As delegates gathered at Dundee’s Caird Hall, the writing was on the wall that this would be a gaffe-strewn conference – quite literally.
The faithful had arrived for an awards ceremony in honour of the party’s founder Keir Hardie. Projected on the wall was the legend: “Scottish Conference 2018 – Keir Hardy Awards”. Mis-spelling the name of one of the great figures in the Labour movement was hardly an encouraging portent for a conference that had already been marred by splits and slips,
The split was over Brexit and single market member- ship; the first of the slips came in the advanced copy of Mr Corbyn’s speech. In it, he appeared not to be aware how many Scottish seats his party won at the general election. The draft spoke of winning six Scottish seats when the true number was seven.
Mr Corbyn attempted to atone for his gaffe, reading a revised version from the autocue: “As we all know we won six NEW seats for Scottish Labour.”
But his efforts at redemption were to be undermined a little later when he quoted the Scottish poet Liz Lochhead. Perhaps Mr Corbyn was trying to ingratiate himself with the locals by adopting the Dundee patois, but even so his insistence on referring to her as “Liz Lochheid” couldn’t help sounding a little strange.
Similarly, it was difficult not to notice that shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird’s speech included a heartfelt plea to “lift the shroud of secrecy” over the transfer of devolved powers from Brussels. A shame the UK government had lifted that very shroud two hours earlier…