THE election of former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy as Labour leader would be a “political death sentence” for the party, one of the UK’s most powerful union leaders has warned.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey attacked the East Renfrewshire MP, branding him a “Blairite” and the “candidate of division” in an article for the LabourList website.
The MP is widely seen as the frontrunner for the role. Last night, he called for an end to the “infighting”. “Our opponents aren’t in our own party,” Mr Murphy insisted.
Unite has already announced its support for the left wing candidate Neil Findlay in the race to replace Johann Lamont, who quit the Labour leadership last month. Former transport minister Sarah Boyack is also standing.
Ms Lamont accused Labour leader Ed Miliband of treating the party in Scotland like a “branch office” after Scottish general secretary Ian Price was sacked without her approval.
As Labour tumbles in the polls following the referendum, Mr McCluskey warned dozens of Scottish seats could be lost in next May’s election unless the party in Scotland elects Mr Findlay and moves on from “defeat and divisions”.
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“It is also essential the other leading candidate, Jim Murphy MP, does not seize the reins in Scotland,” he warns. “He is an advocate – and, let me acknowledge, a powerful and committed advocate – for the policies which have led Scottish Labour to its present pass. His victory would be all the SNP’s Christmases come at once.
“He supports austerity and ‘economic credibility’ with the City of London. He was a strong backer of the disastrous Iraq war, and made it clear he would have liked to see military action against Syria last year. He backs extending privatisation in the public services. He is a pioneer of tuition fees for students.
“At a time when Scottish Labour desperately needs to reconnect with its social democratic roots, he is the candidate of a reheated Blairism which in my view will be a sentence of political death for many Scottish Labour MPs, and for the prospect of a Labour victory next May.”
Mr Murphy had organised the unsuccessful leadership campaign of David Miliband in 2011 and the union chief claims he never “reconciled” himself to defeat. “Labour in Scotland obviously needs to pull together and end the factionalism that has bedevilled it. That is beyond Jim Murphy’s skill set,” he adds.
Mr Findlay looks set to secure the union vote, while Mr Murphy has the support of parliamentarians. It means the third element of the electoral college – the membership – will be key.
Mr Murphy said: “I am determined to bring the Scottish Labour Party back together and put all this sort of infighting behind us. Our opponents aren’t in our own party. The only way we will win is by working together.”
The new leader will be announced on 13 December.
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