You read and hear so much about how Alex Salmond is master of his universe that I was half expecting the Scottish Labour Party to be seriously down in the dumps when I spoke at a fundraiser in Edinburgh last night. Instead I came away rather heartened by the mood, and pleased to have met Johann Lamont, the Party’s leader in Scotland, and seen her in action.
Just as Salmond’s talents are overwritten by the press, so it became apparent that hers are underplayed. She spoke really well, funny and engaging, very feisty, passionate both about Labour values and the Union between Scotland and England, and clearly unafraid of the SNP leader, however much the media, Rupert Murdoch among them, have fallen under his spell. I can see her getting under his skin very successfully.
It was also good to see Alistair Darling there. I think pro-Union supporters across the political spectrum welcome the fact he will be playing a prominent role in the campaign against independence when the promised referendum finally comes.
In addition to seeing close up some of Johann’s political skills, I also witnessed her acute intelligence, when I set the top table a word test, which was one of the questions at a recent Nazeing cricket club quiz night …
Here goes … Look at the three lines of a qwerty keyboard on your typewriter, iPad or blackberry. What is the longest word that you can make from the letters of a single line? You are allowed to use the same letter more than once.
Within minutes, Alistair and Johann’s deputy Anas Sarwar were asking me to put them out of their misery, but Johann was adamant she would work it out, and sat with little circles of words, torturing herself until eventually she worked it out.
I’ll give you the same clues I gave her … Ten letters, and lines 2 and 3 have only one vowel between them …