Why Labour needs to listen to its one surviving MP in Scotland – leader comment

Ian Murray’s positions on Brexit and Scottish independence were clear in contrast to the muddled approach of the Labour party’s national leadership.

Scottish Labour's Ian Murray out and about campaigning on Grange Loan, Edinburgh, ahead of the general election (Picture: Ian Rutherford)

It is an obvious fact that in a democracy, voters must have a choice. One-party states are not democracies. So an opposition party which strays so far away from public opinion that it becomes virtually unelectable is not only doing its own cause a disservice, but damaging a fundamental aspect of a free society.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party secured 32 per cent of the vote – more than 11 percentage points by the Conservatives – largely because of its confused position over Brexit, a list of spending pledges that made too many voters’ jaws drop and, in Scotland, a confused position over a second Scottish independence referendum. Quite why anyone in Labour thought this would be a winning strategy is hard to fathom.

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A party that less than five years ago had 41 Westminster seats in Scotland now has just one.

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Ian Murray: Scotland’s only Labour MP considering UK deputy leadership bid

Ian Murray, the re-elected MP for Edinburgh South, which is not exactly a traditional Labour stronghold, is therefore surely someone who the rest of his party should take seriously, someone worth listening to and learning from.

Where the national party’s stance seemed uncertain, his positions on Brexit and Scottish independence have always been crystal clear – he is against both ideas – and he has been a strong critic of Corbyn’s leadership. Murray has now confirmed he is considering running for the UK party’s deputy leadership, a post previously held by another politician unafraid to criticise Corbyn, Tom Watson, who faced vociferous opposition from the left of the party and decided not to stand again as an MP at this month’s general election.

If Momentum and Labour members with similar views fail to realise that they need to compromise, Murray may struggle to win the vote or, if elected, could face a similar fate as Watson, coming under attack almost as often as the Tories.

For the sake of their own party, left-wingers should realise that attempts to ensure ideological purity by deselecting MPs like Murray – he saw off an attempt before 12 December – need to stop because driving out moderates MP is also driving away moderate Labour voters. That doesn’t mean they have to abandon all hope as there is clearly some appetite for aspects of Corbynism.

But the party needs to come to its senses and realise the need for clarity, pragmatism and common sense in order to give voters a genuine choice – and thereby keep Boris Johnson on his toes.