WRITING a leader’s conference speech is a process that is part basic cookery and part alchemy. All the main ingredients must be there, but what turns base metals into gold is not a winning phrase but the speaker.

To see Jeremy Corbyn looking so confident in Liverpool yesterday was to be transported back to another time, another party conference. Then, as now, Labour felt itself so close to Number Ten it could smell the polish on the brass knocker. Then, as now, the Tories were warring over Europe, economic times were hard, and in power was a PM with about as much charisma as a wet cardboard box. Remind you of anybody?

The year was 1996, it was Blackpool, and Tony Blair was Labour leader. His speech was very much of its day, including references to cash for questions and praise for Aung San Suu Kyi, then under house arrest. How times change, yet some things remain the same. It was in this speech that Mr Blair, in that messianic way of his that should have set alarm bells ringing louder than they did, announced his “covenant” with the British people. “Judge me upon it,” he said. “The buck stops here. For the future, not the past, for the many, not the few.”

Mr Blair then, and Mr Corbyn yesterday, shared more than a fondness for Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mr Blair’s speech was his final job interview before a General Election, a chance to communicate with voters over the heads of the press. With another snap poll now a possibility, the same holds true for Mr Corbyn in Liverpool yesterday. Was this a Prime Minister-in-waiting we saw before us? Is Scotland in the mood for buying what he was offering?

In 1996, Mr Blair devoted a line to the country of his birth, but it was an important one: Scotland would get its parliament back. What did Mr Corbyn have for the nation that had sent Labour into government so often in the past? Not a lot.There was a mention of Labour in Scotland offering "a message of hope", and a lame joke about getting on a train at King’s Cross and not knowing who would be running the service by the time you reached Edinburgh. Other than that, Scotland, it appeared, would be left to pick and choose from the UK menu, always assuming there was a Labour administration in Edinburgh to implement the policies.

Mr Corbyn’s skimming over Scotland should have come as little surprise given the general Mars/Venus disconnect between the party in London and in Scotland. Before conference had even started, Mr Corbyn left the way open for indyref2 by saying he would “decide at the time” whether to give Holyrood the power to hold another vote.

This must have come as news to Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who said a few days later that the commitment not to hold indyref2 was so serious, and settled, it would be in the party’s manifesto.

Taken to task on this by BBC Good Morning Scotland on Monday, Mr Leonard gave the kind of interview most charitably described as unfortunate. Asked four times to say whether he had had a specific conversation with the UK leader about making “no to indyref2” a manifesto commitment, the best he could come up with was that he “believed” it would be in the prospectus offered to voters. Does he also believe in Santa Claus?

Perhaps Mr Leonard thinks he does not have to do much to secure votes for Labour in Scotland because the party did so well in the last General Election. Certainly, their tally of MPs rose by six, but the Conservatives added 12. Labour’s share of the vote was up 2.8% to 27.1%, compared to a doubling of the Tory share. Labour was pushed into third place in Scotland.

UK Labour attempted the same confidence trick. Having done better than expected, they almost convinced themselves they had won. But since then, matters have taken a turn for the worse. Mr Corbyn conceded yesterday it had been a “tough summer”. Call off the understatement of the year competition, we have a winner. If the stench of antisemitism has not been enough to turn voters off Labour, the bullying of its own MPs, and the confusion over Brexit (paused, not ended, by Keir Starmer’s promise on a Remain vote) will have had many who voted for them last year wondering if they will do so again. As for Brexit-supporting Labour voters, I doubt they will be delighted at Labour’s new-found, and still half-baked, support for another referendum.

There is the big picture to consider here, too. From a distance, Labour in Liverpool this week has sent three clear messages. First, unlike the Conservative Party, this is a party that is mostly united (or determined enough to fake it). Second, unlike the Tories, it has a leader who has grown into the job. Third, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn gives the impression it will deliver real change, unlike the Tories, who are offering more of the same, or worse.

How much Mr Corbyn’s “New Old Labour” appeals to people in Scotland, however, remains to be seen. With the Scottish Conservatives now the main anti-independence party, and the SNP and Greens having made socialism their own, Labour in Scotland looks increasingly irrelevant. Mr Corbyn may have answered the question of what Labour on the UK stage is for, but what is Scottish Labour for?

If the answer is to bring home the votes by the wheelbarrow-load so that Mr Corbyn can enter Number Ten he ought to revisit those assumptions pronto.

Scotland has been, and may yet be, crucial in putting Labour in power. But it will not be used, then forgotten, as so often in the past. Things have changed in the UK. Changed so much that a radical policy such as worker representation on boards (even though Germany has had it for years) no longer frightens voters; changed so much that nationalisation is back in vogue.

But Scotland has changed, too. So far, it is finding Mr Corbyn, and his party in Scotland, distinctly underwhelming. The faithful treated him to a few choruses of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” in Liverpool yesterday. Up here it remains a case of “Jeremy Corbyn? Oh.”