Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Labour's Latest Leader Of Their MSPs?

Since Labour's humiliating defeat in May in Scotland and Iain Gray's announcement that he will be standing down 'later in the year' the grapevine has been hard at work with the MSM attempting to forecast who will be the new leader of Labour's MSPs.

For some weeks now the Scottish press have been hinting an MP could take the position as it's not necessary for a leader to be a member of the Scottish Parliament. Alex Salmond, when elected leader of the SNP - second time around - stayed as an MP until the next Scottish parliament elections and his decision caused few, if any, problems within his party.  Of course he ran for the leadership on a joint ticket with Nicola Sturgeon who then had the opportunity to show her skills and effectiveness as a senior politician. She was first-class in that role and continues to be so as Alex Salmond's deputy.

Yesterday the Herald stated Jim Murphy had been approached by his fellow Labour MPs to become Labour's leader in Scotland and in due course stand for Holyrood. There could be slightly more than a grain of truth in this because Labour in Scotland are in dire need of a high-profiled leader and they have nobody within their MSP ranks.

Jim Murphy's comment shows he may well be giving the proposal consideration:

“I have set my sights on trying to be a Cabinet minister in the next Labour Government and that’s all I am focused on.”

As shadow Defence Secretary at Westminster he's more or less invisible and he doesn't appear comfortable in the role.

Would he take up the baton which includes a rather large drop in salary? He has four years until his party has any chance of being re-elected at Westminster and five years to wait for the next Scottish parliamentary elections if he chooses to change course and become an MSP.  There are other ways such as by-elections but these may be few and far between.

Apart from Scottish Labour's need to totally restructure there's another problem facing Labour if Jim Murphy, or any MP for that matter, choses to lead by proxy.  Who would be his deputy? Labour has little talent on its benches at Holyrood and if the MSPs were to be led by an absent leader, the deputy would require to be a strong, effective voice.

If I recall correctly, last week at FMQs Alex Salmond paid tribute to Iain Gray as leader of Holyrood's MSPs.  Iain Gray responded by saying (I'm paraphrasing): "I haven't gone yet."  Would he be the man Labour would choose to keep Jim Murphy's seat warm?  Allan Massie certainly thinks Iain Gray deserves another chance at the leadership and not as anyone's deputy.


Sophia Pangloss said...

Ah widnae be surprised tae see Iain Gray still in the saddle next May, tae tak yin last hit fer the Party afore he goes. As tae a successor mibbe they'll haud oot till Kezia Dugdale's ready, fer Spud Murphy wid be a disaster, he's too associated wi the Labour government...

subrosa said...

Interesting Sophia. Kezia Dugdale would be ready for 10 years or so. She's only just entered the parliament.

You may well be right though. Spud will lose a lot of cash if he moves here and that could be the main crunch for him.

Whoever is leader has a hard task. Iain Gray included.

JRB said...

In 1999 the Scottish Labour Party at Holyrood was fortunate to have as its first leader one of the finest politicians of the 20th centaury - Donald Dewar.

Donald Dewar’s legacy was both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing in that most of Scotland was left ‘red’ and supporting labour.

A curse in that all subsequent leaders have conspicuously failed to attain the levels of sincerity, statesmanship and popularity of Donald Dewar. Consequently, the support for Labour has slowly withered and crumbled away.

As for Mr Murphy, his term as Secretary of State for Scotland can hardly be described as the highlight of anyone’s political career.
I somehow cannot see him rekindling the socialist passions of disillusioned Scottish Labour supporters – then again - I cannot see anyone within Scottish Labour as being capable.

subrosa said...

I think Johan Lamont is ambitious John but I don't know how well she's liked within the party.

Sandy said...

Murphy seemed to spend his time as Scottish secretary slapping Holyrood down with relish, time and time again.

If the Labour party in Scotand (should ?) have learned one thing from the last election it is that Scots do not take so kindly to being dismissed as irrelevant.

I doubt Murphy can change his attitude enough to become leader of SLAB.

Brian said...

Now is the time for the Man Who Saved The World to step up to the hack and save Scotland (from what - success?). It would only take a little courage on his part. An extension of the Edinburgh Tram to Kirkcaldy would assist the Scottish economy through quantative easing as well as making an easy commute for him.
I don't envy any opposition party leader's chances, given the strength in depth of the SNP at Holyrood.

subrosa said...

That's a good point Sandy.

subrosa said...

Oh Brian, the very thought. Naw, please, not that man. He wouldn't lower himself. Would he?

Hamish said...

A few gaps in your argument here, subrosa.
First, you refer twice to the financial hit Jim Murphy would take in moving from Westminster to Holyrood. The salary of an MP is £65,738 while the salary of an MSP is £53,091. After tax at 40%, maybe not such a big hit. Also perish the thought, not all politicians are motivated solely by money.
Second, the date of the next General Election for Westminster is not engraved in stone. The coalition Government have indicated their wish to move towards fixed term elections. But there is nothing to stop them changing their minds.
Holyrood elections hve been fixed term form the outset. It is nothing short of a constitutional outrage that the next Holyrood election has been postponed for a year (a whole year!) to accommodate the coalition's current judgment of political advantage.

[Thanks Brian. That made laugh. But be careful what you wish for.]

DougtheDug said...

Hi Subrosa, you've got a slight mixing of messages here. Labour in Scotland has no leader and no organisation for a leader to fit into. Scotland is a region of the Labour Party just like the East Midlands or Yorkshire and the Humber and it hasn't got a leadership structure in place in the organisation. Under the current set up if Jim Murphy gets elected as the Leader of the Labour MSP's in Holyrood then his powers will be no greater than the powers that Iain Gray currently wields.

The discussion in the Labour party just now is about the possibility of creating a new structure in Scotland which does have a leader who will lead all Scottish members. The problem with that is that if Scotland gets a leader then Wales will want one too and London so it's a discussion which has ramifications outside Scotland. I can't really see the Labour MP's taking orders from an MSP leader and the Lib-Dems are an example of how a small amount of regional autonomy has made absolutely no difference to the public's view that Nick Clegg is the real Lib-Dem leader and that the "Scottish" Lib-Dems are just a fiction.

Jim Murphy might be a candidate if there is a new Labour regional structure in Scotland which has a leader but until that happens I can't see Jim taking over Iain Gray's position which will involve a lot of flak but no power.

Jacobite said...

Jim Murphy is not to be underestimated he is a wiley operator and I think he could be a formidable opponent I would hate it for him to derail the SNP's progress.

subrosa said...

I'd say around £13,000 is a fair difference Hamish, then of course there's the expenses business which is much more lax at Westminster.

Oh, I thought the coalition had decided the next GE was to be 2015 unless of course they fall out. That's why the SG has a 5 year span this time round instead of 4.

Yes indeed, and there was little protest from our politicians.

subrosa said...

Hi Doug, ouch. I did try hard to emphasise the new 'leader' would be of the parliament's MSPs unless restructuring was undertaken. Obviously didn't succeed. :)

That is a good point though that Wales would be part of the process and their situation would - or rather is - similar to the Scottish libdems.

subrosa said...

He's a man who thrives on dishing out spin Jacobite and getting away with it.

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