I would like to dispute the notion that Jim Murphy is ‘stepping down’ as leader of the Scottish Labour Party. He has been deposed, and any talk of ‘resignation’ is merely an attempt to save face.
Unfortunately, such acts of political contortion are relatively common. Mary Creagh was guilty of it when she ‘decided’ to pull out of the Labour leadership race. She was 25 nominations short of the 35 needed to secure a place on the ballot and was, therefore, not really in the running. ‘Forced to resign’ is generally a more appropriate term, but even that has an insipid, somewhat oxymoronic air about it.
Murphy announced his abdication last month, despite a ‘no confidence vote’ falling narrowly in his favour. He scraped through with 17 votes and 14 against, though this is a point of contention, not least because those crucial three signatures included his own. The 47 year old Glaswegian actually found it necessary to issue a vote of confidence in himself. Surely his self-assurance was a truism and, like any valid truism, didn’t need to be stated at all, let alone via the ballot box. It hardly bears mentioning that if he had voted against himself, the entire motion would have been rendered senseless.
Removing Murphy’s vote from the equation, the result would have been 16 to 15. He still would have won (read: not lost), until you realise that the 16th vote came from an unelected peer, the former spook Meta Ramsay, who was drafted in by the acting Labour leader Harriet Harman. Her participation was challenged, and had she not been allowed to vote, the poll would have resulted in a tie. This draws to the overarching reality that Murphy, to all intents and purposes, lost the ballot and was overthrown. To veil this loss behind a ‘decision to resign’ gives the man more credit than he is due.
In truth, Murphy should have thrown in the towel alongside Miliband, following the results of a calamitous general election. Labour lost because they lost Scotland, and Jim Murphy was a big part of that. He wasn’t the only reason, but the differences in opinion between Miliband and Murphy undoubtedly exacerbated the party’s lack of a coherent plan. Miliband ditched New Labour, arguably without anything better to replace it, while Murphy, a self-proclaimed Blairite, clung to it fiercely. Confusion ensued, with Murphy’s cohort essentially professing that Labour had moved too far left.
But does any of that matter now? On Monday Murphy delivered his ‘final address as a politician’, a billing which I find hard to believe, despite its apparent sincerity. Tony Blair, you’ll recall, announced his resignation from politics on the same day that he was appointed Envoy of the Middle East Quartet, a group that is nothing if not political. This isn’t, I’m almost certain, the last we’ve heard of Jim Murphy.