Monday, 18 May 2015

The Scottish Labour succession

A consensus is emerging that Scottish Labour deputy leader Kezia Dugdale should replace Jim Murphy unopposed.

Her supporters point not only to her performances at First Minister’s Questions, but argue that the party does not need another leadership contest five months after the last one.

Their preference was for Murphy to lead Labour into the next year’s Holyrood poll  – due to the belief that it is almost unwinnable – but the leader’s resignation has scuppered this plan.

However, I understand close Murphy ally Ken Macintosh MSP is mulling over a possible run.

Macintosh went for the job in 2011 and lost to Johann Lamont.

Ironically, Dugdale was one of his supporters.

This is setting tongues wagging for a number of reasons.

Given Macintosh’s closeness to Murphy, does the latter approve of the former’s leadership ambitions?

And would, as some party insiders fear, Murphy be an influential figure if Macintosh won?

As a caveat, I understand Ken would not stand if Kez did.

Even so, Labour Kremlinologists should look at Murphy’s exit speech on Saturday for a few clues.

Other than resigning, he said he would bring forward a bold set of internal reforms to transform his party.

No detail was offered, apart from numerous references to why there must be one-member-one-vote (OMOV) for future contests.

If Murphy believed there was going to be a coronation, why would he major on the rules and terms of a contest?

His focus on OMOV is interesting for another reason.

In December, he told me OMOV was already a done deal in Scotland, following the party’s Collins Review.

“The Scottish Labour party already agreed to make these changes,” he said. “The unions voted for it north and south of the border”.

Despite saying five months ago that OMOV had been pushed through, Murphy is now trying to make it the centrepiece of his reform agenda.

One final thought on Macintosh’s previous attempt at securing the leadership.

Although Lamont triumphed in the electoral college, she did not win the section for party members, whose views would prevail in a OMOV system.

The members voted for Ken.

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.