Summing up party conference season
21 Oct 2015
Graeme Littlejohn, SWA head of external affairs
Conference Season, the caravan which rolls from city to city
each autumn, has come to an end. As ever, the Scotch Whisky
Association was in tow as Bournemouth, Brighton, Manchester and
Aberdeen played host to MPs, MSPs and delegates from each of the
major players in Westminster and Holyrood.
First up was the Liberal Democrats at a sunny Bournemouth. Given
the party's electoral fortunes in May you would expect the mood to
be the polar opposite of the weather which welcomed us to the south
coast. The Liberal Democrats, however, remained upbeat despite
their recent General Election performance. Under new
leader, Tim Farron, they are free from the burden of Government,
though it remains to be seen how the party recovers from its
Next up, the Labour Party Conference in Brighton was undoubtedly
the hottest ticket in town for political anoraks. Newly elected
leader 'Jezza', still cloaked in the #CorbynMania which accompanied
his ascent to power over the summer, was greeted with curiosity by
some, sheer delight by many and, it has to be said, horror by
others. The 'what colour tie' debate which usually proceeds a
leader's conference speech was replaced by the 'will he wear a tie'
debate. He did. But for all the trivia, it will be how Corbyn
and his new Shadow team convey a serious political narrative to the
country at large, especially on the economy, that will determine
To the Conservatives in Manchester, where conference goers were
welcomed by a wall of noise - some of it unpleasant, most of it
indistinguishable, all of it pointless. When left-wing commentator
Owen Jones is being called a Tory perhaps the protestors should be
a little more targeted in their approach. In the conference
centre, economic issues and the EU referendum were centre stage
but, just off to one side, all the talk was of leadership
succession, with Boris, Theresa and George setting out their stalls
(maybe) to take over from Dave.
Last but not least the SNP in Aberdeen. Buoyed by electoral
success in the General Election, Nicola Sturgeon set her sights,
and that of her party, on the Scottish elections next May, albeit
there remained much froth and speculation about constitutional
issues. In a conference first for the SWA we held a very
successful fringe meeting which catalysed varied and robust debate.
You can read more on the fringe from our chief executive David
Frost's recent blog on this website.
Party conferences can feel like a bit of a circus but they
remain a useful opportunity for the SWA to remind politicians of
all parties just how important Scotch Whisky is to the Scottish and
UK economy. We'll be back next year.