Jim Murphy with his cherished crates. Photo: Getty
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Labour MP Jim Murphy joins the contest for the Scottish Labour leadership

The MP and shadow international development secretary has confirmed he will stand for the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland.

Jim Murphy, the MP for East Renfrewshire and Labour's darling during the campaign against Scottish independence, has told BBC Scotland that he intends to stand in Scottish Labour's leadership contest. He will announce this intention formally today.

Murphy is by no means an unexpected contender. When the former leader of Scottish Labour, Johann Lamont, stood down last weekend, George reported that Murphy was one of her most likely successors. Murphy was expected to be in the running because he impressed his party's leadership and the Better Together campaign alike when he went around Scotland speaking in favour of remaining in the Union, swapping the traditional soap box for a crate of Irn Bru. His tour was called "100 Towns in 100 Days".

He described life on the road in a diary for the New Statesman. Here's an extract:

In Bathgate, a man came out of a Poundland and placed a six-pack of toilet rolls on my crates, with a put-down of: “Big Man, yu’ve been talking shite for an hour, so here – that’s to clean yer mooth oot!” I’ve been barked at by a dog with the word “Freedom” scribbled on it in Biro and heckled by a horse wearing a Yes Scotland blanket. My favourite so far was a man claiming to be “the Oban Seagull Whisperer”. He turned up in the West Highland capital with the sole aim of persuading said seagulls to disrupt our session with the call of nature. I think the bag of chips in his hand was a bigger calling signal than any of his silent sounds.

Murphy is also thought of as the heavyweight contender because he has held a number of frontbench positions in Westminster, including Secretary of State for Scotland under Gordon Brown.

Murphy told the Daily Record in an interview about his decision to stand:

I think it is time for a fresh start for the Scottish Labour party I am proud of the Labour party and I am proud of Scotland – but I am not satisfied.

I want to strike a tone that stops the Scottish Labour party from committing self-harm. I want to unite the Labour party, but more importantly, I want to bring the country back together after the referendum. I am not going to shout at or about the SNP. I am going to talk to and listen to Scotland and I am very clear that the job I am applying for is to be the first minister of Scotland.

He joins the left-wing MSP and Holyrood health spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP, and the Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack, in the contest to succeed Lamont. The Scotsman reports that he will wait until the 2016 Scottish election before standing as an MSP.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Leader: The divisions within Labour

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change.

Labour is a party torn between its parliamentary and activist wings. Since Jeremy Corbyn, who this week appealed desperately for unity, was re-elected by a landslide last September, Labour has become the first opposition in 35 years to lose a ­by-election to the governing party and has continually trailed the Conservatives by a double-digit margin. Yet polling suggests that, were Mr Corbyn’s leadership challenged again, he would win by a comfortable margin. Meanwhile, many of the party’s most gifted and experienced MPs refuse to serve on the front bench. In 2015 Mr Corbyn made the leadership ballot only with the aid of political opponents such as Margaret Beckett and Frank Field. Of the 36 MPs who nominated him, just 15 went on to vote for him.

Having hugely underestimated the strength of the Labour left once, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will not do so again. In the contest that will follow Mr Corbyn’s eventual departure, the centrists could lock out potential successors such as the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Under Labour’s current rules, candidates require support from at least 15 per cent of the party’s MPs and MEPs.

This conundrum explains the attempt by Mr Corbyn’s supporters to reduce the threshold to 5 per cent. The “McDonnell amendment” (named after the shadow chancellor, who failed to make the ballot in 2007 and 2010) is being championed by the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Jon Lansman of Momentum, who is interviewed by Tanya Gold on page 34. “For 20 years the left was denied a voice,” he tweeted to the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, on 19 March. “We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, and we need our mass membership to win again.”

The passage of the amendment at this year’s Labour conference would aid Mr Lansman’s decades-long quest to bring the party under the full control of activists. MPs have already lost the third of the vote they held under the electoral college system. They face losing what little influence they retain.

No Labour leader has received less support from his MPs than Mr Corbyn. However, the amendment would enable the election of an even more unpopular figure. For this reason, it should be resolutely opposed. One should respect the motivation of the members and activists, yet Labour must remain a party capable of appealing to a majority of people, a party that is capable of winning elections.

Since it was founded, Labour has been an explicitly parliamentary party. As Clause One of its constitution states: “[The party’s] purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.” The absurdity of a leader opposed by as much as 95 per cent of his own MPs is incompatible with this mission. Those who do not enjoy the backing of their parliamentary colleagues will struggle to persuade the voters that they deserve their support.

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change. Rather than formalising this split, the party needs to overcome it – or prepare for one of the greatest defeats in its history.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution