UK: "Dirty tricks"? The FCO leaked memo-Nicola Sturgeon-the Labour Party and the Zinoviev letter

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A Cabinet Office inquiry has been launched into the leaking of a government document concerning alleged remarks by Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), which are damaging to the SNP and the Labour Party. Are there historical parallels? Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood's statement on the apparent leak of a Scotland Office memo (Cabinet Office, link).

This follows a revelation in the Daily Telegraph newspaper: Full text of Nicola Sturgeon memo: "of the British Government's account of the French ambassador's meetings at the Scottish Parliament, including talks with Nicola Sturgeon."

Both Nicola Sturgeon and French Consul General in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier have denied that quotes from the leaked memo ever happened.

See: Inquiry announced into memo alleging Sturgeon wants Tory election victory - Civil service instigates investigation into leaked memo from Foreign Office about supposed comments made in February (Guardian, link): "A civil service inquiry into a leaked memo which claimed that Nicola Sturgeon privately wanted to see David Cameron remain in power after the general election has been instigated following calls from the first minister. Sturgeon described the allegation as “100% untrue” and accused Whitehall of “dirty tricks”. The announcement was made after the SNP leader called on the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to find out how the Daily Telegraph obtained the Foreign Office memo in which, the paper claims, Sturgeon told the French ambassador in February that she hoped for a Tory win."

A Lesson from history?

In 1924 the leak of the "Zinoviev letter" by MI6 to the Daily Mail contributed to the fall of the first (minority) Labour government: See: "Zinoviev letter" extract from The Political Police in Britain by Tony Bunyan, 1977 (pdf):

"The 1,200 word letter, produced on the official notepaper of the Third Comrnunist International, purported to be a communication between Gregory Zinoviev, the President of the International, and Mr A.McManus, a member of the Communist Party and the British representative on the International's executive committee.

The letter suggested that the British comrades should be working to create a revolutionary insurrection and included the directive that "Armed warfare must be preceded by a struggle among the majority of British workmen, against the ideas of evolution and peaceful extermination of capitalism. Only then will it be possible to count on the complete success of an armed insurrrection."

A later official history in 1985 of the Secret Service (MI6) by historian Christopher Andrew - who had full access to all the historical records - observed that the Foreign Office (which controlled MI6) had in 1921:

"been deceived by a substantial number of anti-Soviet forgeries. Its misjudgment then makes it impossible to discount the possibility that it was deceived again in 1924." (p310)

See also: Instead of being cynical we should celebrate voting, says LEO MCKINSTRY (Sunday Express, link): "In the final days of the 1924 general election campaign a sudden controversy about communist influence on Labour, fuelled by an alleged leaked directive from the Soviets, the "Zinoviev Letter", helped to cement a big Tory victory. The Soviet document is now widely regarded by historians as a forgery, an example of black propaganda used to discredit a political opponent."

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