28 Oct 2014

Can Jim Murphy save Scottish Labour?

 Jim Murphy is expected to declare his candidacy for the leadership of Scottish Labour in the next 48 hours. He will have to win in the three-part electoral college system that Ed Miliband decided was discredited and had to be reformed for the UK leadership elections.

That means getting the support of party members (probably straightforward as fame normally gets you a long way in one member one vote campaigns). It means getting the support of trade unions – Unite and Unison would dearly love to kill off his challenge. Then there’s the elected MSP/MP/MEP section.

MSPs now have one of their own to choose from – Sarah Boyack, who announced her candidacy today. They could have another added to the list. There is pressure on MSP Neil Findlay to stand.

One Labour shadow frontbencher accused Mr Murphy of acting like “a reluctant bride” but Mr Murphy is working hard behind the scenes to make sure he has the team and strategy to withstand some predicable assaults.

Firstly, he has to look like he has heard the anti-Westminster attacks that dominated much of the Scottish referendum. He must show commitment to a devolved parliament that has until now not lured him.


Senior colleagues are convinced he is working out a deal that could see him job swap (electorate willing) with an MSP who would stand down to run in Jim Murphy’s Westminster seat at the General Election next May allowing Jim Murphy to run in the vacated Holyrood seat in a by-election, maybe even on the same day.

There’s also talk of Jim Murphy making sure the leadership understands he must strike out more dramatically on powers for the Scottish parliament. Again, fellow MPs say that would be a new tune for him to sing. But they think he is realistic enough to recognise that the referendum has left Labour’s position on devolving more tax-raising powers as seriously exposed, moving slower than the rest of the pro-union convoy.

Some commentators say he has too much Blairite baggage to carry off the job. But I found fellow Labour MPs  who’ve had plenty of criticism of Jim Murphy in the past suggesting he could re-cast himself ahead of the 2016 Holyrood elections.

But the more immediate challenge for Labour is the general election. The party needs energising and organising in constituencies where the yes campaign stole Labour voters in the referendum in September. There is “panic” in the leader’s office, according to some in Scottish Labour, that a critical number of seats could be lost to the SNP in the general election on the back of the yes triumphs in the central belt seats.

One fellow Labour MP said the successful exponents of devolved power across the UK – Rhodri Morgan, Ian Paisley, Boris Johnson, Alex Salmond amongst them – showed that you need big self-esteem to carry off the job. “He certainly doesn’t fail on that score,” the MP said.

Nominations close a week today.

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16 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    Answer: No. Nothing can.

    For which they can thank “New” Labour, Blair, Brown and all their fellow travelers, warmongers, apologists and tenth rate PFI profiteers and chancers.

    Why be surprised? Who can blame the Jocks for wanting shut of the whole posse of opportunist cowboys and metooists?

    And don’t think it’ll stop there. However long it takes, in coming years they’ll be swept aside elsewhere in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And they can’t say they haven’t got it coming. They’ve been warned for years what would happen if they stopped listening.

    On a broader historic political front the British establishment and its hangers on will get the same treatment too. It’s merely a matter of time. The problem is the damage the culprits will do in the meantime. Believe me, their thievery thus far is NOTHING compared to their likely reaction as a peaceful and democratic nemesis closes in.

    Mark my words.

  2. Logan Fitchie says:

    Murphy has the pith and the intellect to stand up to the SNP. They are arrogant and lead by dreamers ‘… create a fairer society ‘ they say, but are swinging so far left that not enough wealth will be created for this to happen.
    They must be brought down to earth Jim could do this and the Unions must recognize it.
    I want the SNP to get their wings clipped by a full Labour win. Even if they (SNP) lose some seats to Ruth Davidson that’s OK she is not daft for sure.

    1. JP56 says:

      I can tell you are not a Labour supporter as Labour attack SNP as being ‘Tartan Tories’ & rarely accuse SNP of being too ‘left wing’.
      What’s so wrong with trying to create a fairer society?
      Re your comments on wealth creation – this is only of use to society(i.e. the majority of people) if it is shared out fairly – I refer you to Oxfam Report on Wealth inequality – the figures on inequality are mind blowing and immoral.

      Labour will suffer for jumping into bed with the despised Tories whohave caused so much pain & suffering in Scotland over last 35 years.

  3. Tarik says:

    Can Jim Murphy save Scottish Labour?

    What I assume you mean is, ‘can an arch-Blairite, pro-war, pro-trident, pro-Israel apartheid, expenses-scandal ridden, self-interested Westminster party apparatchik save Scottish Labour?’

    The answer is No. But it’ll be great for the pro-Indy parties if he takes the helm.

    1. mike says:

      Nail hit head on.

  4. Bill Weir says:

    As a Scot and a labour voter for 40 years he doesn’t do it for me. I’m sure he will be a “strong” leader but I believe the referendum showed Scotland has no appetite for Westminster politics and wants a change in direction.

    Having a long time MP, ex cabinet minister, anti referendum campaigner who appears to have been “involved” in the expenses debacle and then appears to continued to rent out a London property whilst claiming expenses, just doesn’t fly.

    It makes Ms Lamont’s look spot on and would require masses of spin to sell to the Scottish voter. Just what we don’t want.

    For me, the party I’ve voted for all my life is making it impossible to vote for them.

  5. Lesley Hawksfield says:

    I have never voted Labour in my life but after hearing Jim Murphy speak in Edinburgh during the referendum I have to say that I would definitely consider voting for him. He showed a passion for Scotland that I found very inspiring. I feel sorry for Johann Lamont – she did her best during the campaign but she lacks charisma and in the end that has worked against her. My only caveat about charisma is that Alex Salmond has it in buckets but, as far as I am concerned, he has split Scotland in order to satisfy his own ambition.

    1. Logan Fitchie says:

      I am of exactly the same mind as you. Just because Jim Murphy is not an arch dogmatic boring socialist (dinosaur) does not mean he will not be good for Scottish Labour. His experience at Westminster sets him in good stead for gamekeeper turned poacher!
      So what if he is/was Blairite or pro proper defence of the realm. We are here now not then and we need to defeat the SNP before its too late. Murphy should be able more than match Sturgeon
      who has a pretty jaundiced view of what sensible balanced socialism should be.
      I am not a natural Labour voter but would definitely vote for Jim Murphy.

  6. DougtheDug says:

    There is no Scottish Labour party and the post Jim hasn’t applied for yet doesn’t even have branch manager status as nobody in Labour outside the MSP’s acknowledges that it has any authority over them.

    What’s the advantage to Jim’s career to give up Westminster and his carefully cultivated constituency for a minor, ignored post in the Labour party and a seat as an opposition MSP in a dead-end regional parliament?

    1. William Pollock says:

      If he is elected, what happens when he looses his Westminster seat in May 2015?
      He cannot be leader if he is not an MP, MSP,MEP.

  7. Gordon says:

    Gary. Met you last summer outside the H. of Commons and had a chat. Keep up the good work on Channel 4.
    Jim Murphy hasn’t got what it takes ; nobody can save Scottish Labour from defeat in the May election.

  8. larry Nugent says:

    What are his policies that will unite the Scottish Labour Party?. I don’t think he will bind us together.The decreasing Glasgow membership will be a wake up policy factor in who becomes Scottish leader. He will only be a salvager of a worn out wreck.

  9. Bruce Everiss says:

    The UK Labour party is a slow motion train crash. Led by a rich metropolitan elite who know nothing of the working man they have attitudes and politics that don’t and which can’t resonate with voters. They will lose out heavily to the Conservatives in the South and Midlands, to UKIP in the North and to SNP in Scotland. Even the Greens are taking votes from them.

    Unless they find a saviour the Labour party are doomed. We are headed for a new paradigm where nationally the Conservatives are the natural party of government and UKIP are the opposition.

    In Scotland SNP will be the natural party of government and the continuing Conservative resergence could create a new party of opposition.

  10. Scottish lass says:

    There is absolutely nothing likeable about this man – he comes across as Mr. Angry . He knows he won’t get voted in again as an MP and that’s why he is applying for the branch manager job. I read he voted for tuition fees yet he was happy to stay year after year at university (seven I think) at our expense and still managed to leave without a degree.

  11. James MacPhail says:

    The latest polling today in Scotland indicates that Labour would only get 4 seats at the GE against 54 for the SNP, 1 for the Libdems and none or Tories or UKIP. Does that answer your question, Gary?

  12. George says:

    During th referendum campaign I thought he was the rudest most belligerent of the voices. He seemed to me to represent something of the past and I can’t imagine he has any real future at either Holyrood or Westminster.

Comments are closed.