Kezia Dugdale is now Deputy Leader

There were three women and two men in the Scottish Labour leadership contest: the media largely ignored Sarah Boyack, Kezia Dugdale, and Katy Clark: most of the mainstream publicity I saw treated the contest as if it were a race between two men, Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay.

Jim Murphy won, MP for East Renfrewshire, and currently his name gets about 2,750,000 hits on Google.

Kezia Dugdale, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour Kezia Dugdale also won: she is the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, and currently her name gets about 75,900 hits on Google.

In 2004, Alex Salmond, then MP for Banff and Buchan, ran for Leader of the SNP and won: he was not then a MSP. He became the MSP for Gordon on 3 May 2007, and stood down from his Westminster seat for the May 2010 election. Jim Murphy may hope to emulate him. (The Peat Worrier outlines here the unlikelihood of Jim Murphy getting to sit in Holyrood before 2016.)

Nicola Sturgeon, then 34 years old, an MSP for five and a half years, having worked as a solicitor in Glasgow before she was elected on the list vote for Glasgow in 1999, having served successively as shadow minister for education, health and justice, became the Deputy Leader for the SNP in the Scottish Parliament in September 2004 til May 2007: Salmond never faced Jack McConnell as leader of the Opposition in Holyrood.

Kezia Dugdale, now 33 years old, an MSP for three and a half years, having worked for NUS Scotland and EUSA and Lord Foulkes before she was elected on the list vote for the Lothian Region in 2011, having served as shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, will be facing Nicola Sturgeon as Deputy Leader for Scottish Labour in the Scottish Parliament at least until May 2016.

I voted for Katy Clark as Deputy Labour Leader, for reasons outlined here, but it didn’t keep me from seeing that if Jim Murphy won the leadership, Scottish Labour really had to hope Kezia Dugdale would win the deputy-leadership so that Scottish Labour would have an official leader of the opposition in the Scottish Parliament: two MPs as leader and deputy leader would have left them in the awkward position of appointing some MSP to speak as leader of the Opposition without being leader or deputy leader of the party.

Whether Jim Murphy can “fix Scottish Labour” or whether his ambition to be First Minister has blocked him from realising that he is one of Scottish Labour’s problems, Kezia Dugdale has stepped up to represent Scottish Labour, facing a First Minister who also became Deputy Leader of her party and leader of the Opposition in the Scottish Parliament at a similar age. I hope, regardless of Jim Murphy’s career path, that Kezia Dugdale shows her mettle and stands up well.

I think the editorial in today’s Herald misses the point about animosity among Yes voters towards Jim Murphy:

Many nationalists are so blinded by animus that they don’t seem to realise that Jim Murphy is stealing their clothes, just as Alex Salmond stole Labour’s when Tony Blair was prime minister. With his promises of a new “clause 4” and a “patriotic” Scottish Labour and with his support for devolution, taxes on the rich and an end to inequality, Mr Murphy is repositioning Labour as the party of social democratic home rule.

Many Yes voters are left-wingers: many of the angriest were for independence because they opposed what the Tory/LibDem coalition were doing to the UK, what Tory governments had done in the past, and Labour’s betrayal of the taken-for-granted left-wing vote in Scotland. Jim Murphy is hardly the only Scottish Labour MP who has gone with the veering rightwards of the party to Ministerial and Shadow Minister office, while taking for granted that he would still scoop up the left-wing votes in his Scottish constituency: but he’s just made himself emblematic of that party process by becoming leader. He will not fix that by rewriting clause 4 or by setting himself the implausible goal of ensuring Labour loses no Westminster seats to the SNP in 2015.

Jim Murphy may now be trying to present himself as a supporter of devolution and a wannabe MSP, may now be trying to present himself as for “taxes on the rich and an end to inequality” – but where did all of this come from before he decided he wanted to be First Minister of Scotland? Is there any evidence that Jim Murphy even wanted to be an MSP before he thought he could become First Minister if he did?

In the 2009 leak on MP expenses, Jim Murphy was discovered to have said his constituency home was really his second home, so that he could claim £780 a month mortgage interest payments in 2007-08. (He also also claimed £4,884 for bathroom renovation from B&Q, though he paid £3,499 back.)

Before Jim Murphy was an MP he was condemned in the House of Commons for his “intolerant and dictatorial behaviour” in suspending Clive Owens from his NUS post, because Clive Owens took part in a debate about the Campaign for Free Education against tuition fees – tuition fees which Jim Murphy, President of the NUS, supported.

Anger at Jim Murphy is not because he is not a nationalist – neither are Neil Findlay or Sarah Boyack, and I doubt if their win would have received the same outpouring of bile, even though either of them would have stood a better chance of leading Scottish Labour to an electoral victory in May 2016.

Anger at Jim Murphy is from his long history of self-serving personal ambition to be an MP, to be a Minister, (and now to become First Minister, assuming he can manage to get an MSP seat by the time Scottish Labour is the largest party at Holyrood again) and his open support for right-wing Labour policies. He has never rebelled against his party in the current Parliament.

I voted Labour in 2010 and 2011: I have watched as Labour votes for a Tory policy on welfare reform and fails to oppose the evils of workfare, as Labour supports sanctioning benefits, as Labour failed to speak out in favour of immigration, as Labour accepts the right-wing push for austerity rather than boosting the economy with raised taxes and higher spending, as Labour MPs silently accept the Tory narrative of Labour spending causing the 2008 bankers’ crash. I won’t vote Labour in 2015 and I do not greatly care if Mark Lazarowicz loses his safe Labour seat in Leith to the SNP candidate. If Labour wanted my vote in 2015 they needed to be an effective Opposition since 2010.

I’m tired of a Labour party that thinks it’s important to court UKIP voters and take part in grinding down people claiming benefits. If the SNP are effective coalition partners after the 2015 election I hope Labour accept the dance: because it’s clear Labour in Westminster needs hard pressure from the left, and the SNP are winning because they are running to the left of Labour.

Can Jim Murphy “fix” that? Does he even want to? Well, certainly the next two and a half years will be interesting ones. I wish Kezia Dugdale all the best.

Kezia Dugdale and Jim Murphy

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Filed under Elections, Scottish Politics

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