Jim Murphy: There will be second indyref

Former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. Picture: John Devlin
Former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. Picture: John Devlin
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FORMER Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has warned that “there will be a second independence referendum” and it will come about because “lame-assly dumb David ­Cameron will stumble into giving the SNP the excuse for one”.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank in London yesterday, Mr Murphy also likened the SNP campaign to “a religious rock concert where nobody was listening to reason” but warned that ­Labour needed to offer the same “sense of destiny to voters” after a “purely transactional” campaign.

“I thought Cameron actually had quite a good referendum”

Jim Murphy

He warned that Scotland’s streets have been taken over by “aggressive Nationalism” and said that Labour is not in a good enough shape to lead another independence referendum.

Mr Murphy also appealed to the UK party to end Blairite/Brownite conflicts and confessed that he was as guilty as any in those feuds.

He insisted that the union leaders’ grip on the party needed to be ended.

Mr Murphy admitted that he had been a key player in the internal conflicts and chastised himself publicly for “talking more to [former shadow chancellor] Ed Balls in the last two months than he had in the last two decades”.

He criticised the feuds as “self-indulgent” and warned that the party could not regain power unless it could unify.

However, he also attacked Unite general secretary Len McCluskey for being “a bully” and warned that Labour needed to end the grip of union leaders on the party, in a reference to how Ed Miliband defeated his brother David in becoming leader in 2010 on the back of trade union votes.

Mr Murphy was making a final contribution to the Labour Party as he insisted that he will be retiring from frontline politics for good after losing his East Renfrewshire seat and leading Scottish Labour to “a catastrophic defeat” in the general election, where Labour lost 40 of its 41 seats as the SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

Mr Murphy admitted that part of the defeat was “organisational” and said he was proud of the reform package he brought in.

But he said that the party’s policies, candidates and message were “not good enough” and changes were needed.

However, he warned that much of the defeat in Scotland and the UK was down to political, not organisational, reasons, with the party facing “double nationalism” north and south of the Border.

Mr Murphy’s speech was watched by leading figures in the party including Dagenham MP John Cruddas, who is drawing up the plan of how to turn Labour around, as well as the frontrunner as Labour’s next candidate for Mayor of London, Dame Tessa Jowell.

However, the former Scottish leader refused to back any of the leadership contenders, instead saying: “I will vote for the one who I think can become the next Prime Minister”. But he insisted the vote would be secret and he vowed not to be a former leader who offered “constructive advice” to successors, which he said is another way of delivering criticism. But Mr Murphy’s hardest words were reserved for the future of Scotland in the UK and his party’s prospects there.

He appealed to Labour “not to abandon Scotland” but pointed out that Midlothian, the 21st most winnable seat in the 40 his party lost to the SNP and one it held for more than a century until this year, is less winnable in a straight UK swing than the Tory-held Kensington and Chelsea, the richest seat in the UK.

During a question and answer session, Mr Murphy said another independence referendum will happen.

He said: “There will be another referendum whenever the SNP can get away with it.

“Why wouldn’t there? If you are an insurgent nationalist party with unprecedented power and with an absolute majority, why wouldn’t you try and engineer a set of circumstances to get you another referendum?

“My frustration is that Cameron is so lame-assly dumb on it that he is set to stumble into it and give them the excuse to do it.”

Admitting that he would get “killed” for praising the Prime Minister, Mr Murphy conceded he had enjoyed a “good referendum” last time round.

He said: “I thought David Cameron actually had quite a good referendum.”

The Prime Minister had been “self deprecating” and had admitted his tenure was temporary to win over support, he said.

“He came fleetingly and when he came he did well,” he added.

But Mr Cameron’s decision to make an early statement following the result, setting out plans for English votes for English laws, had been an “astonishingly stupid” move, Mr Murphy insisted.

“To me it showed he cares more about the longevity of his party than the stability of the Union.”

However, the Prime Minister has made it clear that he will not allow a second referendum.

Asked about suggestions that differences over the implementation of further devolution could trigger demands for a second referendum, Mr Cameron’s official spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has talked about this previously, and his view hasn’t changed.

“We had the referendum last September and that provided a clear answer and now we need to focus on getting on with delivering on devolution and the Smith Commission agreement.

“We saw following the referendum in September the Prime Minister committing to taking forward devolution and there was then a process which involved all the parties in Scotland and they signed up to the Smith Commission agreement, and the Scotland Bill will deliver that in full.”