Point to Press

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, was the guest speaker at the Scottish Press Fund lunch on Thursday.

Held at the Crowne Plaza hotel, the old Moat House on the banks of the Clyde, hundreds of journalists and media types were in attendance to hear what he had to say.

In truth, most were probably only there for the free lunch and booze on offer and the few hours of respite it gave them from the office.

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Nevertheless, the son of the Manse made for an interesting distraction.

Strathclyde Police had their officers deployed along the perimeter of the hotel, while Special Branch sat in the warmth of their cars, guests idily wandering past, none the wiser as to what was going on.

Inside the lobby, friends and foes among the Scottish media enjoyed their first drinks of the day, before being beckoned into the hall for the main event.

Allan Rennie, editor of the Sunday Mail has been chair of the event for the past three years, and this was to be his swansong.

And in this, an election year in which Scottish Labour remain behind in the polls, capturing Brown as speaker was a bit of a coup not just for him, but the Labour supporting paper he edits.

To be fair, Brown was in good form, having learned from the lessons of previous politicians who had tried in the past to shovel their message down the throats of a sceptical Press.

No, this was a bright and engaging Brown, showing a witty, softer side to the man the public are more often than not treated to.

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A man telling his audience that he is ready to govern, something that won’t have been lost on the Scottish Tories and SNP activists among the guests.

With four weeks or so until polling, and the Nats apparently stretching their lead over Labour, could this be the most important speech he will make this campaign?

After all, he was addressing the opinion makers, those who control the agenda of a nation.

First Minister Jack McConnell and Brown are known to have had their differences in the past.

But there is no way Brown will want to interit a Scotland on the road to Independence with Alex Salmond at the helm of Holyrood should he become Prime Minister.

Labour’s team of Douglas Alexander, Paul Sinclair and Cathy Jamieson were sure to have been pressing the message during dessert and coffee.

The fact that Colin McLatchie of News International and Mark Hollinshead from Trinity Mirror were both on the top table with Brown before disappearing with them afterwards shouldn’t be overlooked either.

It is a sign that Labour in Scotland are in trouble, and wheeling out the big guns, to stop the Nats at all cost.

Brown was impressive, but it’s what happens from here that counts.



Categories: Interviews and talks

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