Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy speaks in Glasgow after his election on 13 December, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Jim Murphy unveils plan to rewrite Scottish Labour's Clause IV

New leader emulates Tony Blair by announcing five new principles for the party's constitution, including commitment to patriotism. 

Twenty years ago, Tony Blair stunned the political world by declaring his intention to rewrite Labour's hallowed Clause IV and end the party's formal commitment to mass nationalisation. The move, endorsed at a special conference in 1995, was a defining point in the birth of New Labour. Ever since, leaders of all parties have been challenged to display similar daring and achieve their own "Clause IV moment".

Today, following his election as Scottish Labour leader last Saturday, Jim Murphy will seek to do quite literally that by vowing to rewrite Clause IV of his party's constitution. Mindful of Scottish Labour's tarnished reputation, which allowed the SNP to win majority control at Holyrood (and to surge in the polls), the former cabinet minister is attempting to redefine his party's purpose for the post-referendum era. He will say in a speech in Glasgow:

Once Labour’s challenge was that too many people felt they could not be Labour and make an aspirational choice.  Today Scottish Labour’s challenge is that some people feel they can’t be Labour and make a patriotic choice. The change we need goes deeper than the leadership style of a new team. If this is to be a genuinely fresh start for our party we need to make more fundamental change.
 
That is why I can announce that I will ask Scottish Labour’s Conference in March to agree a new 'Clause IV' for our Scottish constitution. A new statement of purpose for a new generation in the Scottish Labour Party. It's the biggest change in Scottish Labour's history. This is a 'Clause IV' moment for a different time and a different purpose. Tony Blair rewrote Clause Four of UK Labour to bring us closer to the centre of politics. I want to rewrite 'Clause IV' of Scottish Labour to bring us closer to the centre of Scottish life.
Murphy will go on to outline five principles for the new Clause IV. They are:
 
1. Making it clear that Scottish Labour is a "patriotic party"
 
Murphy will say: "One: we will make it clear that we are both a democratic socialist party and a patriotic party. We are a socialist party yes, but we recognise that our political faith grew out of something deeper which is ingrained in our Scottish character. It was there before our party in the ethics of Burns' poetry, the economic vision of New Lanark, the actions of the Highlanders who took on brutal landlords. A belief that we stand together, look after those who need our help, and make sure that everyone gets a fair shout." 
 
2. Declaring Scottish Labour a party that "represents Scotland first"
 
"Two: while we do not give up on our belief in active solidarity with people across the United Kingdom and around the world, we will make it clear that this is complementary to, and not in conflict with, the national interest of Scotland. 
 
"We will declare ourselves a party that represents Scotland first, and where, as Scots, we work with others to achieve the potential of all."
 
3. Committing to "total devolution" of policy making in devolved areas
 
"Three: we will set in stone the total devolution of policy making in devolved areas. Policy will be made in Scotland, for Scotland, by our Scottish Party, putting the needs of Scotland first."
 
4. Committing to a "permanent and powerful" Scottish Parliament
 
"Four: we will make the same commitment in our own party constitution, as the Smith Agreement did in the UK Constitution, to a permanent and powerful Scottish Parliament."
 
5. Renewing Labour's mission for "a more equal and fairer society"
 
"And Five: we will renew our historic mission for a more equal and fairer society where power, wealth and opportunity are more fairly shared by our fellow Scots and our fellow human beings around the world.
 
"This will represent the refounding and rebirth of our Scottish Labour Party.  
 
"A clear statement of our party’s beliefs. A changing Scottish Labour Party for a changing Scotland."
 
These principles are designed to draw a distinction between patriotism and nationalism (number one), to answer former leader Johann Lamont's charge that Scottish Labour was merely a "branch office" of Westminster (number two and number three), to enshrine the party's commitment to further devolution, including the full transfer of income tax (number four), and to reaffirm its egalitarian values. 
 
With the SNP 20 points ahead of Labour in Westminster voting intention, a lead that would cost Labour 34 of its 40 seats, the scale of the task facing Murphy is daunting. But with the promise of a new Clause IV, he has shown the kind of imagination and creativity that will be required in the months ahead. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.