Unspun: the political diary

Dancer master: Anas Sarwar
Dancer master: Anas Sarwar

No Dash Ash
SNP Community Safety Minister Ash Denham didn’t endear herself to firefighters this week when she strolled in half an hour late to a Fire Service  event. One attendee, who didn’t have the benefit of a ministerial car, had got up at dawn to get a train. The minister's arrival was even greeted with at least one sarcastic cheer. As one wag noted, ‘It’s a good thing the fire engines don’t turn up that late, or we’d all be Ash.’
 
Uncivil servants
WHILE the Holyrood chamber is used to argy-bargy, written answers to parliamentary questions, prepared by officials, are usually utterly mild. Until now. In reply to a PQ from Labour’s Monica Lennon about the cost of living, an answer in the name of Nat Social Justice Secretary this week went full tribal. After bragging about a housing bill, it concluded: “Meanwhile, in Wales, the one part of the UK where Labour could actually act as the Scottish Government is acting, we see very little sign of the ambition we have outlined this week or indeed… over the last 10 years.” Ooooh. Snippy!

Dancing team
Scottish night at the Labour conference in Liverpool was a migraine-inducing affair, with activists jammed in a brightly lit room while a DJ dazzled them with a laser show. It was like a mobile disco in a hospital. No worries about energy bills, though. It was sponsored by Scottish Power. Keir Starmer briefly dropped by. Standing on the portable dance floor alongside Anas Sarwar, he said “We’ve played football together, and now it looks like we’re going to dance together.” Luckily for Sir Keir, they didn’t.

Rocky start
Because Anas has been training. Ahead of his conference speech, the Scottish leader challenged his spindoctors to a dance-off, forcing Ollie, Innes and Rosanna to help him calm his nerves to Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk. He also gets into the zone for big events with the Survivor classic, Eye of the Tiger. The Rocky theme was a tradition started in the 2021 election when staffers and the boss had to bubble together for almost a month, prepping for the TV debates. One traumatised source says just hearing the chugga-chugga-chugga guitar riff is now enough for him to break out in a cold sweat.

Bush whacked
Scottish Labour also had their traditional fringe meeting to moan about how it’s not their fault they’re not in power at Holyrood and voters are just about to flock back, honest. It was called ‘Scotland needs Labour and Labour needs Scotland.’ Or do they? FT journo Stephen Bush, who was on the panel, asked the room who was from or had lived in Scotland. Almost every hand went up. “You have a situation where part of the UK might break off and form its own country," he said, "and a majority of people in this country and within this party can't bring themselves to come to an event about that." Ouch.

Rubbish speaker
STRANGE confessions at Tuesday’s Holyrood debate about importing the US American Adopt a Road scheme, where volunteers keep highways litter-free. Lugubrious Tory Graham Simpson recalled his excursions with some East Kilbride litter pickers. “The group has found some really odd things, such as a 1970 crisp packet and an inflatable pink flamingo,” he revealed. “Once I saw a sofa that had been dumped, but I could not get that in a litter bag." It's the way he tells em.