SHADOW cabinet minister Jim Murphy has ruled out running for Labour leader in Scotland and urged the party to “come together and work hard” to support Johann Lamont.
Mr Murphy yesterday issued a rallying call to the party to unite around its leader Ms Lamont after the direction of the party was criticised by two former Labour First Ministers.
His intervention follows weeks of speculation that Mr Murphy, who played a high-profile role in the No campaign during the run-up to the independence referendum, was considering a switch from Westminster to Holyrood and that he could be in line to take over from Ms Lamont.
However, the former Scottish Secretary said Ms Lamont was a “perfectly good leader” and that he wanted to remain as a member of Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet at Westminster.
Ms Lamont, who was last month forced to deny reports she was set to quit after less than three years in post, faced criticism from two of her predecessors about Labour’s performance in opposition at Holyrood. Former First Minister Lord McConnell said Labour had become “a political machine that is angry about what has happened in Scotland in the recent past” and warned that it must now rediscover its “sense of purpose”.
He added: “I joined the Labour Party because it was a movement. My loyalty over years has not been to a party structure, it has been to a cause. The Scottish Labour Party needs to be a cause.”
Another former First Minister Henry McLeish said many Labour voters in Scotland “don’t know what the party stands for” and raised concerns about the party’s vision on extending devolution.
Mr Murphy’s fellow shadow cabinet member Margaret Curran said Labour needs to return to its “socialist principles” and move away from the politics of Tony Blair. Shadow Scottish Secretary Ms Curran insisted that Labour was not the same party it had been a decade ago, when Mr Blair, Labour’s longest serving prime minister, was in charge.
Mr Murphy, MP for East Renfrewshire, insisted that Ms Lamont would lead Scottish Labour into the 2016 election and said he would not be “directly involved” in the party leadership.
He suggested Scottish Labour could defeat the SNP in 2016, despite trailing the nationalists in most opinion polls for Holyrood voting intentions.
Mr Murphy said: “The Scottish Labour Party has been knocked before, has had its detractors before. It’s picked itself up, dusted itself down and got on with it.”
He added: “I think we’ve got a perfectly good leader in Johann Lamont, I think she will continue to lead the party but it is for all of us to come together and work hard. I am confident we can do that. Rather than being involved directly, I’m determined to be a member of Ed Miliband’s cabinet next year.”
However, SNP MSP Sandra White said the “whispering campaign” against Labour’s Scottish leader was “growing louder by the day”.
She said: “Labour finally lost all credibility with people in Scotland when Johann Lamont signed up to the toxic alliance with the Tories in the No campaign – which is why their poll ratings are tumbling, and why more and more people in traditional Labour heartlands are switching straight to the SNP.”