Posts Tagged ‘Jim Murphy’

The shadow of Northern Ireland looms over the last days of the referendum campaign

09/09/2014, 07:55:52 AM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a fascinating essay in the current Demos Quarterly that looks at the various ethnicities in modern Scotland and how these cultural identities may impact on next Thursday’s vote on independence.

The study, written by Richard Webber from the Department of Geography at Kings College London and former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips, draws particular attention to the reaction of ethnically Irish Catholics in Scotland.

The authors reveal that it was much to their “surprise” that “the strongest majority support for independence was not among ‘pure’ historic Scots, but among people of Irish Catholic descent”.

Given Irish Catholic-heritage voters support Labour “more consistently than any other group in Scotland” why are many of them ignoring the party’s entreaties that we’re “Better Together” and opting for independence? As the authors point out:

“When one considers that electors from the same cultural heritage form the backbone of the Sinn Fein vote in West Belfast, this rejection of Labour’s position can be interpreted as a visceral opposition to the Union, to the Tory establishment and to Westminster. Thus ‘Yes’ voters among this group are likely to have very different motivations and to be expressing very different identities than the typical voter with an English or Welsh name; in fact they are supporting independence for the same reasons that they support Labour, a historic sense of oppression. What is significant is that the appeal of independence is driven more strongly by cultural and political considerations than socio-economic ones.”

Our middle class Westminster political and media elite, so utterly bewildered at the turn of events in recent days, simply don’t understand the power of identity and historical grievance in driving working class politics north of the border. (This is, of course, why none of them cares much about what goes on in Northern Ireland).


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We need more Jim Murphy and less Douglas Carswell

01/09/2014, 07:05:00 PM

by Jonathan Todd

On two separate occasions this year I have been surprised by intelligent Scots telling me that they are considering voting yes in the independence referendum. Why would they contemplate something that seems to me small-minded and inward-looking?

When I put this to them, they both replied with words to the effect of, “there is a better way to run Scotland.” “Can’t that be achieved within the devo-max that is inevitably coming?” “What makes it inevitable?” “Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are all committed to it.”

At this point in the conversations, one of them expressed cynicism in the capacity of these three parties to deliver. Another was more accepting that devo-max would come if Scotland remains in the UK and began to lament what would become of the rump of the UK if Scotland voted for independence.

Behind both of these responses is a belief that Scotland is a fundamentally different political universe from the rest of the UK. The first reveals a view that the leading UK parties are unable or unwilling to give Scotland the powers necessary to build the brightest possible future. The second is concerned about what will become of the presumed conservative England without the anchor of supposedly social democratic Scotland.

But at the last general election, only 3 per cent fewer people in Scotland voted Conservative than voted SNP. At the three general elections prior to this, Labour would have formed the government each time had only votes in England counted. Labour can win England. Scotland does have Tories. England and Scotland are not Mars and Venus.

Somewhat similarly, the Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly has claimed to have a lot more in common with Liverpool welders than Scottish Highlanders with agricultural backgrounds. If we accept that Scotland is not an island of social democracy in a sea of conservatism, instead sharing a spectrum of political values with the rest of the UK, and also take the leading UK political parties at their word, meaning that devo-max is a coming reality for Scotland, what remains for the yes campaign to advance their argument?


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Fear and loathing in the PLP: what really happened in Labour’s reshuffle

17/10/2013, 12:25:45 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The cracks are beginning to show. Over the weeks since Ed Miliband reshuffled the shadow cabinet, Uncut has been contacted by a range of different sources, seeking to tell their side of the story about what is going on beneath the slowly fracturing façade of PLP unity.

Piecing together the various accounts, a rather different picture emerges of the reshuffle, to the one commonly reported.

At the heart of it is a leader’s office dominated by fear.

Not fear of what the Tories are doing to the country, or for the electoral battle to come, but a fatalistic conviction that Ed Miliband will either be toppled as Labour’s leader before the next election, or so destabilised as to be incapable of fighting effectively.

This fear framed the reshuffle as Ed Miliband attempted to deal with Blairites, Ballsites, the new hero of the soft left, Andy Burnham and even the young pretender, Chuka Umunna.

The cull of the three Blairites – Jim Murphy, Liam Byrne and Steven Twigg – has been widely discussed, but what is less well known, Westminster sources suggest, is that when faced with Ed Miliband’s concerted move against them, the three discussed their options.

Collective resignation was the first impulse but two factors are said to have changed their minds: the sense that this was their party too and they could still exert some influence on policy; and that any resignation would simply have been written up as sour grapes from the snubbed.


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Naming our streets after fallen heroes is a meaningful mark of respect

21/02/2013, 11:08:28 AM

by Jim Murphy

The armed forces are based on individual acts of courage working in skilled unity for the sake of national security. Each sacrifice is an individual lost, a family mourning and a nation wounded by the personal patriotism of those that serve. It is not only right but essential that we meaningfully recognise and commemorate those who lose their lives in the line of duty. That is why today my colleague Hilary Benn and I are writing to every council leader in Britain to urge that they offer families the chance to name local streets after their fallen loved ones.

On a recent visit to Barking and Dagenham I was told of a scheme where the council offers families the opportunity to choose a street or local location to be named in memory of a loved one lost while serving. In consultation with the family and local residents the location and precise name of a road or street is decided upon.  The council also offers to organise an official opening ceremony, to which members of the community, family and friends as well as service charities could be invited.  Two locations in the Borough have been named in this way and a third family has recently also chosen to do so.

A lasting personal memorial of this kind can demonstrate the value we place on those who have been lost in the defence of our country. They will of course always be remembered by their families, but changing a community’s physical environment would be a chance for their names to live publicly and forever.  While this is a personal issue it is also right, should the families choose it, that we enable communities to show sensitive solidarity and sympathy to those who lose their lives in service.

Rather than wait until Labour is in government, we wanted to urge councils to take this step now.  The forthcoming end of combat operations in Afghanistan does not mean an end to our forces being asked to act upon the responsibilities we have beyond our borders – Libya and Mali are testament to that.  Their role will be enduring, as should our efforts to seek meaningful commemorations. Labour is out of office, but not without power, and we hope this move could spur a collective, cross-party resolve in favour of street naming.


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There is going to be a referendum in the UK, but not the one Cameron is thinking about today

15/01/2013, 03:55:07 PM

by Jim Murphy

The politics of a referendum is centre stage in parliament today. No, not as you may think. It’s not David Cameron’s continuing journey beyond Major’s euro-weakness and Mrs Thatcher’s Euroscepticism. Rather, it’s a Section 30 Order which, despite its anodyne-sounding title, will have a profound effect on our politics.

Section 30 relates to Scotland but could affect everyone in the UK. It focuses on the rules of the game for Scotland’s referendum on independence. Today the House of Commons will give a different parliament powers over the UK government regarding the 2014 vote. And because the SNP controls the Scottish parliament in a way that Cameron could only dream of in Westminster, we are transferring the powers to a political party as much as a parliament.

So what’s it all about? In short, Section 30 gives the Scottish parliament powers over how much can be spent by both sides, who gets to vote, what the question is and much more.  This is part of the compromise agreed by the government – the Scottish government accepted the vote would take place by the end of 2014 and there would be a single question in return for which the Section 30 order was granted.

This has come at a terrible time for the SNP. Labour’s new team north of the border and the Scottish public have pursued the Nats’ unanswered questions on an independent Scotland’s economy and role in the world and any other subject you care to mention. But the Nats also share the blame for their current predicament. Opposition to independence increased from 50% in January to 55% in June then 58% in the latest poll. At the moment, the nearer we get to the vote the further away the SNP look like winning it.


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The future of our reserve forces is vital for national security

09/11/2012, 07:00:17 AM

by Jim Murphy

Yesterday, the government announced a public consultation on the future of reservists.  We support an enhanced role for reserve forces as we know they can make a bigger contribution to regular forces and our country’s ability to project force around the world to achieve national ambitions.

In recent years reservists have operated in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently Libya. 29 have lost their lives. We pay tribute to their courage, which is a pertinent sentiment in this week of all weeks, remembrance week.

Labour welcomes much of the content of today’s announcement as we recognise that reservists need to modernise.  We support considering a symbolic name change from “territorial army” to “army reserve”, for example, to reflect their contemporary composition.

This government has announced extreme cuts in regular forces. 30,000 will be made redundant, with 20,000 from the Army and 5,000 from both Navy and RAF. Reserve numbers will be doubled to compensate. Reserve numbers, however, are going up by 15,000, a figure far smaller than those being lost so there is a capability shortfall in manpower the government have yet to adequately explain.

Furthermore, we have already heard from the consultation’s co-author, Julian Brazier MP, that there is a backlog of applicants who cannot sign up because the bureaucracy in place is inadequate.

In light of this, does it really make sense to cut in regulars regardless of whether the target for reserves is met or not?  Given that it is this government’s policy to rely on reservists to meet their defence ambitions, wouldn’t it make more sense to make the cut in regulars contingent upon growth in reserves’ capability?


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Why Britain needs a new defence strategy

22/02/2012, 02:13:20 PM

by Jim Murphy

The driving focus of the shadow defence team is to develop a defence policy fit for modern times, responsive to a dramatically changing world which enables us to maintain a position of global influence.

That is why today we have published a consultation paper, ‘21st Century Defence’, to launch the shadow defence review.

Defence is important to Labour for two reasons. First, defence must be the first duty of any government and therefore also the first duty of any party aspiring to govern. Our credibility as an alternative government relies on our credibility on defence.

Second, the Arab spring is the tip of the iceberg of the change we are likely to experience over the next decade.  New and emerging threats, from cyber to bioterrorism, demand new policy responses.  Constrained fiscal circumstances due to the downturn limit expenditure and potentially our global reach.

Global trends – from climate change to new economies – are creating new threats and recasting the global power balance.  These trends come amidst the immediate pressures and priorities of stabilisation in Afghanistan, countering extremism, preventing proliferations and confronting the fresh turmoil in the Middle East. There is massive potential for disruption.

In that context Britain needs a defence policy which can keep up. It must be flexible and agile, with new and wide-ranging capabilities. It must prioritise coalition-building, be attuned to the threats and trends of the future and co-ordinate defence with development and diplomacy.

The government’s rushed review fell short. It did not match ends with means, precipitated a strategic shrinkage by stealth and left us with dangerous capability gaps.  Libyan operations succeeded in spite of the defence review.  Tough decisions must be made – we have been clear about that – but we disagree with some of the decisions and the manner in which they were taken. There is more than one way to spend an annual defence budget of almost £35bn. Labour is committed to being fiscally responsible and true to our own progressive principles.

We need a new defence strategy consistent with financial circumstances but also with strategic context.  Lasting more than a year, this consultation is open to all military, industrial and academic figures, all parties and the general public.


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Major was fearful, Cameron is hubristic – the result is the same

24/10/2011, 01:09:05 PM

by Jim Murphy MP

People watching political events unfold over the last few weeks will have felt a sense of familiarity. A minister resigns amidst scandal. Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers threaten mass revolt. Inflation and unemployment are steadily high while the government looks on. A party of government turns inwards when the country seeks leadership. A prime minister appears at the mercy of events rather than in charge of them.  This is the Conservative government in the early 1990s, but now David Cameron has taken the role of John Major. And just to complete the set the Stone Roses have announced they are reforming.

We all remember the sleaze scandals of the 1990s. A minister resigned after lobbying on behalf of a businessman.  Two PPSs and two ministers resigned following ‘cash for questions’.  Current minister Alan Duncan resigned after making £50,000 from a deal on a council house. Jonathan Aitken was accused of secretly doing deals with Saudi princes and then sent to jail for perjury. And we do not need reminding of ‘toe job to no job’.

The Fox resignation was a different type of crisis.  Liam Fox was found to have broken the ministerial code on multiple counts. His unofficial adviser was used to orchestrate a shadow political operation which undermined the civil service. He appears to have solicited undeclared donations.  His and Mr Werritty’s funders have well established links to the Conservative party.

The nature of the wrongdoing has been clear for some time, but the full extent has yet to be revealed by a prime Minister who has refused to take responsibility for a crisis that happened on his watch inside the most sensitive of government departments. David Cameron will still not answer our questions.

In a similar way as John Major’s “back to basics” speech jarred with the actions of his ministers and MPs, so David Cameron’s words in the ministerial code “We must be…transparent about what we do and how we do it…above improper influence” jar with his actions during the Liam Fox scandal.

David Cameron may not have labelled some in his party as ‘bastards’ over Europe, but few would bet against him sharing that sentiment at the moment. Just as with John Major, at a vital moment for the future of the EU and therefore Britain a Tory government is debating internal party politics.  Rather than engaging seriously with the Treaty which led the EU to come into existence John Major was desperately scrabbling for votes in the House of Commons.  Rather than concentrating on the growing crisis gripping the European economy David Cameron is having showdown meetings with his MPs. (more…)

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Sunday News Review

11/09/2011, 06:33:19 AM

10 years on

On this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of ­September 11, 2001, we remember that 9/11 was not only an attack on the United States, it was an attack on the world and on the humanity and hopes that we share. We remember that among the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost that day were hundreds of citizens from more than 90 nations, including 67 from the United Kingdom. They were men and women, young and old, of many races and faiths. On this solemn anniversary we join with their families and nations in honouring their memory. We remember with gratitude how 10 years ago the world came together as one. Around the UK, entire cities came to a standstill for moments of silence. People offered their prayers in churches, mosques, ­synagogues and other places of worship. And we in the United States will never forget how the people of Britain stood with us in ­solidarity in candlelight vigils and among the seas of flowers placed at our embassy in London. We are touched that the UK will honour the victims again today – including by breaking with protocol and flying the Union Flag at half-mast at its ­embassy and consulates in the United States. – Barack Obama, the Mirror

Manhattan is always a hectic place. It is frequently gridlocked and its citizens are used to hustling their way through crowded streets and subways. But on Saturday it was different. As New York prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a new terror alert provided a grim reminder that a decade of war and struggle has not removed the threat. The visible evidence was all over New York. In the wake of an unconfirmed but scarily specific threat that three terrorists, likely to be aiming to use a car or truck bomb, had entered the country to attack the Big Apple, the city went into a kind of security lockdown. Yet, through it all, New Yorkers were urged to keep calm and carry on. “If you do lock yourself in your house because you’re scared, they’re winning,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. Most people seemed to agree. Even with a wary eye on the security efforts, people seemed to feel it was still business as usual. “They look like they know what they are doing. I’m going to keep acting normal,” said Izzie Garcia as she arrived in Manhattan’s Union Square for an early start to a morning of shopping in her favourite stores. Bloomberg was also leading by example. It was he who had appeared on the nation’s TV screens to give the first official public details of the new terror threat. At a press conference in New York he had warned of the dangers and had urged New Yorkers to keep taking the subway. – the Observer

In America they speak of the “lost decade”. The moment it began is obvious: the morning of 11 September 2001, when the world’s lone superpower fell victim to the most devastating terrorist attack of modern times. Its end, however, is harder to date. One answer is 1 May this year, when a team of Navy Seals tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden at his hideaway in Pakistan. A circle was complete; after almost 10 years of frustration, false leads and continuous war, the master planner of 9/11 had finally paid for his crime. But look at it another way and the answer is not so obvious. In these 10 years America has lost much, in terms of lives, treasure and reputation. Most of all, perhaps, it has lost its illusions. One, that its home territory was invulnerable, beyond the reach of hostile foreigners, vanished on that terrible Tuesday morning. But a decade on, another no less cherished illusion has disappeared as well: the certainty that whatever happened in the world beyond, America was a place of infinite opportunity and ever-growing prosperity. – the Independent

New Scottish Labour

The Scottish Labour Party has put in place the first building block for its fightback in Scotland. It decided that Iain Gray’s successor as leader will not, as now, just be leader of Labour’s MSPs but leader of the whole party in Scotland. The review group recognised that for an individual to have the authority to lead Labour in Scotland all sections of the party must be involved in his/her selection and know their views will count. So the base from which a future leader can be drawn has been expanded. No longer will a candidate have to be an MSP, instead any Labour parliamentarian will be free to stand – MPs, MSPs and MEPs. However, it will be clear that whoever becomes leader will be Labour’s candidate for First Minister of Scotland. Expanding the gene pool from which a future leader is drawn is a first but insufficient step. The basic building block of Labour Party organisation has always been its Constituency Parties (CLPs). These are based on Westminster boundaries. The consequence has been that gearing up to fight a general election has been much easier than preparing to fight a Scottish Parliament election. Often MSPs or candidates have had to deal with two, three or even four CLPs, wasting time, effort and money on internal organisation when their time would have been more productively spent linking into their local communities. The new organisational base for Labour in Scotland will be based on Scottish Parliamentary boundaries reflecting our determination to have an organisation fit for purpose to fight the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016. – Scotland on Sunday

Proposals by MP Jim Murphy will go before their ruling executive committee today which could “transform” the party. The blueprint is the result of a four-month review led by Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack following Labour’s crushing defeat in the Holyrood election. Insiders who have seen secret presentations by the pair say the plans amount to Labour’s biggest shake-up since 1918. But some changes could prove so controversial with sections of of the party that there are no guarantees the committee of MPs, MSPs, union leaders, local party bosses and others will give their approval when they meet in Glasgow today. Under the radical plans, Scottish Labour would: Loosen ties with the UK party, Appoint a Scottish leader – who might not be an MSP – with unprecedented powers to shape policy and plan strategy north of the Border, Kick out long-serving MPs and MSPs and train a new generation of “top notch” candidates, Reconnect with the business world and Haul themselves into the 21st century by using social media for campaigning. – Daily Record

Don’t cut the 50p rate

One of the biggest names in British business has told the government not to scrap the new 50p rate of income tax. The former head of Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose has not only said he opposes the move but is happy to pay more tax to help the country out of its current financial difficulties. Rose is the biggest name so far to oppose the move which has been backed by a group of 20 economists on Wednesday, who feel the levy is hurting the UK’s competitiveness. Rose told BBC Radio 4’s Hard Talk yesterday: ‘I don’t think that they should reduce the income tax rate. How would I explain to my secretary that I am getting less tax on my income, which is palpably bigger than hers, when hers is now going down?’ Rose’s comments are in stark contrast to former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson who urged George Osborne to axe the 50p top rate of income tax, warning it is ‘dangerous’ and ‘foolish’ to leave it in place. – Daily Mail

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Shadow cabinet league: End of season awards special

29/07/2011, 07:00:58 AM

by Atul Hatwal

School’s out for summer and after a roller-coaster July its time to look back on performances over the past parliamentary year.

And as is traditional at the end of the season it’s time for some prizes.

Uncut is proud to be awarding prizes in four categories – 2010/11 league champion, top media performer, top House performer and most improved all round performer.

In keeping with Uncut’s Corinthian traditions, it’s not the monetary value of the prize that counts, but the popular recognition.

Handy, since this being a blog, these are virtual prizes and not worth a penny.


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