British elections: ‘Dirty tricks’ charge as poll campaign hots up

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Apr 05, 2015 00:36 IST

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and a key player in the May 7 elections, accused Whitehall of “dirty tricks” on Saturday after a leaked civil service memo claimed that she told a French diplomat she preferred David Cameron as the prime minister.

Sturgeon, who emerged taller after Thursday’s television debate between seven party leaders, is quoted in the memo as stating that she would “rather see” Cameron win the election since Labour leader Ed Miliband was allegedly not “prime minister material”.

The official account of the meeting with the French envoy in February has been published in The Daily Telegraph, promoting a furious response from Sturgeon, who termed the claims as “categorically, 100 per cent untrue”.

Sturgeon, 44, called for an “urgent inquiry” into the leak, and said, “The real issue is how a second hand and inaccurate account of this meeting — which was not even attended by the UK government — came to be written by a UK Government civil servant and then leaked to Tory-supporting newspapers at the start of a general election campaign.”

She added, “It suggests a Whitehall system out of control — a place where political dirty tricks are manufactured and leaked.”

Sturgeon’s SNP has emerged as the main political force after last year’s referendum on independence for Scotland.

The French consul general in Edinburgh, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, whose comments are claimed to have been the basis for the memo, told the BBC that Sturgeon did not express any preference for a leader.

Prominent Indian industrialist Swraj Paul said the “dirty tricks” department working overtime was not surprising given that Sturgeon looked like a winner in the live television debate.

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