Is Jim Murphy's attempt to rebrand both himself and Scottish Labour too little too late?by Pat Kane / December 16, 2014 / Leave a comment
It’s the photo opp that keeps on giving for the detractors of Jim Murphy MP, the newly elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party—his grinning embrace of one end of a black model submarine (the other end gamely held up by its Clydeside manufacturer).
To be scrupulously fair, it’s a less lethal version of the replacement for Trident that Murphy has (until now) so enthusiastically endorsed. But, it could be perceived as evidence of this ex-Defence Minister’s policy record—supporting interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, doctrinally Blairite on private involvement in public services—which would usually leave him an easy target for the SNP, the Greens and the wider-left Yes movement in Scotland.
But the other defining Jim Murphy image—shrugging off an egg thrown at him during a street hustings at the peak of the Independence Referendum campaign, temporarily dethroning him from his Irn-Bru crate—shows just how tough an opponent he will be for the post-Yes tribes, perpetually seeking “more powers” for Scotland.
If Gordon Brown resonated with wavering No voters as a “son of the Manse”, echoing with the certitude (and rectitude) of the Presbytery, Jim Murphy is evidently from the other politico-religious tradition in Scottish Labour—the Irish-Catholic working-class lad made good, who knows exactly how deep the loyalties to a party of working people thrum in Scottish life.
Of course, this awareness didn’t stop Murphy’s reasonably glittering career arc through Westminster, Whitehall and other enclaves of Londonopolis (as it has barely hindered many before him). He has landed in odd places, though—for example, as a board member of the hawkish and Atlanticist Henry Jackson Society.
His first major speech as leader didn’t disappoint his supporters, it was full of bold moves and talk of reframing the party in Scotland. A new “Clause Four” will define Scottish Labour as a “democratic socialist and patriotic party” (no, that word-order doesn’t bear too much rearranging), putting “Scotland first” in all matters. Murphy’s commitment to a 50 per cent top tax rate, to be applied when the Smith Commission’s income tax powers come to Scotland, has hardened up SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to match the same rate.
Murphy’s much-proclaimed fighting spirit is now…