Ian Murray MP 2Ian Murray MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, says Labour’s challenge now is to set out the policies that can change people’s lives, and to set out an ambitious vision for the future that doesn’t just rely on a constitutional fix.


It’s barely 72 hours since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Leader, and I think it’s going to take a bit longer for the dust to settle.

I was at the conference in London on Saturday morning where the announcement was made. As I said publicly in June, I backed Yvette Cooper and really thought she would make a brilliant leader of the Labour Party.

Like many others around the shadow cabinet table last night, I didn’t get the leader I voted for, but the mandate Jeremy Corbyn received from party members and supporters needs to be respected. Over 500,000 people voted in the leadership election.

There has been much written about the Shadow Cabinet, and I accepted the job of Shadow Scottish Secretary not just because Scotland’s voice and interests needs to be properly represented in the Shadow Cabinet (and, as many have been quick to point out, the election result in May didn’t leave Jeremy with much choice), but because the only way we are going to deal with both the Tories and the SNP immediately is with unity and loyalty.

But unity doesn’t mean a lack of debate or challenge. When I accepted the job on Sunday night, like many others I had a conversation with Jeremy about the need for a debate within the party. And that was reflected in his speech to the Parliamentary Labour Party last night.

We shouldn’t run away from that debate, or believe it’s a bad thing. Let’s be absolutely clear. People across Scotland rejected Labour overwhelmingly in May, and we have to listen to that and we have to change. I want a healthy debate inside the Labour Party and outside the party in the country. Politics has been reinvigorated in recent years and we should welcome that as a vehicle to transform our party and our policy.

Kezia Dugdale has already said she wants to see an end to ‘control freakery’ at party conference by opening up the conference to the issues that members want to discuss. Similarly, at a UK level, I expect people will see a party alive with ideas, and the prize is engaging the public in the discussions we’ll have over the next few years. Other parties stamp on dissent and debate. I think the Labour Party should embrace it as a healthy part of modern democratic organisations.

But what does all this mean for Scotland? I’m in no doubt that the route to renewal for Scottish Labour lies with Kezia and the team in the Scottish Parliament. But what happens at Westminster will create a large part of the background of politics for the coming period.

The SNP don’t know how to react to Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, and that’s been clear from their reaction over the past few days.

They spent the independence referendum encouraging Labour supporters to “vote yes to get the Labour Party back”. And then in the election campaign they told people to “vote SNP to keep the Labour Party honest”. Now that they can no longer pretend to outflank the Labour Party from the left, Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to play her trump card – independence. Her SNP talk left but act centre right in policy and that will now be exposed.

Independence should be a decision made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland, based on what is best for Scotland both now and, more importantly, in the future. It shouldn’t be a decision taken on the basis of the fortunes of the Labour Party, or which party is in government. It is far too important for the current livelihoods and future prospects of the Scottish people. Just look at the oil price.

Then yesterday, in a fairly desperate attempt to make a story out of Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to campaign in Scotland at least once a month, SNP MP Angus MacNeill was fielded to attack the decision, while Tommy Shepherd MP tried to dismiss Jeremy Corbyn’s election as “irrelevant” to Scotland.

The SNP want to talk about independence and dismiss Jeremy Corbyn’s election because there are three things they are trying to avoid:

  • scrutiny of their own dismal record in Government,
  • being exposed for not using the current powers of the Scottish Parliament or offering any suggestions for how they might use the new powers of the Scotland Bill, and
  • being usurped by a popular alternative on the centre-left.

On all three, Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn present an ambitious future for Scotland and the UK, and the SNP see that as a threat. Many people voted yes in the referendum last year because the alternatives didn’t fill them with hope for the future. With the SNP increasingly sounding like a broken record on the constitution, there is now a real chance to provide a credible, radical alternative to the SNP who, after eight years in government, are now looking more and more like Scotland’s political establishment.

Scottish Labour’s challenge now is to set out the policies, at both Westminster and Holyrood, that can change people’s lives, and to set out an ambitious vision for the future of our country that doesn’t just rely on a constitutional fix.

People keep telling me that the odds are stacked against Scottish Labour. And they are. But if I said this time last year that I would be the only Scottish Labour MP, the Conservatives would have a majority Government and Jeremy Corbyn would be leader of the Labour Party, I would have expected to be laughed out of the room.

This is one of the most unpredictable and exciting times we’ve ever had in British politics. It’s time we turned that to our advantage by setting out a bold and imaginative agenda for Scotland’s future.

I’m up for that challenge and I will be making sure the entire Shadow Cabinet are fed up of me saying it.

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16 thoughts on “I’m up for the challenge

  1. “I’m up for that challenge and I will be making sure the entire Shadow Cabinet are fed up of me saying it.”

    I’m sure you’ll be saying quite a lot of things in the coming weeks and months that they’ll get very fed up about, Ian!

  2. Doesn’t seem so long ago Ian was bragging he had never even spoken to Corbyn, even though they were both Labour MP’s.
    Now he is in Corbyn’s pocket, boasting about what they will achieve together. I cannot see other than a collapse of Labour’s poll rattings, due to Corbyn’s and Co’s well attested approval of people who are not democrats, or who want democracy.
    Good luck Ian. you will need it to wriggle out of this one.
    PS—he likes Irish terrorists who want independence, and murder innocent people to achieve it, yet dislikes Scottish democrats who want Scottish independence, via the ballot box.

  3. ‘The SNP don’t know how to react to Jeremy victory’

    Our despairing Grassroots Scottish Labour welcome it, but our late Westminister MP from Scotland would have been exactly the same as English based MP’s; only concerned about their personal interests / wages/expenses. Jeremy has defeated the British Labour Party; nobody else, but New Labour will be back in league with their Establishment allies – Better together – When are you lot going to waken up?

  4. You can always join Kezia in carping from the sidelines – which, to be fair, she had already started doing before Jeremy became leader.

  5. Lets have a look at these three things you say the SNP are trying to avoid:

    -scrutiny of their own dismal record in government – and the last time labour was in power you buggered up the economy, in fact the only place your are in power “Wales” you have nackered their NHS.

    -being exposed for not using current powers – what powers and when, you don’t say either.

    -not offering SUGGESTIONS on how they might use new powers on the Scotland bill – why don’t they recruit Mystic Meg instead.

    -being usurped by a popular alternative on the centre left – would that be the popular alternative that yourself and 93% of your fellow labour Mp’s voted against? or am I just carping from the sidelines.

  6. “Kezia Dugdale has already said she wants to see an end to ‘control freakery’ at party conference by opening up the conference to the issues that members want to discuss.”

    Does that mean members will finally get a chance to discuss Scottish Independence or is that still the issue that dare not speak it’s name?

  7. Having paid my £3 and voted for Corbyn as requested by the Party I revisited my local Labour constituency meeting last Sunday after an lull of 30 years to join the debate on what the future holds for socialism. I have been seriously depressed ever since. Nevertheless I believe fellow Yes advocates should join their local Labour Party branches and push independence at ever opportunity and so reveal to the brothers their lack of commonsense and the futile of their future membership of ‘SNP bad, SNP bad’

  8. ‘….. the need for a debate within the party ….’ ….. where have you been for the last few months?? ….. the debate has been had and Corbynism is the outcome ….. Kezia can now carp from the sidelines if she wishes to defy her boss …

  9. Alan Findlay – it is dishonest to join Labour to support independence – go back to the SNP, which as Ian says is not, and never has been, a socialist party.

    1. Dave, you are embarrassing yourself.
      The founders of the Scottish Labour Party were Keir Hardie, whose fame needs no embellishing, and Robert Cunningham’s Graham, the first socialist MP at Westminster.
      Both of these men believed Scotland should be a self governing country.
      Keir Hardie by Dominion Status, the same as Canada and Australia, etc.
      Cunningham’s Graham by political independence.

  10. Having experience of both I’d say there are more genuine socialists in the SNP than in the Labour party & with Blairite Kezia leading the Scottish party we’re in the unbelievable situation of Scottish Labour being further to the right than the UK party

  11. Dave Armstrong – you do know that the Labour Party in Britain incl Scotland is not, and never has been, a socialist party ……. it has always been a broad-church party where socialists have found a home ….. it is built more on methodism than socialism, in England and wales certainly.

    The point remains that those Labour voters who may be open to independence should push for the debate within the scottish labour party – kezia tells us she is open to no-holds barred debate, so let’s see …..

  12. ‘It is dishonest to join Labout to support independence’ David Armstrong has never heard of the ILP; par for the course in what passes for debates roundabout here. By the way I have never been in the SNP.

  13. I think people in Labour should take a very good look where the party is and is going under Corbyn and pals. There is a very good piece in this week’s Spectator (Yes, I know its Tory.) in which Nick Cohen explains why he has left not only Labour but the whole UK Left project associated with Corbyn and pals. He lays out in excruciating detail where Corbyn’s infantile hard left, anti-Western political posturing has got him and Labour.

    Corbyn has shared platforms with people from Sinn Fein. Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamo-Fascists. He has rarely, if ever criticised those people. He has appeared on state run Iranian and Russian TV and never criticised anything to do with those regimes. He has stood mutely by while his Islamo-Fascist and authoritarian Russian pals have oppressed gays, women and secularists. He has shared a platform with Holocaust deniers. His appointed Shadow Chancellor appears to be an active fan of IRA terrorists. His antics at the Battle of Britain commemoration didn’t send me into a fit of the vapours, a la the Daily Mail, but it did make him the centre of attraction at the service rather than those who died in the Battle and the aged survivors. His behaviour reminds me of those numpties who played ‘baby revolutionary’ as members of the Socialist Society at university back in the early 70s. The difference is that most of them grew up.

    I spoke, a week or so ago, to a long term university friend of mine. A real left wing Labour member for decades. I asked if he had voted for Corbyn. He said “no”. I asked why. He said “I’ve met him and know him a bit”. I won’t say what he then added as it would probably get my posting deleted.

      1. I think some of Corbyn and Mc Donnell’s economic and social equality ideas are very good and worth looking at. Unfortunately like a lot of the Labour left and the further out Left Corbyn and chums cannot hold back from playing ‘baby revolutionary’ and getting into bed with some truly awful people solely because they are seen to be anti-American, anti-Israeli or merely anti-Western. This makes them virtually unelectable.

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