Sketch: Dispute gives event a defensive edge
THERE was a lot of back-slapping in Perth yesterday as the SNP congratulated itself on what Alex Salmond described as “one of the finest debates in our party’s history”.
There was also a huge sense of relief among those at the top of the party that a disastrous defeat over Nato membership had been avoided by a measly 29 votes.
But beneath the self-congratulation and the relief, which must have been felt particularly keenly by Angus Robertson, there was also a tangible sense of frustration from those who had opposed Nato membership with such passion.
It made for a mood that was quite unlike the rather stifling atmosphere that comes from the more tightly stage-managed events that characterise most modern party conferences.
In the bars, delegates wondered whether Salmond would have enjoyed sitting on the stage holding up his voting card while his rebellious delegates looked around the hall trying to work out if they had done enough to defeat the leadership.
The conclusion most drew was that the SNP leader would not have relished that particular chore.
“Alex would have hated that,” was the view of one delegate over a pint of beer in the Royal George Hotel.
Assuming the First Minister did not enjoy being wheeled out on to the conference stage in an effort to persuade Nato waverers, conversation yesterday inevitably turned to the impact that Friday’s debate would have on Robertson’s stock within the party.
Robertson must take some credit for steering this most contentious policy change through an agitated membership.
But it didn’t escape anybody’s attention that he was booed from the conference floor – a reaction that was a sure indication that he had failed to strike the right tone with his activists during a debate that was otherwise conducted in excellent spirit.
That was a telling moment and must take some of the lustre off his achievement.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
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