JIM Murphy yesterday appealed to Yes voters to work with him for social justice after convincingly winning the race to become the leader of the Scottish Labour party.
The former Scottish Secretary said unifying Scotland and healing his party’s internal divisions would be the key to reviving Labour’s fortunes north of the Border.
Building common ground to tackle inequality and using Holyrood’s powers to make Scotland the “fairest nation on earth” were at the forefront of Murphy’s leadership vision.
The East Renfrewshire MP outlined his strategy after emerging triumphant from a leadership contest that had set him against Neil Findlay, the left-wing Holyrood health spokesman, and Sarah Boyack, the former Labour minister and long-serving MSP.
The highly-regarded Lothians MSP Kez Dugdale beat the left-wing North Ayrshire and Arran MP Katy Clark to become Murphy’s deputy.
Dugdale’s victory means that she faces the daunting task of taking on Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions while Murphy tries to find a seat at Holyrood.
Despite speculation that Findlay would mount a stiff challenge for the leadership, Murphy lived up to his tag as the favourite and secured 55.77 per cent of the vote.
It had been thought that Findlay would benefit from the complex electoral college system, which makes Labour affiliates including trade unionists responsible for a third of the vote. The votes of Labour’s 80 MSPs, Scottish MPs and Scottish MEPs accounted for another third while Labour members made up the third category.
Although 90 per cent of trade union leaders had endorsed Findlay during the contest, their members failed to support him in such numbers.
With Murphy comfortably securing the most support from politicians and members plus a healthy proportion of trade unionists, he won after the first round.
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He breached the 50 per cent threshold required for victory after the first count, ensuring there was no need to add in voters’ second preferences.
Findlay came second with 34.99 per cent, followed by Boyack with 9.24 per cent.
Murphy refused to give any detail on how he intended to exchange his Westminster seat for one at the Scottish Parliament other than to say he would be at Holyrood by 2016 and would elaborate on his plans in the New Year.
One option would be to force a Labour by-election, a plan that would be full of risk with a buoyant SNP determined to throw everything at the seat to embarrass Labour.
A way of reducing the risk of defeat would be to hold a Holyrood by-election at the same time as the general election next May, which would prevent the SNP from devoting all its resources to unseating Murphy.
Another option under consideration is for Murphy to delay his entry to Holyrood until the 2016 Scottish election. That would raise the question of whether he should stand again for East Renfrewshire in the May general election.
Having played a combative role on his 100 Towns Tour during the referendum, Murphy adopted a conciliatory tone to independence supporters. He said: “My view is that the referendum wasn’t a winner-take-all outcome. It wasn’t a winner-take-all contest. That’s why we have to deliver on those additional powers.”
Murphy said he would not re-run the referendum by trying to convince Yes voters that they were wrong. He also said he would appoint a Cabinet of “all the talents” to gain the views of experts, regardless of their politics.
“It is not about criticising. It is about understanding. It is about saying there is a way of changing our country, so let’s try and do it together,” he said.
In his acceptance speech at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow he said he was more concerned about the divide between the haves and the have-nots than constitutional differences.
“If we are honest, Scotland is one country but two nations. Divided not by how we voted in the referendum, but by circumstances. One, the majority. Fulfilled. Doing well. Getting by or getting on. The other, a minority. Falling behind. Denied opportunity. Struggling to escape the hardship of their upbringing. This inequality is wrong. And Scottish Labour’s mission is to end it,” he said.
Murphy said he was angered that poor Scottish children struggled at school and that the poorest people lived nine years less than the richest.
“I want to talk now to the Scots who voted Yes, Labour voters, supporters of all parties, and none,” he said.
“Know this: I share far more with many of you who voted Yes than I do with some of the political leaders who campaigned for No. Together we have a common aim – a better, fairer Scotland.”
But the SNP said a new YouGov poll, which put the SNP at 47 per cent and Labour on just 27 per cent in Scotland, showed the extent of Murphy’s challenge.
SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said: “Mr Murphy spent two years campaigning side by side with the Tories in Scotland, and in that sense he is part of Labour’s problem in Scotland, not the solution.”
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