Just a day into his leadership of the Scottish Labour party, Jim Murphy began rather zealously distancing himself from Westminster.
On BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics on Sunday (listen from 50.52), he objected heartily to the idea of being issued instructions by the national party’s leadership. But this wasn’t just paying lip service to listening to the people of Scotland; he emphasised that he would not need direction from Westminster, nor from Ed Miliband specifically.
My colleague Caroline Crampton, who was a guest on the programme, asked him how he would avoid the situation that his predecessor, Johann Lamont, described of Scottish Labour being treated as a “branch office” of the Westminster party.
I didn’t agree with the comment about the branch office, and I’m going to make clear how that’s going to change . . . I’m not sure I need the support of Westminster. The decisions about Scotland were made in Scotland. I’m big enough, and despite being on the wireless, your listeners might know I’m ugly enough, and I’ve been around long enough not to be pushed around.
When pushed on whether he would be consulting Ed Miliband, Murphy was adamant:
I don’t need to consult the leader.
The days in which anyone needed permission, from the Labour party, or anyone else in the United Kingdom, to make a decision about what happens in Scotland are gone, they’re gone for good, and they’re not coming back. I need no one’s permission. I need consult no one on the issues that are devolved in Scotland, other than the people of Scotland and the Scottish Labour Party. That’s the way it’s going to be in future.
It’s worth watching whether this will be Murphy’s line from now on, and whether he actually manages to break Scottish Labour so comprehensively from the centre. It is a savvy strategy on his part; distancing himself and his party from Westminster can only help pick up votes lost from Scots disillusioned with London-centric politics. However, it makes things tricky for Miliband if one of his former frontbenchers and key ally in Scotland will no longer consult him.