JIM Murphy yesterday claimed the support he had received from Labour politicians showed that the party’s divisions could be healed.
As the nominations closed in the Labour leadership contest, it was clear that Mr Murphy had far more support from parliamentarians than his rivals Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack.
A total of 43 MSPs, MPs and MEPs have lent their support to Mr Murphy compared with 12 for Mr Findlay and ten for Ms Boyack.
Mr Findlay, however, has gathered the most support from trade unions, making him the most serious challenger to Mr Murphy.
Yesterday the National Union of Mineworkers and the building workers’ union UCATT said they were backing Mr Findlay, adding to the support he has already won from Aslef, Unison and the transport union TSSA.
Under the electoral college system of voting for a new Scottish leader, trade unions account for one third of the vote and Labour’s elected politicians another third, with the final third made up of ordinary members.
Mr Findlay is seen as the favoured candidate for those on the left of the party – most of whom will also be voting for Katy Clark, the MP for North Ayrshire and Arran who is standing against Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale for the deputy leadership.
Last night Ms Clark had received backing from 11 parliamentarians. But having secured the support of 51 parliamentarians, Ms Dugdale was looking like the frontrunner in the race for the deputy.
On the Labour Hame website yesterday, Mr Murphy suggested that the backing he had meant he could unite the party.
“The broad range of support I have received so far from colleagues in the Scottish, UK and European Parliaments proves that I can be a unifying figure to bring the Scottish Labour Party together again. As you can see from the list of nominations, I have the most supporters from all three Parliaments,” Mr Murphy wrote.
“The fact that I am backed by so many MSPs, MPs and MEPs, shows that the days of division in our party can and must be a thing of the past. Some people might be surprised by the breadth of support that I have received, including people from every corner of our country and every part of our party.
“It’s a great sign that Labour is moving on from our two shattering Scottish Parliament election defeats.”
Whoever takes over from Johann Lamont as leader faces a stiff challenge, with the SNP riding high in the polls and boosted by an influx of thousands of new members, despite the referendum defeat.
Ms Lamont resigned, claiming that the UK Labour Party was guilty of treating the Scottish party as a “branch office” of London, exposing splits in the movement.
Last night Mr Findlay called for a different approach in policy, strategy and leadership.
“We need policies that recognise the challenges people face and are radical enough to tackle them,” he said.
“We need to improve our organisation and structures to make sure those policies are communicated effectively.
“I can represent and drive through that fresh approach, providing a contrast with our past shortcomings and our opponents’ present failings.”
Ms Boyack called for a “vibrant, campaigning Scottish Labour Party across the country”.
She said: “We need to reach out to people who share our values but who haven’t always voted for us. We need to build a vibrant, campaigning Scottish Labour Party across the country, a party that listens to people and brings them with us. Principles of social, environmental and economic justice need to underpin everything we do.”
• Sarah Boyack was part of the first intake of MSPs in 1999 and served in Labour-led administrations under Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish as both transport and environment minister. Her ministerial career ended with Jack (now Lord) McConnell’s bloody Cabinet reshuffle. She is exceptionally well known in Labour circles and is the daughter of Jim Boyack, a popular Labour figure who was a doughty campaigner for a Scottish Parliament.
• Although he has only been an MSP since 2011, Neil Findlay has won a reputation as an effective parliamentarian. Labour’s Holyrood health spokesman is seen as the left wing candidate and has secured the backing of several trade unions - which make up one of the three electoral colleges that will decide the contest. Many on the left of the party want Mr Findlay to lead from Holyrood with Katy Clark MP, who is running as deputy, in Westminster.
• Jim Murphy has resigned his position on the Labour front bench in the Commons to concentrate on winning the Scottish contest.
A former Scottish secretary, he is the favourite to succeed Johann Lamont. Categorised as a Blairite, Mr Murphy has said he intends to unify the party and has secured an impressive list of supporters. As an MP, he has pledged to come to Holyrood, but as yet it is unclear how he will engineer his move to Edinburgh.