Labour’s Non-Denial Denial of Postal Vote Sampling

Last Sunday and the Sunday before the Sunday Herald reported that Susan Dalgety, recently appointed as Jim Murphy’s Director of Communications, had tweeted comments implying she knew the results of postal vote sampling in the referendum. Tom Gordon reported that she “could face police questioning after discussing the content of secret postal votes in the referendum”, but this is unlikely because she isn’t directly being accused of an electoral offence, so it is hard to imagine what interviewing her could add to the ongoing police investigation. The more interesting things we have learnt from the two Sunday Herald stories are that the SNP are now willing to comment on the allegation and that Scottish Labour seem unable to respond to the allegation with a categorical denial.

‘An SNP source said: “Jim Murphy has made some very questionable appointments, which cast his party in a negative light. As well as being embarrassing, this issue takes Labour back to when they were joined at the hip with the Tories – it seems like they were sharing all sorts of information.”‘

When the claims of postal vote sampling first emerged in the days after the referendum nobody from the SNP commented, but now they seem willing to give this story a gentle push. Why has their position changed? There was the implication from Humza Yousaf’s comments on referendum night that Yes Scotland were also sampling postal votes, so it might be that it is now clear that the investigation is only going to impact on Better Together. But it might also be that the SNP have gleaned how damaging these allegations will be for the Labour Party.

When challenged on the allegations and knowing the allegations of postal vote sampling to be untrue, the Scottish Labour spokesman could have stated unequivocally that nobody associated with Scottish Labour had been involved in postal vote sampling, but they didn’t. Instead they responded with a non-denial denial.

‘A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Susan Dalgety made her comments based on her extensive experience of elections and postal votes. It is not an offence to make an observation.”‘

If the allegations of vote sampling by Scottish Labour were categorically untrue surely their statement would have said so? The second sentence of their “denial” is a non-sequitur and the first cries out for the follow up question “Does Dalgety’s ‘extensive experience’ include ever seeing data taken from postal vote samplings or being aware of postal vote samplings?”

The most significant lessons from last week’s Sunday Herald article are that the Scottish Labour Party cannot put out a categorical denial that they were sampling postal votes and that the SNP know this.

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