Scottish Labour ‘will have election autonomy’

Douglas Alexander backed up claims made by Jim Murphy. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Douglas Alexander backed up claims made by Jim Murphy. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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DOUGLAS Alexander, the chair of UK Labour’s General Election strategy, has said that Jim Murphy will have the final say over the party’s campaign next year in the first admission by a member of the party’s Westminster hierarchy that the Scottish leadership will run its own affairs.

Shadow foreign secretary Alexander made the remarks just days after Murphy declared he would not seek permission from Ed Miliband over the direction of the party north of the Border.

Murphy effectively declared that Scottish Labour was now fully autonomous from Westminster as he stated that the party in Scotland would now “call the shots” over all policy, campaigning and organisation.

Alexander, who was placed in charge of all UK Labour’s General Election campaign by Miliband, confirmed that the leadership in London had now accepted Murphy would have full control of the party’s machinery in Scotland for the contest in 2015 and beyond.

Alexander told Scotland on Sunday that Murphy had set out the “right approach” and that all decisions over campaigning in Scotland were fully devolved from Westminster with immediate affect.

While Miliband would have the final say over campaigning south of the Border, Alexander said the UK Labour leader would not attempt to interfere in decisions made by Murphy, who has already set out plans to rewrite the Scottish party’s aims and values.

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When asked if Murphy would have the final say over Scottish Labour’s General Election operation, with Miliband ceding authority, Alexander said “that’s the right approach” and “Yes” as he endorsed the new leader’s declaration of autonomy.

He said: “Jim is leading our campaign here in Scotland and I’ll work to support his efforts. It’s not a coincidence that I voted for him. There’s a need for a new approach and there’s now a new sense that the party is ready to win and able to do so in Scotland.”

Alexander also claimed the SNP wanted a Conservative victory in 2015, despite the pledge from the Nationalist leadership that it would not prop up a minority government led by David Cameron.

The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South suggested that the SNP wanted to avoid responsibility for sustaining a minority Labour government in office and any association with cuts, which Miliband has said the party would be forced to make if it is returned to power.

Alexander said the re-election of the Conservatives in 2015 would allow the SNP to blame cuts to public services in Scotland on Westminster and attempt to force a second referendum on independence.

He said: “The nationalists really want another Conservative government, with an in-out referendum on Europe and substantial cuts to public services. The Nationalists judge that that’s the best outcome for them in order to hold a second referendum.”

Alexander added: “The truth about next year’s General Election is that it’s not another referendum. It’s a choice about whether we want a Labour or a Tory government.

“The suggestion from the SNP that you can get a Labour government by voting SNP is entirely wrong. An SNP vote is more likely to lead to a Conservative victory and David Cameron’s plan for levels of austerity not seen since the 1930s.”

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