Leaders: Just the start of battle for Jim Murphy

Jim Murphy will likely use language of co-operation in the weeks ahead. Picture: John devlin
Jim Murphy will likely use language of co-operation in the weeks ahead. Picture: John devlin
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WITHIN moments of being declared leader of the Scottish Labour party on Saturday, Jim Murphy made a point of phoning First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to assure her of his best intentions when it came to working together on issues where they found common ground.

Having made this undoubtedly heartfelt declaration, Mr Murphy ensured his goodwill was made widely known by tweeting that he’d called the First Minister.

This may have irked Ms Sturgeon – a prolific user of social media – whose tweet that she had spoken to the new Labour leader to offer her congratulations appeared minutes later. In the first race to see who could appear most consensual, Mr Murphy nudged a win.

This brief exchange provides a useful pointer to how these two substantial politicians are likely to engage. Since becoming First Minister, Ms Sturgeon has made much of her determination to do things her own way. This new approach (the existence of which would appear to recognise that her predecessor, Alex Salmond, was often a divisive character) will, Ms Sturgeon says, mean a focus on seeking consensus.

Before we become carried away by this talk of bridge-building, it is important to remember that Ms Sturgeon is an adept politician who happens to enjoy a parliamentary majority. She has the luxury of being able to offer a new way of doing political business while having the power to drive through Holyrood whatever legislation she wishes, regardless of the views of opposition politicians.

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We should not be surprised to see Mr Murphy continue to use the language of co-operation in the weeks ahead. For one thing, his party’s poll ratings are currently so low as to mean Labour has very little political capital with which to play. For another, Mr Murphy has played this game before.

While Labour Secretary of State for Scotland during the SNP’s first term in power at Holyrood, Mr Murphy frequently wrong-footed Mr Salmond by supporting positions the First Minister had expected might make for useful political spats.

Mr Murphy may be the new leader of a party in crisis, but he may have enough personal credibility to use a consensual approach to his advantage. If Mr Murphy can identify areas where the SNP claims achievement and then offer viable ways to further that, then he may find Ms Sturgeon has little choice but to fall in with him.

Mr Murphy’s election as Scottish Labour leader, with the declared intention of toppling Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, marks the start of a battle between two ruthless and clever politicians in their prime. This is now a serious political fight. Nobody should allow the smiles and bonhomie of either politician to lead them to believe otherwise.

Uniting force in year of divisions

SIR Chris Hoy’s lifetime achievement award at last night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony could not have been more richly deserved.

Great Britain’s most successful Olympian – with six gold medals and one silver in cycling – is a remarkable role model.

Sir Chris’s dedication to his sport took him to the very top and that same commitment shines through still in his retirement. Glasgow’s successful Commonwealth Games this year had a first-class ambassador in the athlete, whose enthusiasm was infectious, and support for young athletes inspiring.

Sir Chris’s is a story of a dream fulfilled through a combination of talent and extraordinary hard work.

He may have come to his sport with certain natural gifts, but a television documentary revealed in detail just how gruelling his training regime was. In extraordinary scenes, we saw him push his body to the limit before collapsing in agony, only to repeat the process soon after.

It is not necessary, of course, to be inspired to take up sport by Sir Chris’s example. We should mark his success however we choose, even if that means we do it from the recesses of the sofa.

It is enough to enjoy the pleasure of Sir Chris’s achievements. He has provided Scots with some of our most thrilling sporting moments and we’re grateful to him.

But it strikes us that there is another reason for which we should be grateful to Sir Chris, in this of all years.

At a time when divisions can appear to run deep, Sir Chris unites us. We are all proud of this great Scot.

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