JIM MURPHY says the reforms announced at the weekend deserve to be welcomed across the party


Our Scottish Parliament election defeat in May was probably our worst since the 1930s in Scotland. The response from Scottish Labour over the weekend are the biggest structural changes to our party in 90 years.

This is a total restructuring of Scottish Labour from top to bottom. And while structures don’t win us elections – vision does – these plans totally transform our party and give us a party architecture to organise the campaigns of the future.

The media will understandably focus on the wide franchise of those who can stand for the new job of Scottish party leader. This is a much wider role than the post Iain Gray held and we felt it was right that any elected Scottish parliamentarian should be permitted to throw their hat in the ring and trust the party members.

A really significant change is the switch of party structures to Holyrood boundaries instead of Westminster parliamentary seats. Not everyone will be keen, but the evidence on this was clear and it was why I changed my view on it to champion the change. Taking the example of our review co-chair, Sarah Boyack MSP, when Sarah tried to build a campaign team she had to go in search of volunteers across five Westminster seats that her seat touched on. In short, our structures hampered our campaign.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves, however, that moving to Holyrood seats as the unit of organisation deals with the problem. In truth it probably displaces our difficulties. In future it will be MPs that have to build a campaign team from across a myriad of smaller MSP seats that their expanded Westminster constituencies cover. However it’s the right change for Scottish Labour and will make us more competitive in our most contested elections. MPs are elected in a British general election where there is a higher turnout amongst the voters and our volunteers. It’s just a truth that there is greater energy in the UK election – even if some wish it wasn’t the case.

Our structures prevent us from organising for the election where the Scottish party is on its own and where we have to go toe to toe with our main opponent in Scotland, and the only likely alternative party of Scottish government. So in future our CLPs will mirror the Scottish Parliament seats and make sure that our structures focus our party management, fundraising and member mobilisation for that election. There are issues for us to deal with arising from this, like how to maintain MP interaction with the party. But to oppose this change for that reason is an excuse rather than a reason.

We also agreed the completed devolution of the party and setting up a powerful management board chaired by our party leader. These are all good things that I might blog on again soon but in the meantime I have to get back to doing my emails.

A date for your diary is 29th Oct, which is our special conference to agree this. Hustings for our new leader will also take place then. I’m pretty excited about these changes. More to come next month from Sarah and I and the Review Group. That part of our review will be about campaigns, fundraising, relations with business and a lot more. The things that can help us win an election.

The Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy is MP for East renfrewshire, Shadow Defence Secretary and a former Secretary of State for Scotland. Follow him on Twitter at @jimmurphymp.

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11 thoughts on “The winds of change

  1. Three questions, firstly, will the full 2nd stage report be released before the special conference?

    Secondly, will the party get a change to vote on each measure, or will it be presented as a package?

    Thirdly, will the party get to express a view on all the changes, measure by measure, and not just those that require rule changes?

  2. Should Labour councillors not be able to put their hats on the ring for the position of Scottish Labour leader? To exclude and dismiss the concerns of, and to dislodge sitting Labour councillors in the run up to the local elections seems crazy.

    1. totally agree. Labour councillors should also be allowed to run for party leadership.

  3. There are some council leaders that are more than capable of being Scottish Labour leader. To bar them seems utterly non-sensical.

    Also, I would argue that local councillors do a far harder and better job than most parliamentarians because they are at the sharp end of delivering public services.

    Scottish Labour is creating a schism where there should be none.

    To paraphrase George Orwell “All Labour politicians are equal, but it now transpires some are deemed more equal than others”.

  4. All this soul searching, finger pointing, bickering over who is above who in the pecking order and placing the blame for the wipe-out last May has to stop. The Labour Party were then, and are now, just the same Labour Party. Wake up – It was not personalities that lost the last election, it was the constant negative message being sent out. It was not the singer at fault, it is that people were tired of hearing the same old, depressing song.

    There are people within the Holyrood group of MSPs who are capable of taking the party forward. Give them the chance to do so. Jackie Bailie is well respected by the electorate and is more than competent and capable of leading at Holyrood. Labour has only one national leader, and that is how it should remain.

    We have council elections coming up in in just over seven months. Canvassing will have to begin well before that. This current debacle is a severe distraction from that. With seventeen of their councillors being elected as MSPs and then making the conscious and collective decision to take both wages and plunder over £250000.00 from the public purse (a hypocritical decision that surely must have been ratified at the highest level) the SNP have left themselves vulnerable for these elections. The Labour hierarchy must get this nonsense out of the way and start concentrating on that.

  5. We have to adapt and change or else we continue to make the same mistakes and fall away further as a political force. Labour is learing the lessons of the 80’s and 90’s when we had to change in order to defeat the Tories. In Scotland we can change but in terms of our approach to the issues that are purely Scottish and that is what is about to happen if the recommendations are approved at the special conference.We have more to lose than gain if we pretend that nothing is going to change. Putting it into context if the SNP win the referendum there won’t be any MPs’ going to Westminster anyway. The review is the way forward and will prove over time that the Labour party adjusted to the change brought about by the arrival of the Scottish Parliament.

  6. Unfortunately I find it difficult to get excited about these reforms, the biggest problem that the party has in Scotland is a suitable candidate to take over the leadership, we also need one member one vote, let the rank and file members decide who they want as leader.

  7. Raymond is so right. Labour did not lose becuse of a failure to get the message across; it was more a matter of not enough people liking the message in the first place. More of the same will not bring about a recovery that’s for sure. Adopting a few radical and popular policies might help though. Labour leadership is well behind the curve on lots of things. The Calman proposals are far too unambitious. If Full Fiscal Autonomy ties Osborne’s hands a bit – well so much the better. labour is weak on civil liberties; this should be party of personal freedom, not the party of controlling the people. Likewise democratic reform…does it occur to nobody that preserving FPTP may no longer be in the interests of anyone but the Gnats? On current trends (though they may change of course) the Gnats might end up with 40 (yes…FORTY) MPs at Westminster. How is that going to help form a Labour Government in three or four years time?
    With the best will in the world, the leadership situation is not good; who can be elected that will be a match for Salmond? Ken? Jackie? Tom? Does n’t seem likely does it?

  8. I think the biggest problem facing Labour in Scotland, aswell as Tory and Liberal, is that they cannot move or say anything without permission from London. The SNP have the freedom to hold the initiative. Surely Labour should devolve properly?
    Looking at the Tories, if Murdo Fraser had (truly) managed to have a seperate Scottish party, then he may have layed some threat at the SNP?

  9. Wasn’t’t it a Tory prime minister who talked about the “winds of change”
    With reference to independence ?

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