas 6th Apr ’15 – 5:06pm

    Phillip – you are entitled to your opinion – but the comments made were of the type to make another coalition difficult to say the least. However, while the SNP are in such a strong position [which is unlikely to change even if there are more dirty tricks] and they are adamant the will not work with the Tories – a Labour/SNP coalition is the almost certain outcome. Miliband will not like such an arrangement – but if it is the only way he can get into No 10 – he is pretty certain to take it.

    His only alternative is a coalition with the L/Ds and the Party’s attack on the Tories will benefit Labour which could conceivably provide the two parties with a majority of seats. However, as far as I can see – this is still very much of an outside chance.

  • Philip Thomas 6th Apr '15 - 5:44pm

    A formal coalition between SNP and Labour has been ruled out by both sides. But some kind of power-sharing between them does look rather likely on current figures, especially if UKIP supporters continue to bury their heads in the sand.

  • Philip Thomas

    Do you want England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, to be consigned to Tory/UKIP/DUP rule for the majority of the time? Do you want those countries to leave the European Union and erect a massive fence across the border with Scotland to keep “immigrants” out? Do you want to destroy the economy of the 6th richest nation on earth and end its influence in foreign affairs?”

    Thanks for your response. You don’t deny that it’s wrong for the Scots to be ruled by Tories hundreds of miles away even though the Scots have rejected Tories for decades. Or is this democratic deficit perfectly fine as long as the rest of the UK is alright, Jack?
    If so, support Scottish Independence!

  • John Roffey 6th Apr '15 - 6:23pm

    Philip Thomas 6th Apr ’15 – 5:44pm

    Not only that – but if Labour do manage to do a half decent job with the support of the SNP – and they can retain their seats – the same is likely to apply in 2020. This seems likely because both parties are committed to repair the damage done to the most vulnerable and poorest – which many do seem to view as shameful considering the wealth of the nation.

    This potentially continuing arrangement is why I suggested that federal government would be the best lead [and unique] policy for the Party. Federalism would remove the power the SNP currently holds and share it around the country.

  • @caron Lindsay

    There is only one recent SPAD at the Scottish Office who is a Lib Dem and interestingly had a previous career in ALDE.

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