Jim Murphy is the new leader of Scottish Labour. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496