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On the resignation of Jim Murphy

revscotlogoThe following statement was published yesterday on Revitalise Scottish Labour, the website associated with the trade union left in Scotland and Scottish Labour activists involved in the Campaign for Socialism

Today’s Scottish Executive (SEC) was, to put it mildly, something out of the ordinary.

The meeting was presented with a report on the general election that focused on the organisational aspects of the campaign. However, it swiftly moved on to concerns about the political message and of course the leadership, when a motion of no confidence in Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour Leader was proposed and seconded by representatives from the trade union and constituency party sections.

It was an honest, comradely and even good humoured debate, however difficult the analysis might have been. The SEC fell into two broad camps. Those opposing the motion argued that we don’t need another leadership election. Those in favour argued that the party couldn’t move forward with Jim as leader.

It is an endearing feature of the Labour Party that it is reluctant to tell leaders when their time is up. The Tories would have sent in the ‘men in grey kilts’ on Friday morning after the election result. As socialists there is always a willingness to be positive and find a reason for not doing the difficult deed.

Not of course that the Party should have to spell out the obvious to its leader. It is implicit in the arrangements for Scottish Labour Leader that they have to be a parliamentarian. The rules are not explicit because that is obvious and set out clearly in the report recommending the new structure, that Jim Murphy himself co-authored. The Leader of any political party that presides over such a massive defeat resigns. Particularly when the electorate rejected them personally by overturning a big majority.

The SEC accepted many of the positives of the organisation of the campaign. However, it is simply undeniable that the political message was incoherent and the main messenger was not viewed as credible.

The vote came down 14 for and 17 against. However, the 17 included the Chair, Jim and an unelected member of the House of Lords who appeared as a ‘representative’ of the Westminster Parliamentary Labour Party. It appears not even elected by her peers, but appointed by the acting UK party leader. Whoever dreamt up that stunt was showing minuscule political judgement.

So, far from the ‘small minority’ in Jim’s ungracious resignation press conference after the SEC, the motion was supported by a cross section of the party. Those MSP’s who had the courage to step forward and write to the SEC were given more weight than MPs who had lost their seats.

Of course Scottish Labour’s problems are not all down to Jim Murphy. But he didn’t just appear six months ago. He embodies many of the reasons the voters rejected Labour in this election and therefore was just not credible as the messenger that the party has changed. If Scottish Labour is to move forward it has to have a leader that doesn’t carry such weighty baggage.

The Party now has to move on quickly. Get a new leader in place and address the many challenges it faces. Scotland needs a strong Scottish Labour Party to stand up for working people.


  1. John P Reid says:

    Men in grey kilts, Kinnock didn’t resign Wilson didn’t resign in 1970 Gaitskell didn’t resign in 59, Attlee didn’t resign 3 times

    1. Matty says:

      Ed M resigned and Kinnock did in 92 even though Labour gained seats then. In Scotland, Labour was smashed. To win Scotland back, the SNP will have to screw up and Labour will have to change course. How, the hell did we allow the old “Tartan Tories” to outflank us on the left? Another part of the poisonous legacy left to us by Blair.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Kinnock had already lost once, normally leaders resign after losing twice, labour didn’t gain this time,a total amount of seats on 2010

  2. history may be what you read it to be, but the 1970 and Attlee examples are of Prime Ministers who had won general elections.

    Wilson won in 1964 and increased the majority in 1966 and Attlee had no chance in 1935, everyone knew he had been given a poisoned chalice after 1931. He won in 1945 and 1950, so 1951 is not relevant.

    It is however relevant that the only time Labuor has ever sacked a leader was in 1935 when Lansbury was kicked out as a pacifist could not lead the labour party with fascism on the rise.

    That was the correct decision. Since then the Labour Party has never sacked a sitting leader, they have always been allowed to resign. Even Murphy seems to have won the vote then resigned, claiming that unite was plotting against him. Helps the Tories that last parting gesture

    trevor fisher.

  3. Robert says:

    It’s factions, Murphy was well beaten his Progress mates are unhappy so blame Unite.

    Progress have just lost some high profile peoples and it’s hurting so it’s now easy to say it’s the trade union and not Scottish voters.

    Scotland has to rebuild it’s labour roots and going to the right will not work, going to the left will depend on the leader because the SNP have taken over the title of socialist.

    Now Scotland should pick it’s own leaders not Progress or whom ever is leader of labour will be in England.

    It will be interesting to see if labour can win in Scotland next year same in Wales.

  4. Kevin Mullins says:

    Taking a swipe at Unite will not be forgotten by the members. We are supposed to be rebuilding support and the workplace is one of the main areas to concentrate on. If you want the tree to flourish you cut out the dead wood not hack away at the roots.

  5. James Martin says:

    The problem is that blaming Murphy for the defeat and therefore calling for his resignation is easy but does not focus on the real problems (and in fact may serve to mask them). We should remember that great socialists with very strong union links and a history of campaigning struggle also lost heavily to more right-wing SNP candidates with none of those things (Katy Clark for example). We cannot simply say what happened to Katy and others like her was simply all the fault of Jim Murphy, either in the short period he was leader before the election, or before that.

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