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Comment: Jim Murphy is a man with a plan

Its worth taking a step back and asking the question of just what is Mr Murphys game. Picture: TSPL

Its worth taking a step back and asking the question of just what is Mr Murphys game. Picture: TSPL

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

JIM Murphy looks very much a Labour politician with a plan at the moment, with his 100 days tour of Scotland – an admirable grassroots-style campaign in the run up to the independence referendum.

It’s a No campaign role the East Renfrewshire MP is managing to combine with his position as shadow secretary of state for international development.

There’s also the book he has penned, 10 Football Matches That Changed The World ... and the One That Didn’t.

Then there was Mr Murphy’s involvement in assisting the victims of the tragedy at Glasgow’s Clutha Bar.

In some respects, Mr Murphy almost appears to be the sort of Labour politician who would be portrayed in a TV drama perhaps by an actor such as David Morrissey, who played Gordon Brown in Channel 4 drama The Deal.

But it’s worth taking a step back and asking the question of just what is Mr Murphy’s game. It’s less than a year since Labour leader Ed Miliband removed Mr Murphy from his much-coveted post as the party’s top defence spokesman at Westminster and shifted him to the less senior role of international development.

Mr Murphy made an enemy of the leadership of Labour’s biggest union backer, Unite, when he accused its officials of “overstepping the mark” in allegedly interfering with the selection of a Westminster candidate. Labour later cleared Unite of any wrongdoing.

The East Renfrewshire MP’s approach to unions was reported to have incurred the wrath of Labour’s Tom Watson – a Unite-sponsored MP and a powerful figure in Labour circles at Westminster. It’s probably true to say that Mr Murphy has moved to reposition himself since his demotion and there have even been suggestions he may leave Westminster for Holyrood – despite previously being reported to be opposed to Scottish leader Johann Lamont’s plans to extend tax devolution.

At the same time, it would come as no surprise if Mr Murphy, who ran David Miliband’s ill-fated leadership campaign in 2010, was facing both ways and also had an eye on the Labour leadership at Westminster if Ed Miliband loses the 2015 election.

Of course, there’s a question of how effective Mr Murphy really is. True, he was a substantial Scottish secretary in Gordon Brown’s government. But there is a view among some in Labour that Mr Murphy is trapped in a mid-1990s time warp with his unreconstructed Blairite-style New Labour views.

While it’s true that Mr Murphy, who entered Westminster not long after a stint as the president of the National Union of Students, has held what was once a safe Tory seat since 1997, it’s questionable as to whether he is actually that effective both as Commons performer and as a communicator.

 

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