Conference 21/2, sleep 1/2. Last night, I mustered a more than passable six hours. Which is practically unheard of – for this renowned exponent of the concept of last woman standing.
Lots, however, did not follow my lead and conference is a delicate place today. Still, home stretch, a few set-piece debates and important resolutions to go.
What can I share with you? Well, apparently, Alan Roden, political editor of the Daily Mail (feel free to boo and hiss here) nearly, oh so nearly but not quite, made it into the now infamous YSI karaoke on Friday night. Just before he picked up the mike, he remembered all the reasons why this might not be a good idea. “I’m not singing myself into notoriety at a karaoke, and certainly not for the Nats”. Indeed, Alan, but there’s still time. Little by little, we are hooking you in. I guarantee that before that fateful day to “save the union” in 2014, we will have you belting out “I have a dream” with a backing chorus of harmonising Nats.
It is a sure sign that the SNP is still the party which likes to party that on Saturday evening at 10pm, the unofficial official conference hotel had run out of Guinness and Peroni. I’m not sure what that says about us actually. And here’s a thing – am I the only person to be bemused at the SNP – of all parties – making the “Royal George hotel” its place of choice for late night revelry?
Hot off the platform is the new Health Secretary, Alex Neil MSP who gave another of his usual barnstorming speeches. Which, it must be said, went more than a little off topic. Not sure what sending troops to fight in an illegal Iraq war has to do with health and in light of the great debate, I’m not quite sure reminding folk of the SNP’s noble opposition to such NATO-led wars is entirely helpful. Nor was it entirely on-message for the Health Secretary – who is now in charge of alcohol policy and of weaning the Scots aff the bottle – to suggest that activists and members get out into the “pubs and clubs” with their positive message of independence. Just so long as they all drink water, you understand.
Heroes of the day? No question, Colin and Margaret Pennycook, winners of this year’s President’s prize. Colin and Margaret met in their twenties in the SNP and have been together ever since. They are stalwart grassroots members in Glasgow, whose quiz and curry night is legendary. They are synonymous with all that the SNP stands for. Indeed, as Ian Hudghton, the SNP President said, “Colin and Margaret Pennycook are ideal examples of who the President’s prize is for. It is about recognising lengthy and outstanding commitment to Scotland, the SNP and independence. There could be no more worthy recipients. It’s thanks to the efforts of people like Colin and Margaret that we are where we are now.”
Being at an SNP conference these days is a great experience for all but for the likes of me, it affords an opportunity to stand in awe of all those I grew up with and alongside in the party and marvel at the talented politicians they have all become. Nicola Sturgeon in particular, deserves mention. Always an impressive politician, since the reshuffle and her assuming the position of Yes Minister, she seems to have grown a few inches. Utterly at ease with herself, carrying herself with even more poise and even able to crack some great jokes. And look like she is enjoying every minute of her incredibly long and arduous days. More power to her elbow, but she is an asset the party can afford to do without and I do hope they are looking after her.
But if Nicola is the one who has grown – even more – in stature, to whom does the honour of the party’s darling belong? That would be John Swinney. Or John “ahh” to give him his proper title. The merest mention of his name prompts spontaneous applause. And richly deserved it all is too.
Finally, some of us who were blethering into the wee sma’ hours decided we needed a catchy slogan for the Yes campaign. Forward makes us sound like a country dance troupe. Something which resonates with the Scottish people, which speaks to them in a language we can all understand, which makes it clear what our message is. We have it. The official slogan for the next two years? “We’re gonnae dae it – cos we can. Vote Aye.” We think it will catch on….