Alex Salmond: News Corp lobbyist?

The Michel emails suggest Salmond acted as News Corp's political champion.

Jeremy Hunt wasn't the only political cheerleader News Corporation enjoyed the services of. The full emails of the company's public affairs director Frederic Michel, now available on the Leveson inquiry website, reveal the extraordinary lengths that Alex Salmond went to to support the BSkyB bid. According to Michel, the Scottish First Minister offered to lobby both Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt on the company's behalf and to brief the Scottish press on the "economic importance" of News Corp for the country. All of which goes some way to explaining Rupert Murdoch's recent description of Salmond as the "most brilliant politician in U.K.".

Below are the full, damning emails.

On 1 November 2010, Michel told James Murdoch:

Alex Salmond is very keen to put these issues across to Cable and have a call with you tomorrow or Wednesday. His team will also brief the Scottish press on the economic importance of News Corp for Scotland.

Following a conversation with Rupert Harrison, George Osborne's special adviser, on 9 November 2010, Michel reported to Murdoch:

He (Harrison) was very much taken by our commitment to Scotland and Alex Salmond's desire to support us. He thought it was a strong ally to put forward, very contrarian/unexpected.

On 11 February 2011, Michel told James Murdoch:

I met with Alex Salmond's adviser today. He will call Hunt whenever we need him to.

Finally, on 2 March 2011, Michel wrote to Murdoch:

Alex Salmond called. He had a very good dinner with the Editor of Sun in Scotland yesterday.

The Sun is now keen to back the SNP at the election. The Editor will make his pitch to the Editorial team tomorrow. 

On the Sky bid, he will make himself available to support the debate if consultation is launched (emphasis mine).

News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The SNP retains power as Scottish Labour faces being beaten into third

Ruth Davidson’s Conservative Party looks on track to become the official opposition in Holyrood.

As expected, the SNP have performed well in the Scottish elections, with an increased vote share and some key gains – particularly from Labour in Glasgow, where Nicola Sturgeon’s party took all eight constituency seats. As it stands, they could be on course for a second successive majority in Holyrood, once the list members are fully counted.

The story of the night, though, is the demise of Scottish Labour, which put in its worst ever performance in Scotland (my stalwart liveblogging colleague Stephen Bush points out that it’s the party’s worst result since universal suffrage was introduced in 1929). The party’s vote share was done across Scotland, and the results are sufficiently poor that they could see them fall behind the Conservatives to become the third biggest party north of the border.

Losses for Labour include seat of Eastwood in Glasgow, where Scottish Conservatives deputy leader Jackson Carlaw defeated Ken Macintosh. Labour had held the seat for 17 years, though it had been Conservative beforehand.

Other key losses for Scottish Labour include Dumfriesshire, where they were beaten into third; Renfrewshire South (which went to the SNP); Cowdenbeath, where Gordon Brown's old constituency manager and protégé Alex Rowley also lost to the SNP; Glasgow Pollok, where former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont lost to the SNP’s Humza Yousaf. There was a close call for Labour’s Jackie Baillie in Dumbarton, where she held on by just 109 votes.

Rare successes came in Edinburgh Southern, where Daniel Johnson took the seat from the SNP’s Jim Eadie (although since the seat is effectively a four-way marginal, it’s not a particularly indicative gain), and East Lothian, where former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray managed to increase a previously slender majority.

Speaking to the BBC, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“A very bad night for the Labour party… There’s no doubt that the constitution has dominated this election.”

She also confirmed that “no matter what, 100 per cent, I will remain leader of the Scottish Labour party”.

In a great night for her party, Ruth Davison won her seat in Edinburgh Central, making her the first Scottish Conservative leader not to need the list system to enter the Scottish Parliament  since 2005. The Tories also gained Aberdeen West from the SNP as well as their success in Dumfriesshire.

The Liberal Democrats also had a better-than-expected night. Their leader, Willie Rennie, took the Fife North East seat from the SNP, and his party also had comfortable holds in Orkney and Shetland.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.