04 April 2015
The furore over over the supposedly leaked memo published by the Telegraph began with what Nicola Sturgeon was reported to have said, moved on to denials by all of those involved and is now centred on who leaked the memo, assuming the memo actually existed in the first place.
There has also been lots of thought on who the 'leak' benefits in trying to pin down who would leak it and why they would do so, and calls for enquiries or even police action due to purdah.
But there's another aspect which hasn't been discussed as much.
Would Nicola Sturgeon says this?
I mean, even if Nicola Sturgeon believed that David Cameron was a better prime ministerial candidate than Ed Miliband, and even if she thought another Conservative government would benefit the SNP, would she say so?
To be clear, she doesn't believe either of the above. But what if she did?
Forty years ago the SNP was made up of a few thousand die-hard nationalists, for whom the end goal of Scottish independence overrode anything else, and amongst those were a fair few we'd consider extreme nowadays. People who'd blame all our ills on England and the English, and who wouldn't be afraid to say so.
The 105,000 strong SNP of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is a completely different animal.
Society has changed since the mid 70s, so that most of us of my generation wouldn't dream of making the casually racist, sexist or homophobic comments that we would back then. I wouldn't tell a joke about an Irishman making out that he was stupid nowadays - in my teens 50% of any jokes I told would be about 'Paddy'. The SNP has changed just as much as society generally in that time.
A modern elected SNP member knows that there are at least two things they don't say. Never. Ever. On pain of losing their position or getting kicked out of the party.
You don't say you 'hate the English' or any paraphrase of that. And you don't say you like or support the Tories. You just don't.
So to believe the content of the Telegraph's memo you have to believe two things:
1) that Nicola Sturgeon really does prefer David Cameron to Ed Miliband, and hopes he'll win.
2) that the most competetent and experienced party leader in the UK, in the most competent and disciplined party in the UK decided to break all the rules she's been trained in for two decades to confide in a French ambassador she barely knows.*
It's. just. not. going. to. happen.
Another aspect of this affair is the total missed opportunity for Scottish Labour. Blair McDougall and John McTernan are seasoned politicos and presumably receiving good salaries for advising Jim Murphy. This was a win/win situation for Murphy. All he had to say last night was "I can't believe that Nicola Sturgeon would say this".
If it later turned out she had said it, Jim could act shocked and make all of the political capital out of it he wanted. If it turned out she didn't say it, then Jim would be the Scottish Labour leader who stood up for our First Minister in her hour of need, against the right-wing press.
Instead Jim (in a lovely phrase I've seen tweeted) jumped on the bandwagon as the wheels were falling off. I can't help thinking that I could advise him better than his current team.
* Note that you'd also have to believe the rest of the memo - that she'd talk about Alex Salmond 'getting up to mischief', and that she'd brag that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats. Neither of those points fits with my understanding of Nicola Sturgeon.