I enjoyed listening to John McDonnell's speech at the Labour conference. There's been a lot of talk about him and Corbyn hastily backtracking on their principles since they took over, but there wasn't much evidence of that today - it was full-fat left-wing fare. He did try to tackle the charge of "deficit denial", but only by listing the cuts he would make at the expense of wealthy people.
It struck me once again that Labour have probably elected the wrong Campaign Group MP as leader - McDonnell is the articulate one, who exudes an air of competence and even has a touch of charisma about him. But realistically the candidate had to be Corbyn, because by all accounts McDonnell is so loathed among the PLP that there's no way he'd have made it onto the ballot paper, not even to "widen the debate".
The one part of the speech that grated, of course, was the disingenuous, rabble-rousing attack on the SNP. The Labour left, to their intense discredit, appear to have settled on the 'Big Lie' approach to taking on Nicola Sturgeon - they think they can somehow convince people that she opposes the living wage, is plotting the privatisation of CalMac, and was responsible for the privatisation of ScotRail (even though the latter took place in the 1990s under John Major, and before the Scottish Parliament even existed!). Most voters don't pay attention to the detail, so it's not totally inconceivable that they might fall for some of this garbage. But the snag is that they won't buy into the headline summary, namely that the SNP are pro-austerity or austerity-neutral (implied by McDonnell's assertion that Labour are now the only anti-austerity party in Scotland). Who, seriously, is going to believe that claim after the events of the general election campaign? If your main attack line doesn't ring true to people, it's simply not going to get you anywhere.
Still, I don't blame McDonnell for going through the motions. Bashing the SNP is a rite of passage for new and slightly distrusted Shadow Cabinet members - a bit similar to posh-boy initiation ceremonies involving dead pigs. He had to do it, and he got it out of the way in such a brief and tokenistic manner that the real impression I'm left with is that Labour's heart isn't in the coming Scottish battle. They've already handed the SNP an enormous gift on Trident, which is going to make one particular part of next year's leaders' debates almost painfully easy for Sturgeon. "Labour may have two opinions on Trident, but we have only one. We've made up our minds. We're against it. Labour are so divided that they ran away from even discussing it at their conference. Vote for a party that knows what it thinks and isn't afraid to say it."