Murphy could reinvigorate Labour

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Hugh Kerr’s suggestion 
(Letters, 28 October) that a Scottish Labour Party under the leadership of Jim 
Murphy would cause the break-up of the Union sounds more like wishful thinking than any realistic proposition.

What has ultimately caused the SNP such success in Scotland is the fact that 
Labour’s best politicians since 1997 have opted for Westminster over Holyrood.

Ever since the death of Donald Dewar, Labour has suffered from incompetent leadership in Scotland, being unable to compete with the personal and statesmanlike appeal of Alex Salmond.

Such a vacuum of talent in the Scottish Labour Party has given the SNP free rein in its crusade to dissolve the 300-year-old Union with England.

Scottish Labour’s previous leaders, including Johann Lamont, took very much a back-seat role in the referendum while leaving Scottish Westminster MPs such as Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown at the forefront of the campaign.

Mr Murphy, however, provides the leadership characteristics, political experience (17 years at Westminster) and personality to challenge this dominance of the SNP.

His 100-day tour of Scotland in the face of intimidating Yes supporters brought him much credit from within Scotland and across the UK as a whole.

Mr Murphy, aside from Gordon Brown, was the only Labour politician to come out from the referendum with a stronger position than before.

His home patch of East Renfrewshire voted 63 per cent to remain in the UK.

Despite a truly dismal and unemotional referendum strategy from the No campaign, Westminster being at its most unpopular in 
decades, the second question being absent from the ballot paper, the presence (yet decline) of North Sea Oil, and the cunning tactics of Alex Salmond, 400,000 more 
Scots chose the Union over separation.

With the delivery of Home Rule for Scotland and the building of a new federal United Kingdom, I am convinced many of those who lost faith in the Union can be brought back on side.

Despite politically disagreeing with Mr Murphy, I admire him for his passionate role in the referendum campaign.

From the position of 
Labour leader in Scotland – and potentially after 2016, Scottish First Minister – Mr Murphy could provide a positive, forward-looking and emotional argument in favour of the Union that has previously been absent from the Labour Party at Holyrood.

A Murphy leadership, far from undermining the Union as Mr Kerr suggests, could reinvigorate the Labour Party in Scotland and help strengthen the United Kingdom.

William Beddows

St Andrews

What might be the consequences for Scottish Labour if a Westminster-based Jim Murphy/Anas Sarwar duo emerges as its leader and deputy leader in December (your report, 29 October)?

In terms of immediate electoral concerns, it might serve the party well if its main focus between now and next May is the United Kingdom general election.

Both men have a personal interest in being re-elected and they might work better as a team if loyalties are not divided between London and Holyrood.

That does not mean to say that proposed new legislation on new powers for the Scottish Parliament (based on the recommendations of the Smith Commission) will be given low priority. But it does mean that the new leader can have a relentless focus on getting the same number of Labour MPs in Westminster as it has at present.

How might all this make the party’s contingent in the Holyrood chamber look? Arguably, they are in danger of looking like choir boys and girls waiting for the cue from a distant conductor.

For that reason, it is politically expedient to ensure the leader should be an MSP. It would be appropriate to delegate to Mr Sarwar the challenge presented by next spring’s poll. But the new leader, whether it is Sarah Boyack or someone else, must be given the right to hire and fire professional staff.

He or she must be seen to be listening to Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet (or, who knows, cabinet) but not controlled by it. The lesson of Johann Lamont’s departure is the party needs autonomy in terms of administration as well as political aims.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court