NEW Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has said he won’t allow the party to fall into a “trap” set by the SNP that could keep it out of power for a generation.
In a keynote speech in Glasgow yesterday, Mr Murphy suggested Scottish Labour faced a similar plight to that of the UK party decades ago, when it lost four elections in a row to the Tories.
The East Renfrewshire MP is today making big changes to his front-bench team at Holyrood, with all of the existing shadow ministers being removed from their current roles.
Jenny Marra will become the new shadow health secretary, while ex-Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray will take over as shadow education secretary. Defeated leadership candidates Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack have both been offered positions.
In his speech yesterday, Mr Murphy said the party north of the Border, not at the Westminster, would now “call the shots” over policy and campaigning.
Mr Murphy, who set out plans to rewrite the party’s aims and values in Scottish Labour’s Clause Four, suggested his leadership would see a fightback against the Nationalists on similar lines to the way Tony Blair led Labour back to power in 1997 after 18 years in opposition.
In language recalling Mr Blair’s as he launched “New Labour” in the mid-1990s, Mr Murphy suggested Scottish Labour faced similar challenges today..
He drew a direct comparison between the UK party’s wilderness years and the electoral failure of Scottish Labour, which has been in opposition at Holyrood since 2007 and has suffered two election defeats to the SNP.He said Labour had fallen into the SNP’s “trap” by allowing the Nationalists to portray it as unpatriotic. Mr Murphy said: “Two decades ago Labour’s challenge was that too many people felt they could not be Labour and make an aspirational choice.
“Today, Scottish Labour’s challenge is to make sure that people know that supporting Labour is a patriotic choice. Never again should anyone feel that Scottish Labour are the representatives of UK Labour in London.”
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Mr Murphy added: “In our last long period of opposition in the 1980s, the Labour Party fell into a trap created by our opponents.
“We allowed Mrs Thatcher to use the success of the institutions we had created – comprehensive education, the wider welfare state, the expansion of universities – and harness that against our politics.
“Labour had to fight hard, under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and then Tony Blair alongside Gordon Brown, to rebuild the argument that fighting poverty and injustice amongst the working class went hand in hand with creating prosperity and a successful economy. We had to remind ourselves, and the supporters we had lost, that aspiration, opportunity, achievement and ambition were terms that the left was comfortable with.”
Mr Murphy vowed to reclaim the Saltire from the Nationalists. He said: “I am determined that Labour, years into opposition, doesn’t become caught in a trap set by our opponents. Many of those arguments are in the past and the challenges we face today are in the past. Scotland is a confident nation with a fierce pride and a remarkable history.
“But our history, our culture, our flag, our pride, patriotism, ambition and aspiration belong to no one political party.”
But SNP MSP James Dornan said: “Only a strong team of SNP MPs will ensure that Scotland’s voice cannot be ignored at Westminster, and that we get the best possible deal for Scotland.”
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