Pressure on Jim Murphy to quit as Labour leader

Jim Murphy wants to stay on as Labour leader in Scotland. Picture: Robert Perry
Jim Murphy wants to stay on as Labour leader in Scotland. Picture: Robert Perry
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Labour leader Jim Murphy is facing growing calls to resign after the party’s election meltdown in Scotland.

Two leading unions said Murphy should go, while Lothians MSP Neil Findlay quit the shadow cabinet, branding the election result a “disaster”.

Murphy is facing fierce criticism from the likes of Andy Kerr.' Picture: Neil Hanna

Murphy is facing fierce criticism from the likes of Andy Kerr.' Picture: Neil Hanna

The pressure on Murphy came as former Labour finance minister Andy Kerr insisted the party should apologise for its campaign and slammed the role played by the Scottish leader.

Labour was wiped out in Scotland, where it was left with just one MP after Ian Murray clung on in Edinburgh South. But calls for Murphy to resign were dismissed by a party spokesman last night.

Unite and the train drivers’ union Aslef called on Murphy to stand aside because it was “time for a change”.

Pat Rafferty, Unite’s leader in Scotland, said: “It is time for change in the Scottish Labour Party. That is the overwhelming, unambiguous message from Scotland’s people, including its trade union members, on Thursday.

My worry is, Jim is a product of a system that saw Scotland through a prism of hate for SNP’

Andy Kerr

“Indeed, it is past time for change. Labour in Scotland has been bleeding support and credibility for years.

“On one issue after another – the embrace of ‘Blairism’, the opposition to a second ­‘devo-max’ question in last year’s referendum, the ­decision to campaign with the Tories in the ill-judged Better Together campaign, and in the election of a new leader last year – Unite has warned against the course being followed by the party and has, alas, been proved right.

“The price of ignoring such warnings has been a virtual wipeout for Scottish Labour at Westminster.

“The party has now less than a year to put this right before the Holyrood elections.”

Ed Miliband quit as UK leader the day after the election defeat, insisting he took “full responsibility” for the outcome.

Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s organiser in Scotland, said: “Jim Murphy has just presided over the worst election defeat in the history of the Scottish Labour Party. He has to go – and he has to go now. Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Nick Clegg, and even Nigel Farage have all stood down, accepting responsibility for, and the consequences of, defeat for their parties at the polls.

“It is, therefore, quite clear to most of us in the Scottish Labour Party what the right thing is for Jim Murphy to do.”

But a Labour spokesman played down the unions’ intervention, insisting: “This is no surprise. They wanted him to resign before he even became leader.”

Findlay said last night that the election was a “disaster” for the party, but stopped short of calling for Murphy to quit.

He said: “The problems of the Scottish Labour Party are wide ranging and deep. ­Radical solutions are needed and can only be implemented following a full, frank, open and democratic debate led 
by our loyal and hard 
working, committed party members – a centralised fix just won’t do.”

Findlay, who stood against Murphy in last year’s leadership contest, insisted he would not go for the top job again. But he wants to see the party adopt a more distinctive Scottish approach on issues such as the renewal of the Clyde-based Trident nuclear weapons system

“It’s so obvious that the Scottish party would be against this and we should have that open debate – we should not run away from democracy, it’s what makes us stronger.”

A party spokesman said: “We look forward to working with Neil in the coming months as we seek to rebuild our party.”

But Findlay’s call was echoed by Kerr, the former health and finance minister, who called for an “independent Scottish Labour party which has got a federal structure”.

He added: “If Jim can say some of these things then arguably he may stay in post. But my worry is that Jim’s a product of the system who saw Scotland through the prism of their deep hatred for the SNP.

“They forgot to see Scotland through the prism of the Scottish people and how they are changing.”