JIM Murphy yesterday pledged to be based at Holyrood when he announced a Scottish Labour shadow cabinet that mixed new blood and experience.
The Scottish Labour leader said he was determined to lead his party from Scotland when he unveiled a new team, which saw him reach out to those who he defeated for his new job.
Having beaten Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack in the race for the leadership, Mr Murphy appointed them both to his shadow cabinet.
Mr Findlay, who was Labour’s Holyrood health spokesman, has been switched to fair work, skills and training, while Ms Boyack has been given rural affairs, food and environment.
North East Scotland MSP Jenny Marra, regarded as a rising star within the party, becomes Labour’s shadow health secretary while former leader Iain Gray will speak on education and lifelong learning.
Straight-talking MSP Hugh Henry, a former deputy justice minister, was elevated to justice spokesman, taking over from the former police chief Graeme Pearson. Mr Pearson has been told to look after enterprise.
He is no longer officially in the shadow cabinet, but will attend meetings.
Neil Bibby, as chief whip, will also not be in the cabinet but will attend meetings.
One of the most significant appointments was the promotion of Jackie Baillie, who moves from shadow social justice secretary to the crucial role of speaking for the party on finance, constitution and the economy.
Mary Fee was elevated to infrastructure, investment of cities, while Claire Baker was given culture, Europe and external affairs.
With Kezia Dugdale voted in as deputy leader at the weekend, the number of women in the 12-strong cabinet is five.
James Kelly will be the parliamentary business manager while Ken Macintosh gets the social justice portfolio.
When asked how he intended to lead a Scottish Parliament while elected to the Westminster Parliament, Mr Murphy replied that he had received a pass for Holyrood and would be “setting up” in the building.
“I will lead the Scottish Labour Party from Scotland. I will be working out of the Scottish Parliament,” the East Renfrewshire MP said.
Tomorrow, Mr Murphy will watch as Ms Dugdale takes on Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions.
Because he is an MP, Mr Murphy has been granted a Holyrood visitor’s pass. But the Holyrood authorities have not allocated him an office, because Scottish Parliamentary resources can only be used for Scottish Parliamentary purposes.
“There’s a combination in the shadow cabinet of fresh faces, younger folk and then some experienced folk who have come out of semi-retirement, like Hugh Henry, a big character with a huge amount of energy and a lot of opinions,” Mr Murphy said.
Explaining why Mr Pearson had been moved from justice to enterprise, he said: “One area of policy where we need to be genuinely strong is our relationship with the business community. Graeme Pearson is a serious character with real respect beyond the justice portfolio and I want Graeme to meet with the leaders of Scottish businesses, to support Scottish businesses, so that we have a conversation in Scotland that isn’t just about how we spend the wealth – it’s about how we create the wealth.”
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There was no place in the new cabinet for Mr Murphy’s predecessor Johann Lamont.
Mr Murphy added: “Johann and I have been in touch with one another; she has wished me well. I’m looking forward to getting together with her, but Johann wasn’t looking for a job in today’s reshuffle. I think Johann will be a big part of the Scottish Labour Party for years to come.”
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Announcing his Shadow Cabinet yesterday Jim Murphy was at pains to emphasise he had dished out jobs to people who had not voted for him in the recent leadership election.
It was a line pitched to promote the idea that Murphy can be a unifying leader as he attempts to turn around Labour in Scotland.
So the fact Hugh Henry had supported Neil Findlay in the contest was no barrier to him being appointed spokesman for Justice. As a politician known for his no-nonsense approach in committee, the veteran MSP will be expected to do well in a portfolio, which is now being looked after by Michael Matheson for the government, but has been an Achilles heel for the SNP in the past.
Giving jobs to Findlay and the other leadership contender Sarah Boyack was important for the sake of party unity. The promotion of Jenny Marra to health and sport was no surprise given that she has been marked out as one of the brightest of the younger generation coming through. She will take on her fellow Dundonian Shona Robison in that portfolio.
Another new face is that of Mary Fee, who has responsibility for infrastructure, investment and cities. The promotion of Fee, a former Tesco worker, provides an antidote to those who have little experience of life outside politics. Kezia Dugdale will have to adjust quickly to life in the goldfish bowl. As deputy leader, she has the challenge of facing Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions until Murphy makes it to Holyrood.
Another with a tough job is Jackie Baillie, who has been given the job of shadowing John Swinney on finance.
Given Swinney’s mastery of his brief, Baillie will have to get up to speed quickly.
With Iain Gray a former teacher, his appointment to the education brief made sense. But there was the odd raised eyebrows when it was announced Graeme Pearson, a former senior policeman and director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, lost the justice brief.
Henry will make his mark, but Pearson’s experience was invaluable when holding the previous Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to account.
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