What exactly is Jim Murphy’s case for staying on leader of Scottish Labour?

4:22 pm - May 11th 2015

by Sunny Hundal    

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Despite losing his seat in Westminster, Jim Murphy is trying to hang on as leader of Scottish Labour. I find this astonishing.

Late last year, when he became leader, he said they could hang on to most seats in Scotland.

He said he was “astonished” at how “easy it’s been to outwit the SNP“. Yup, the SNP look totally outwitted.

Since he became leader of Scottish Labour, the SNP increased their leader over Labour until the elections.

Plus, his own ratings took a sharp dive after being elected. At the end of January 33% of Scots said he was doing well, with 43% saying he was doing badly. By March, just 26% said he was doing well, 51% said he was doing badly.

Worse, Murphy couldn’t even convince Labour voters. Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating amongst Labour voters was just -4. Jim Murphy’s net approval rating amongst SNP supporters was -54.

If Murphy can’t convince tempt back SNP voters, he has no chance of rejuvenating Scottish Labour. And in the last 6 months he has been leader, he made a bad situation worse.

His entire campaign utterly failed. As Adam Bienkov earlier pointed out:

The campaign run by Murphy has been complacent, uninspiring and counter-productive. Murphy’s central message – that a vote for the SNP is a vote for the Conservatives – is purely negative and gives voters zero reasons to actively back the Labour party. This strategy may have once seemed like Labour’s best chance of hanging on in Scotland, but the unavoidable fact is that it has not worked. Yet even today Murphy is still sticking to his script, telling reporters that the poll results are “good for the SNP and great for David Cameron.”

With Cameron victorious, Scottish voters are now more likely to think that only the SNP can stand up for them, especially since Labour in Westminster is talking about ‘moving to the centre ground‘.

So what is Jim Murphy’s case for staying on leader of Scottish Labour, since he has utterly failed over the last 6 months?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

He does not have a job and needs the money normally works.

I expect like Farage labour in Scotland will ask him to stay on since he is both right leaning and left all rolled into one.

2. Sam Kington

Except that the post of Labour leader doesn’t pay.

3. Thomas Valentine

During the entire period of Labour’s rise in Scotland during the Thatcher years they actively talked down action. They never took any course that would hinder the UK government’s negative effect on Scotland and never made any comment on what use was being made of revenues from Scottish territory.
Labour in Scotland has been a void. The plan for a Scottish parliament was pushed on an unwilling labour Party not granted. They made many attempts to weaken and diminish its power and reach. That was the most active I ever saw Labour politicians. You know on the 5th floor of Meridian Court in Glasgow Cadogan Street. Where Dewar had an office in the south-east corner and a new desk that cost more than £12k. The offices had just been renovated for the purpose of writing the Bill by Chesterton Surveyors. All glass cubicles as I remember.
The conversations I heard there and the deep contempt expressed by Labour MP’s for the people who voted for them, told me then that Labour is rotten at the core.
So it doesn’t matter who is the local convener because the party is a sea shell worn by a hermit crab or a mask by a fraud like Davidson or Murphy.

4. douglas clark

Well, at least he’s not an MP anymore. Given the somewhat sizeable expenses he routinely claimed perhaps there should be an increase in the Barnett consequentials for us saving the Exchequer all that money 🙂

5. Keir Husband

From the referendum campaign on, Scottish Labour have made the mistake of attacking Yes supporters as being thugs, fascists etc and the attacks carried on throughout. The idiocy of this was that many people voting Yes did so with some balance, but also many voted No, only on balance.
Many of those No supporters will have family who voted Yes, who joined the SNP after the referendum. To continually label those people as beyond the pale was to push them away rather than attempt to persuade them back. Throughout the campaign, Scottish Labour obsessed with providing negative messaging about the SNP – though the polls continued to move towards Sturgeon, the offensive (word chosen carefully) carried on with no sign of deviation. It was inept and self-defeating and the damage it has caused will take some time to repair.

Of course Scottish Labour were hardly helped by the constant bad-mouthing of Scotland (not just the SNP) in England, but blindly Labour nationally kept feeding the Tories’ secret weapon by monstering the SNP themselves. What was presumably designed to placate the English voter, did precisely the opposite (they did not believe the line anyway) and simultaneously pushed angry SCots further towards the party offering Scotland ‘a voice’.

TO move forward Scottish Labour needs to take a few steps.
1. Bscome a completely separate party to that in England and Wales. Able to tailor its policies to speak to Scots and move beyond the ‘Branch Office’ tag.
2. Stop attacking the SNP just for believing in independence. Accept that belief in independence is acceptable. You do not have to agree with it, just accept that it is as honorable to believe in it as it is to feel Scotland is better off in the Union (having done that, it is much more potent to attack the numpties that call Union supporters quislings etc.)
3. Be positive. Stop being negative. Go into Holyrood elections with a positive, progressive message. Don’t whine on and on about a referendum. Make the election about a vision for Scotland’s future.
4. Actually have a positive vision for Scotland and make it a bloody good one.

I gather the SNP got ~ 45% of the vote at the last Scottish elections. Independence got 45% of the vote at the referendum. Why is everyone shocked that they got just over 45% at the general election? Surely this was to be expected. Why would a supporter of independence not vote for the SNP?

All that has happened is that nationalist Scots have started voting for the SNP in Westminster elections, as well as Scottish ones. And since the unionist vote is split amongst three parties, the nationalists naturally sweep every seat.

As Thomas says in his quote

During the entire period of Labour’s rise in Scotland during the Thatcher years they actively talked down action. They never took any course that would hinder the UK government’s negative effect on Scotland and never made any comment on what use was being made of revenues from Scottish territory.

I don’t know about Scotland, but if the behaviour of Labour councils in England is anything to go by, then they would have done their damnedest to make their constituents suffer in the perverse belief that everything is about maintaining a hatred of “The Tories”. Well, now maybe they’ll learn that a party can’t just define itself by who it’s against, but that it needs to define itself by what it’s for, and this means trying to help your constituents rather than amplifying the effects of Conservative policy in the hope of winning the hate-vote.

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