A FORMER UK Labour leader has said the party in Scotland has a “massive fight on its hands” as he backed Jim Murphy to be its next leader north of the border.
Neil Kinnock has given his endorsement to the former Scottish secretary, insisting Mr Murphy has what it takes to “recapture the support “ of voters north of the border.
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The former Labour leader has contacted party members in Scotland, who now have less than two weeks to chose their new leader.
He said: “Labour in Scotland plainly has a massive fight on its hands. You need a leader with real presence and boldness and I am certain, from everything I’ve seen, that Jim has what it takes to lead you and to speak up for your convictions and concerns in ways that recapture the support of the Scottish people.”
Lord Kinnock, who had been expected by many to win the 1992 general election but lost to the Conservatives, said Mr Murphy had “stood up to the nationalists” when he was Scottish secretary and had shown “real grit” in the referendum campaign, when he had toured the towns of Scotland speaking to members of the public in the street.
With support for the SNP rising in the aftermath of the independence ballot, the former UK Labour leader said it was Mr Murphy - who is one of three candidates for the post - who could help the party to “reconnect with and convince voters”.
Lord Kinnock, who has donated an undisclosed sum to the East Renfrewshire MP’s leadership campaign, has also emailed party members north of the border to declare his support.
The leadership contest was sparked when Johann Lamont stood down suddenly accusing Westminster colleagues of treating the party in Scotland like a “branch office”.
Mr Murphy, Labour Holyrood health spokesman Neil Findlay and former Scottish Executive minister Sarah Boyack are all vying for the job.
Lord Kinnock said while the decision over the new leader was one for members in Scotland to make he had spoken out because of his “great affection and respect for the Labour Movement in your country”
He said: “I’ve known Jim Murphy for almost 20 years. His passion in standing up for Labour values and for Scotland has impressed me. I believe he has the humility, vision and dynamism to give fresh strength to Labour and the humanity and deep understanding of real life to reconnect with and convince voters.
“As Secretary of State for Scotland he spoke for Scotland and stood up to the nationalists. In the referendum he showed real grit in taking Labour’s arguments to street corners, housing schemes and high streets.”
He added: “In Wales, Labour has directly combated the nationalists. While the challenge is obviously different in some ways, we have done that by exposing their shallowness, showing real passion, having better policy and sustaining strong contact with the communities of our country. I know that, with your help, Jim can and will do the same for Scottish Labour.”
Mr Murphy hailed the former UK leader as a “towering figure in the Labour Party and wider trade union movement”.
He added: “I am delighted he is supporting my campaign. Neil doesn’t have a vote in this contest, but as a Welshman and friend of the Scottish Labour Party his views are always respected.”
He continued: “The Scottish Labour Party must offer a radical vision of a better and fairer Scotland if we are to win back the trust of people in our country again. This contest can’t just be about who leads the Scottish Labour Party. It must be about setting out our hopes and dreams for the future of Scotland.
“In the battle of ideas the Scottish Labour Party must be the most radical. Whilst the nationalists think independence is the only answer and the Tories see preserving the privilege of a tiny elite as their goal, increasing prosperity and eradicating poverty is the mission of the Scottish Labour Party.
“My vision is of a Scotland where we use the new powers from the Smith Commission to ensure a person’s ability to get on in life isn’t determined by where they were born or how much their parents earn. I want better than that for Scotland.
“That’s why if I am elected leader and First Minister I will ask the wealthiest few to pay a little more in tax so that we can support our small businesses and reduce poverty. That’s the kind of difference a radical Scottish Labour Party can make in our communities again.”
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