Wednesday, 13 May 2015

United they stand?

A hallmark of Scottish Labour’s general election campaign from hell was the low profile of deputy leader Kezia Dugdale.
This was not Kez’s choice. Leader Jim Murphy made the campaign all about himself – and nobody else got a look in.

All that changed on Friday morning during the post-disaster press conference.

While Murphy had flown solo during the campaign, Dugdale was wheeled on stage as the ex-MP's co-pilot during a question and answer session.

Asked whether he would be resigning, Murphy said: “Myself and Kez became leader and deputy leader of our party five months ago...”

In other words, although the campaign was entirely a Murphy operation, failure was collective.

Since Friday, trade unions, MSPs and defeated candidates have called for Murphy to quit.

However, John McTernan – Murphy’s chief of staff – linked the leader and his deputy last night on Twitter.

Intervening in a row between a party MSP and a councillor, he said of Murphy’s critics: “....and they are calling for Kez to go too.”

On Murphy facing a no-confidence vote at a meeting of the party's governing body on Saturday, he wrote: “A no confidence vote is no confidence in the Leader and the Deputy.”

These comments are extraordinary for two reasons. 

Firstly, I don’t know anybody who is calling on Kez to quit. She has performed well at FMQs and is more popular internally than her boss.

Secondly, a motion of no-confidence would explicitly be about Murphy, not his deputy.

So what is going on?

Party sources tell me that Dugdale replacing Murphy is a question of “when”, rather than “if”.

However, Murphy has power over the timing of a succession.

Kez’s supporters would prefer Murphy to lead Labour into what will likely be another election defeat at the Holyrood poll next year.

The plan would be for Murphy to then hand over the reins to the Lothians MSP.

An immediate Murphy exit would mean Kez leading Labour into defeat – an outcome that would make her dead woman walking.

It seems Kez is being dragged into someone else's leadership crisis.