Scottish Labour have been in spectacular meltdown since Johann Lamont’s resignation and parting shot at her Westminster masters. Her deputy, Anas Sarwar, eventually followes suit.
There wasn’t exactly a rush to take over. The only one who seemed seemed to be really keen was Jim Murphy, he was like the kid in class with his hand up shouting me,me,me when the teacher asks a question. The nominations have just closed and Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack have joined him. For deputy Kezia Dugdale, who had ruled herself out of the leadership election, and Katie Clarke are seeking the job.
Jim Murphy must be seen as the front runner in this race. He’s been in Westminster for a long time and the stepping down of Sarwar would mean that him being a Westminster politician rather than a Holyrood one wouldn’t be too much of a problem as his deputy would be in Holyrood and would be able to attempt to give Nicola Sturgeon a hard time at First Minister’s questions. He has also made no secret that he would want to move to the Scottish Parliament as soon as possible and stand to be First Minister in 2016. Just how he proposes to make this move is unclear. He wanted to move before the election in 2016 but the three most likely candidates to make way and trigger a by election have indicated that they intend to do no such thing. Quite where Scottish Labour have a safe seat to stand him in for the 2016 election is now unclear.
To elect Murphy would show an incredible lack of imagination. When Johann Lamont resigned she did so saying that dinosaurs in Westminster were treating Scotland like a branch office. Although she was not talking about Murphy directly you feel that he’s not a million miles away from what she was refering to. He’s a Balirite through and through and voted for the Iraq war. He’s to the right of the party that has been lurching that way for decades now.
Scottish Labour need to do somthing fresh and radical is they are to have any sucess in the 2015 and 2016 elections in Scotland and Jim Murphy is too bogged down with New Labour. Step forward Neil Findlay, he has won the backing of Scotland’s biggest unions and is as much to the left of the party as Murphy is to the right. He says in his statment that politics as usual simply won’t do which is somthing Scottish Labour need to get their head round. He is also far from a career polician having worked for decades before coming into politics. He’s a bit old school Labour which seems to be what Scotland might be after just now.
He and Kezia Dugdale would make a good team in Holyrood and may just be able to drag Scottish Labour back from the brink. Who ever is elected will need to be very careful and very much be able to stand their ground and defend themselves from Westminster Labour when the case is needed. To allow Scottish Labour to have their own policy and be distinct from UK Labour they need proper autonomy and not be waiting for Ed Miliband to tell them what to think.
Scottish politics needs a Scottish Labour party that is autonimous, united and fit to be the opposition. No matter how much you like, or dislike, the current Scottish Parliament need an effective opposition to hold them to account or democracy will suffer.