Scotland politics

Scottish Labour leadership: Jim Murphy vows to end Labour losing streak

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Media captionJim Murphy MP says he is running to be Scottish Labour leader and to be first minister of Scotland

Jim Murphy has said he wants to end Labour's "losing streak" in Scotland and become the country's first minister in 2016.

The East Renfrewshire MP was speaking after confirming himself as a candidate for the Scottish Labour leadership.

Mr Murphy said there was "so much that has to change" about both Scottish Labour and Scotland.

A new poll has suggested Labour was on track to lose almost all of its Scottish seats to the SNP.

Lothian regional MSPs Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack are also to stand for the leadership post which was vacated by Johann Lamont last Friday.

Mr Murphy said his intention was to unite the party and come up with a "Labour answer to Scotland's problems".

The shadow international development minister said: "I'm standing not just to be the Scottish Labour leader, which would be a privilege in itself, but I am standing to be our candidate to be first minister."

This would mean Mr Murphy standing for the Scottish Parliament in, or even before, the 2016 Holyrood elections. It would also require Labour to overturn the SNP's current majority at Holyrood and then form either a Labour government or Labour led coalition.

Steps to becoming Scottish Labour leader

Image copyright Thinkstock

Prof John Curtice looks at how to get to the top in Scottish Labour. He says....

  • Get nominated -Nominations officially close on 4 November and candidates need the support of at least one eighth of Scottish Labour parliamentarians.
  • Understand the system - The ballot is conducted through the Labour electoral college - made up of parliamentarians, party members and affiliated organisations, mainly unions.
  • Get elected to Holyrood (if required) - If the new Labour leader in Scotland is an MP they will have to stand for the Scottish Parliament in order to become first minister.

Mr Murphy added: "All of that energy the we had in the referendum, all of that passion, all that determination, that can't just go away.

"We should bring all of that together, bottle it and use that energy from the referendum to try to solve some of the problems that we do have in Scotland - health inequality, the problems in housing, how do we improve our schools, how do we make sure that young people get a chance to have a job but also a career."

He was speaking as an Ipsos/Mori poll for broadcaster STV suggested that the SNP is on course to win the most seats in Scotland at next year's general election, which would dramatically reduce Labour leader Ed Miliband's chances of becoming the next prime minister.

The poll put the SNP on 52%, with Labour on just 23%, the Scottish Conservatives on 10%, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens both on 6%, Ukip on 2% and others on 1%.

STV said the result would cut the number of Labour MPs in Scotland from 40 to just four, with the SNP increasing its number of seats at Westminster from six to 54.

The Scottish Labour leadership contest was sparked when Johann Lamont resigned on Friday evening after three years in the job.

She cited interference by Labour figures in London as being part of her reason for going, alleging that Labour in Scotland was treated as a "branch office".

In an interview with the Daily Record newspaper, Mr Miliband rejected her accusation and urged the party to move on from the row.

Mr Miliband, who has refused to publicly back any candidate, said he had great respect for Ms Lamont and had been proud to work with her during the referendum on Scottish independence.

I've been around long enough, I've got sharp enough elbows, no-one will tell me what to do if I'm Scottish Labour Party leader - Scottish Labour decisions will be made in Scotland

Jim Murphy, speaking to the BBC

He added: "I see it differently from the way it's been described. The referendum was led by Scottish Labour with others providing support, like the 100 Labour MPs coming up to campaign. I just see it a different way.

"I came to parliament after devolution and so I recognise not just the settled nature of the devolution settlement but also the case for further devolution."

Mr Murphy said he also did not agree with Ms Lamont's comments, adding: "I want to devolve and have a more autonomous Scottish Labour party.

"I am very clear after the controversy we have had in the last few weeks that if I am the Scottish Labour party leader I will hire and fire whoever I want in our team. I'm big enough, I'm ugly enough, I've been around long enough, I've got sharp enough elbows, no-one will tell me what to do if I'm Scottish Labour Party leader."

When asked if that included UK Labour leader Ed Miliband, Mr Murphy responded: "Scottish Labour Party decisions will be made in Scotland. The Scottish Labour Party of course can take a different policy direction from the rest of the UK Labour Party. We already do so in so many different ways, that is the nature of devolution.

"I will come up with a Labour answer to Scotland's problems - I think that is what Scotland needs."


By BBC Scotland correspondent James Cook

"Will Jim Murphy win the contest?

"He is certainly popular in his well-heeled constituency of East Renfrewshire where he has spent his career turning a safe Tory seat into a redoubt for Labour.

"It is a lesson in how to appeal to the centre, to win over non-traditional voters to the Labour cause.

"He has done so by steering clear of the policies of the hard-left.

"The 47-year-old was a loyal supporter of Tony Blair, voting for the Iraq war and university tuition fees.

"But to win this election, Mr Murphy knows he will need to appeal to all sections of the party.

"His rhetoric today was all about unity."

Mr Murphy is seen as being on the political right of the Labour Party, having been a supporter of Tony Blair, the Iraq war and university tuition fees.

But he insisted: "I am not interested in left wing Labour or right wing Labour, old Labour or new Labour. I am interested in losing Labour. I want to end that period of losing Labour here in Scotland, starting with the UK general election in 2015."

Ms Boyack, who was the first candidate to formally declare she was standing, said she had the "experience to lead" the party as a former member of Donald Dewar's Labour cabinet.

Ms Boyack added: "This leadership election is our chance to debate how we move our party forward.

"We need to reach out not just to those who have traditionally supported us but to build a coalition to tackle social and environmental injustice and to create a more equal, prosperous economy that works for people."

Image copyright Jon Davey Photography
Image caption Sarah Boyack was environment minister in the Labour/Lib Dem coalition at Holyrood
Image caption Neil Findlay is currently a Labour MSP for Lothian region and his party's spokesman on health matters

On Thursday, MSP Neil Findlay became the second candidate to join the race to be leader of Scottish Labour.

The party's health spokesman at Holyrood said he wanted progressive change and to create a fairer, more equal and prosperous Scotland.

Mr Findlay, who is viewed as being on the left of the party, had earlier urged former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to stand for the post.

However, the Fife MP has ruled himself out of contention.

Announcing his intention to stand, Mr Findlay said: "It is no secret that I wanted Gordon Brown to run but since Gordon has ruled himself out I now believe we need to have a wide-ranging debate about the way forward for the Labour Party, but more importantly the country."

What's the timetable?
Date Event
Friday, 31 October Nominations officially open
Tuesday, 4 November Nominations officially close
Monday, 17 November Voting gets under way
Saturday, 13 December New leader elected