An early constitutional test for Murphy

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The lofty idealism outlined by the new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy in his proposed new party constitution (your report, 15 December) needs to be qualified by a dose of reality. How will we know that he has overcome the “branch office” syndrome that seemed to plague his predecessor?

A number of key points should cover the criteria by which his proposals can be judged. Firstly, will the statement of aims outline clearly where the party’s ambitions on devolution, short of independence, will end?

Secondly, whatever its 
policy aims, will it have the 
resources and autonomy to employ staff who are clear about who they are responsible to? The debacle over the party’s general secretary, which so infuriated Johann Lamont, cannot be repeated.

All employees have a right to a clear chain of command. Split loyalties to headquarters in Glasgow and London are a serious source of division. This can be overcome if Scottish Labour pays and controls the key staff necessary to operate a modern political party.

Thirdly, how can Mr Murphy control effectively the party’s contingent of Westminster MPs (irrespective of whether he stays there or not after May’s general election)?

He has a real challenge to overcome the prejudices of some towards Holyrood.

The party will have little credibility if its new Scottish leader is persistently dwarfed by the House of Commons whips and the intransigence of his more Unionist-minded colleagues.

He will need to strive hard if his vision of a constitution is not to be overrun by practical political realities.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

So, Scottish Labour has a new leader, Jim Murphy, a hard-boiled career politician, poached from Westminster, who supported the Iraq war, tuition fees and Trident, and held high office in a government that ensured the rich got richer and the poor got poorer over a period of 13 unlucky years.

Mr Murphy campaigned vigorously to cement a Union which promises five more years of austerity and a national debt of £1.6 trillion at the end of it. He must now scramble together some appetising policies for voters who do not believe the blame for cuts in public services rests with the Scottish Government.

I fear he has leapt from the frying pan only to land in the fire, anything but sunny side up and he may well become the bad egg of Scottish politics.

Joseph G Miller

Gardeners Street

Dunfermline