Jim Murphy is the new leader of Scottish Labour. Photo: Getty
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Jim Murphy MP is elected Scottish Labour leader

The Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, former Scottish Secretary and former shadow cabinet member has won the Scottish Labour leadership contest.

Jim Murphy, Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, has won the Scottish Labour leadership contest. Here are the full results:

Jim Murphy: 55.59 per cent

Neil Findlay: 34.99 per cent

Sarah Boyack: 9.42 per cent

Kezia Dugdale, MSP for the Lothian Region, was voted the new deputy leader, beating Katy Clark MP by 62.9 per cent to 37.1 per cent.

Murphy described it as a "remarkable honour" and the achievement of a "dream". He said:

Today is a fulfilment of a dream for me. I’ve always dreamt of being appointed the captain of a team in the east end of Glasgow . . . Scotland is changing and so too must Scottish Labour. I’m ambitious for our party because I’m ambitious for our country . . . There can be no excuses now: we have the power, the question is do we have the purpose? . . . I understand the cries for change . . . I was born here, I live here, I will lead here. I will always put Scotland first. Nothing is beyond us if we work together. First we have to tear down those barriers that hold back so many of our fellow citizens.

He concluded his speech by saying he sees this as an opportunity to build, "the fairest nation on earth".

The candidates had been jostling to become leader of the Labour party in Scotland since Johann Lamont resigned from the post following the Scottish independence referendum, accusing Westminster colleagues of treating the party in Scotland like a "branch office".

The frontrunner Murphy, who has served as Secretary of State for Scotland, beat the left-winger, and predicted favourite among the union voters, Neil Findlay MSP and less high-profile backbencher Sarah Boyack MSP to the post. He is the only one of the three candidates not to currently hold a seat in Holyrood, and has a huge challenge ahead on a personal level, as well as politically.

As a former member of Ed Miliband's frontbench and often (rather crassly) described as a "Blairite", he will have to persuade an electorate, and a party, sick of Westminster insiders issuing instructions from on high and failing to engage with the Scottish people, that he understands their concerns. He could use his supposed "insider" status to Scottish Labour's advantage; negotiating effectively with his contacts in Westminster should avoid the "branch office" situation Lamont so lamented when she resigned.

He was popular among No voters during the Scottish referendum campaign chiefly due to the energy and commitment displayed by his "100 towns, 100 days" tour around Scotland, standing on his trusty Irn-Bru crates to convince Scots to remain in the Union. Also, his path from Westminster to Holyrood suggests that he doesn't see Scotland as a holding pen for someone wanting to advance their political career in London. He has confirmed that he will leave Westminster for Holyrood if he wins, and would do well to avoid "London elite" attacks from the SNP by ruling out standing again as an MP in 2015.

Politically, his great task is to heal the Scottish Labour party's wounds, inflicted by the rise of the SNP, and a continuing loss of support from Labour's traditional base in Scotland. Particularly worrying for Labour is the prospect of the SNP winning so many seats in the general election that it could completely scupper Labour's chances of being in power, let alone winning a majority. As our leader this week points out, in 2010 the SNP won six seats at Westminster, and now even conservative estimates predict that the figure could treble next May. A YouGov poll out this morning shows the SNP on 47 per cent, with Labour 20 points behind. 

Murphy's well-known support for Trident (a deal-breaker for the SNP if it enters into a form of alliance with Labour in Westminster), and late enthusiasm for devolving full income tax raising powers to the Scottish Parliament, could cause him some problems when he attempts to win support back from the SNP for Labour. But this is the least of his worries: the huge structural problem for Labour's support in Scotland, born of a complacency going back beyond the referendum, and SNP landslide in 2011, will be tough for just one man to fix – particularly with the general election just five months away.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser