Monday, October 27, 2014

Labour leader Jim Murphy is looking increasingly like the frontrunner to take over as Labour leader in Scotland, if he does he faces real problems such as recruiting new talent, getting new policies, instilling a new work ethic, a new campaigning model and have a cull

Dear All

Labour MP Jim Murphy had an excellent Scottish independence campaign with his 100 days tour. I attended his Glasgow event in the city centre in Glasgow; he is a good speaker and comes across well. I also met him at one of the BBC indy debates where we spoke afterwards about the show and how it had gone.

Now that Johann Lamont has stepped down as Labour leader, the pressure is mounting on Jim Murphy to declare his candidacy.

Would Jim Murphy be a good choice, I would think so, he is a big hitter from Westminster and the field seems strangely sparse.

Already Labour MSPs Kezia Dugdale and Jenny Marra along with Anas Sarwar have ruled themselves out.

One name in the MSP ranks does stick out as a contender in my mind but no one it seems is talking about him that is Ken Macintosh, he would obviously need some work but the field is pretty limited. Macintosh's difficultly is that he didn't have a great referendum campaign in the way that others such as Murphy and Brown did. One Sunday during the campaign while I was in B&Q in Darnley, I saw Ken Macintosh in there with his family doing some shopping, surprised me as I thought he would be out campaigning on the weekend.

Whoever gets elected has to come up with some seriously impressive Scottish policies to ensure the Westminster 2015 returns a majority of Labour MPs to the House of Commons, it isn’t an X Factor contest.

It isn’t about how ‘popular’ someone is seen in the Labour ranks; it is as it always has been but trust.

When Lamont stepped down from the Scottish Labour leadership, she received a fierce backlash following her attack on the party and its MPs. What Lamont did point out correctly is that Scotland has changed since the Scottish referendum.

There is no going back!

On her way out the door Lamont branded her Westminster colleagues "dinosaurs" and accused party HQ of treating Scottish Labour "like a branch office".

A colleague of East Renfrewshire MP Mr Murphy said:

"Jim has to do it. The party is in a hole and needs someone of his stature and skill to get us out of it."

Another person said:

"MSPs need to accept that Jim is going to be our next leader and that they should agree among themselves a candidate or two for who will be his deputy."

Although technically the leader could be an MP, it really needs someone to be in Holyrood that is where the real fighting politically takes place in Scotland.
Jim Murphy would have to get an MSP slot, but he might not want that given he is certain to get ministerial office if Labour wins the 2015 election.

If he did stand he would get support simply on the basis of his name. 

Malcolm Chisholm MSP warned:

"If we have an MP as leader we will turn a crisis into a catastrophe."

I would have to agree with that statement, whoever is leader has to do First Minster’s Questions and to attend that you need to be an MSP.

Chisholm also rightly said that the party should first clarify the role of Scottish leader.

Another contender who is also a big hitter is the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Gordon Brown, he had an excellent referendum campaign much like Jim Murphy but he says he has no desire to return to front line politics.

As well as the leadership contest, there is a group called Labour for Scotland, they want the party to consider changing its name to the Independent Labour Party.

Jon Findlay, the co-organiser of Labour for Scotland says the Scottish party has to set its own priorities "without Westminster interference".

I would agree with some of that, there has to be a fit between Westminster and Holyrood.

He added:

"The leader must come from the Scottish Parliament and it should be someone from a new generation."

The only problem with that is the ‘new generation’ isn’t up to the task, small point obviously worth mentioning.

Whoever becomes leader has to rebuild the party and that means going on a cull much like Labour did in Glasgow prior to the 2012 council election.

That cull has to be savage.

Given the brand of Scottish Labour is so strong and already established this isn’t a good idea, changing the name without changing the policies, people or fixing the democratic deficit in Labour is meaningless. Labour’s internal crisis is serious but it pales when you look at the external crisis they are facing with the voters.

Whoever becomes leader needs to do a review that review will have to run while preparing for the Westminster election.

One senior source apparently outraged by Johann Lamont's "undignified" departure said:

"She has shafted people. She has told her supporters 'f*** you'. It's totally unacceptable. If she is trying to turn Labour seats into Nat seats, she is doing a good job."

In some respects Lamont did Labour a favour, it is rather like someone saying ‘watch out that big truck is going to run over you’. They get ignored the person gets hit and then complains it is the fault of the person who shouted out the warning.

Scottish Labour has internal and external serious problems.

Some senior figures, including it is said Ed Miliband believe the injection of passion and drive exhibited by Gordon Brown could reinvigorate Scottish Labour in the face of the Nationalist threat and help the UK party win the 2015 General Election.

I would say, did the balloon and big smile work for Alex Salmond and unpopular Nicola Sturgeon?


What is needed by the Labour Party is new talent, new policies, a new work ethic, new campaigning model and a cull.

And time is getting short!

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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