A strong Scotland needs a strong Jim Murphy

by David Talbot

Good riddance Johann Lamont. That, truthfully, has to be the main reaction to the announcement last week from the former Scottish Labour leader. Unheard of before the referendum and anonymous during it, the fact that Lamont only ever raised an eyebrow when she resigned says everything about a spectacularly underwhelming, and failed, political leader. It was never clear that Lamont actually deserved the leadership, but when it came to relinquishing, it was done in the bitterest of fashions. She is clearly a decent woman, tired of political abuse and ostracization, but that she ever led Scottish Labour is slightly less surprising than she ultimately did a pretty poor job of it.

Her closing remarks were deliberately incendiary and unacceptable.  To descend into the language of the SNP, of us versus them, of Scotland and London, was the admission of her own weakness as well as final parting shot across the party’s bows. It ensures that whoever takes up the poisoned chalice of Scottish Labour leader will truly start from rock bottom.

Once leading the party north of the border ensured time in executive power. Not so now. Since a narrow defeat in 2007, Scottish Labour has been reeling since annihilation in 2011. Bitter infighting, verging on mafioso intensity, insipid leadership, tepid policies, bewilderment and stupefaction at the rise of the SNP has ensured that the party is now verging on irrelevance. Shock polls indicate electoral wipeout next May at the Westminster elections.

Even without the apocalyptic polls depicted in recent days, anything other than retaining, or stemming to but a very few losses, the seats Labour held in Scotland in 2010 will halt Ed Miliband’s raise to Downing Street long before the votes are counted in any English marginal.

For the national Labour leader it will matter who leads Scottish Labour a very great deal. It is a scenario, as Andrew Rawnsley dryly noted, of delicious irony. Jim Murphy owes Ed Miliband absolutely nothing. He inferred as such when he did not bother to mention the Labour leader once in his campaign launch at the weekend. But it is to Murphy that Scottish Labour, and indeed Scotland, must now turn.

Murphy was one of very few Labour politicians who showed during the referendum campaign that he has the gravitas to take the fight to the SNP. The SNP will, much like they have always done, seek to sow division where there previously was none. They will speak in lofty tones of an independent homeland, whilst patently ignoring the homeland as now currently is. They will continue this never-ending self pitying desire to blame anyone but the SNP for their woes, whilst conducting themselves with unfailing hubris. Intimidation and now outright denial runs through their politics. But they have crushed a once proud Labour party, and dark red seats now have more than a tinge of SNP yellow. SNP hegemony beckons.

Scotland needs a strong alternative to the SNP. Scotland needs a strong Labour voice. And Scottish Labour needs a strong Jim Murphy. He is the only candidate of credible, centrist policies, rooted in the Labour movement and passionate in his nationalism, though not a nationalist. Respected if not revered he is the only candidate with a national projection that can bring the stature with which being First Minister rightly deserves. He is also a streetfighter, witnessed by his referendum tour – a trait that he will no doubt need in the months ahead. He does not epouse the ‘new politics’ so beloved of the left, but is often lazily described as a Blairite. Not being left-wing enough is not the root cause of Labour’s decline in Scotland. The unions, as ever, will act in collective lunacy  and back some unheard candidate of the hard left. Such a blatant act of self destruction will only ensure the terminal nature of Scottish Labour’s decline.

This is a serious time for Scotland, as to the Labour party who seeks to govern it. Scotland gave birth to the labour movement. A new leader will help revive it but that in itself is not the sole antidote. Tired, hackneyed arguments that Scotland is like a cold Cuba bare little reality to the electoral politics of the country today. It is a decidedly middle class nation. Labour, as the SNP, have only ever won by building a coalition of support. But whilst the SNP have been obsessed with its independent dream, Labour has been the the party that raised the living standards of many millions of Scots, often in the teeth of fierce opposition. Murphy, in the teeth of opposition from both his political rivals and his very own party, must first raise his party to fight for his country.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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12 Responses to “A strong Scotland needs a strong Jim Murphy”

  1. paul barker says:

    Have you considered that maybe Lamont was simply telling the truth & that Labour HQ did treat the Scottish Party as a “branch office”?
    The tone of your piece suggests to me that you have a problem with Women in leadership positions.

  2. Landless Peasant says:

    Jim Murphy? I seem to recall him slagging-off the Campaign for Free Education as a “bunch of Trotskys with their own agenda”, back in the 90’s when Nu Labour were introducing Student Loans. That tells me all I need to know about Jim Murphy, a Class Traitor.

  3. swatantra says:

    Jim is probably the best man to lead the Scots into Independence.

  4. Robert says:

    This article is so silly that I do not know where to start! Labour lost in 2007 and 2011 because the SNP appealed to natural Labour supporters. The Lib Dems also increased their vote in 2005 and 2010 for the same reason.

  5. If the SNP have “crushed a once proud Labour party”, then who’s fault is that then that the “once proud” Labour party vacated the centre ground of Scottish politics. Prefering to occupy the right – alongside the other pro-Union parties – of Scottish politics.

    You can trace “Scottish” Labour’s issues all the way back to Blair, his trusted “Scottish” lieutenant Jack “do less better” McConnell and the witchfinder general of selection for the initial Scottish Parliament intake in 1999 – Rosemary McKenna. No more independent minded Labour members – instead New Labour placepeople.

    The only way back for “Scottish” Labour is to attack the SNP from the left. They are vulnerable on health, the condition of the justice system and on taxation. The big problem with your thesis is a Jim Murphy shaped one – he would adopt the same policy positions as Lamont, Gray & co with the same results.


  6. Tafia says:

    An arrogant article that clearly demonstrates exactly why Scottish Labour is in meltdown – it is because of views at Westminster similar to David Talbot’s and a total refusal to accept that things have changed nd Scotland’s Labour voters do not have the same beliefs or desires as England’s. Whether Westminster Labour likes it or not, Scottish politics has changed forever. The Yes camp want independence, most of the No camp want Devo-Max by March as they perceive they were promised. Hardly anyone wants it to remain the same. The overwhelming majority of Scotland wants a minimum of virtual autonoimy and they want it now and don’t see why they should have to wait any longer. The voters of Scotland are far more politically aware than those of the rest of the UK and no longer vote on tribal habit.

    Jim Murphy is an unapologetic arch-Blairite. His views are unacceptable to the majority of Labour voters in Scotland. Even the Scottish Tories have had to move leftwards to survive and are far more centrist than their Westminster counterparts ( even left of Jim Murphy some would say).

    Scottish Labour’s membership has fallen to less than 6,000 and is still declining – more than halved since the last leadership election, is almost certainly now less than less than the Scottish Green Party, being rapidly closed on by the SSP (who are already bigger in Glasgow) and far less than one tenth of the SNPs current membership. At the same time, Labour holds around 450 elected positions on Councils, as MSPs, MPs, and MEPs. In other words, there is one member in an elected position, for less than every 12 members not in an elected position. Given that many of those will not be able to, or want to stand for an elected position – this suggests that Labour has an incredibly small talent pool to draw on and a collapsing activist base.

    Labour has lost its roots in Scotland, particularly after the poison that was the “Better Together” campaign, and can no longer support itself. Furthermore, the unions affiliated to Labour appear to be losing members in large numbers – again as a result of Labours support for Better Together – largely because the members were denied a vote as to what their union’s policy should be. Whoever takes over the leadership, has a near impossible task to revive what is clearly a dying party – and Murphy will actually accelerate that demise unless he shifts significantly to the left on a personal level. Scottish Labour no longer represents the wishes of the working class vote who regard Miliband’s version to the right of them – so Murphy better have some sort of Damascene conversion because Blairism is certainly not their cup of tea and they are not going to follow it.

    The two biggest unions in Scotland – Unite & Unison will not support him because of the damage Better Together has done to their membership levels. The party grass roots will not support him.

    The only people that want him there are the SNP who see him as a major plus.

    There is no way Murphy will milk a million pounds in expenses at Holyrood either. He will be on lower pay, and less and more transparent and rigouresly policed expenses – that’s if he can find an MSP to step aside for him – the three that were asked have all stuck two fingers up to him.

    In addition he will find that there is no compliant tame ‘nick robinson’ press in Scotland – they are aggressive all of the time and treat politicians the way they should be treated – with deep suspicion and never giving them an inch amd never allowing them to get their message across unchallenged. The biggest Labour supporting newspaper – The Record (what the Daily Mirror is called in Scotland) – doesn’t support him and neither do the rest of the press.

    Until Westminster accepts and embraces that Scottish Labour couldn’t give a toss about London Labour or London Labour’s policies then the decline will continue and deservedly so.

    People have seen through the thin veneer of modern pointless Labour. It has become a middle class party obsessed with middle class values and middle England – it has made itself pointless outside of that pond and it must be what it wants or it wouldn’t have done it.

    On the other hand, you could equally assume Murphy has been sent to Scotland to fail and be forced out of politics. He is a rallying point for Blairites and similar and as such a threat to Miliband’s crew. Scotland is now Labour’s ‘Eastern Front’ – and Murphy may have been sent there to suffer a lingering slow death in the cold and end any threat he is to Miliband. Hilariously, he is almost certainly going to lose his Westminster seat so if he can’t find someone to step aside for him at Holyrood (and the three Labour NSPs asked have all refused), then he won’t even have a Holyrood seat or a voice there until 2016 at the earliest. Like I said – the Eastern Front, sent to die in the cold fighting the barbarian hordes.

    In the words of a Scottish Labour MP a couple of days ago regarding Murphy “We’re f***ed.” (as quoted in the Herald*)

    * http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/scottish-politics/murphys-routes-for-early-move-to-holyrood-ruled-out.25756363

  7. Tafia says:

    Also causing much mirth in Scotland – Murphy was at university for 9 years and did not get a degree.

  8. swatantra says:

    The only way out for Scots Labour is to abandon the ‘Better Together’ position and steal the SNP clothes by adopting the ‘Independence Now’ slogan. Labour has failed to recognise that there has been a seismic change in National politics, and the Scots are a separate Nation. Only then can they tout, we’re more Left than the SNP and trump the SNP. When Independence comes, then the two Nations can come to an ‘agreement’ of sorts with respect to a stronger bilateral understanding, and working together for better, or for worse.

  9. Ralph Baldwin says:


    Very interesting and relevant contribution. It’s an interesting situation of self-imposed decline built upon ignorance and delusion at the heart of the dead Labour dictatorship. Of course their real failing wasn’t just to say they are supposedly one class or another to account for their own change in personal fortunes while the rest of the UK population experienced pain after 2008, it was that they have and still are creating more and more enemies for themselves. They have no grasp of what politics actually is beyond free money and job for life. On a deeper level their campaign machine is now struggling and starting to stutter; they failed utterly in creating a unifying narrative, Purnell was a joke, Cruddas gave UKIP a launching point and now their time is finally coming.

    They are angry now. because they feel their entitlement to Power is being denied to them…all those lobby MPs won’t be on as much of a take now…what a shame.

    Dan Hodges says that as a result of the conservatives being open in their approach they are making themselves more relevant to more people. Well it’s certainly the case, Blairite, Brownite, New labour or Old the ambition is for greater division, weirdness and alienation from the real world. Vain delusion of control, bullying, greed, stupidity and outright ignorance of planet earth. 🙂

  10. John PReid says:

    I agree with Tafia,
    Landless peanut a class Traitor, the other day, you called Wilson and Tony Benns communists, what class was Benn again

  11. Er….go to the bit where he mentioned that Lamont is female…told me everything I needed to know about the author…

  12. Mike Homfray says:

    Nine years and no degree!

    He is utterly unsuited to that job and will finish off Labour in Scotland if they are daft enough to elect him

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