McTernan to head up the branch office


Derek Bateman writes a fan letter to Labour’s new branch office ‘chief of staff’

It isn’t getting much airtime yet but there is deep unhappiness at ground level in Scottish Labour.

As leadership figures thrash around for direction and credibility, at the street level there is gnawing doubt and deep anxiety. It just isn’t possible for many Labour lifers to switch parties because they don’t belong anywhere else and, in any case, they want to retrieve their party and revive its historic mission.

John McTernan
John McTernan

The inevitable election of Murphy with his machine politics was followed by a incontinent spray of populist bilge – his equivalent of the giant chocolate pound – that makes real Labour believers cringe. They are unsurprised that another creature of Westminster, Blair McDougall should be the ominous figure behind much of this but the news of John McTernan’s billet as Murphy ‘chief-of-staff’ will for many be a step too far.

Unlike the McDougalls of ‘fixer/spinner’ fame, McTernan’s actual views are known and are public record. He makes a living from exposing them, the more controversial and grisly, the better. He completes a Westminster clean sweep in the office of ‘Scottish Labour leader’ which in itself is indicative of the new demeanour of the Branch Office. But it is his instinct for anti-Scottish, pro-privatisation, sub-Blair rhetoric that marks him as an undesirable in Scottish Labour eyes.

The truth about many of the membership is that they don’t actually hate the SNP – they admire their efficiency, recognise their comparative talent and are tempted by the independence idea while stopping just short of endorsing it. If the SNP package was coloured red and marked Labour, they would go for it.

McTernan, as some of us know from personal experience, is a devotee of division and a pedlar of prejudice. He is hate-filled beyond the rational and not just against Yes and a new Scotland. He excoriates and humiliates anyone from any side including his own whom he regards as opposition. I think he calls it breaking legs. Nice.

His one sojourn on his own outside the London comfort zone with all its Blair-connected buffers, was Julia Gillard’s desperate election bid in Australia where the full grotesque reality of a spitting, swearing control freak was unleashed  on Oz politics, not known for its tea party mentality.  Journalists were shocked at the gangland approach and profane terminology of this caricature of a special adviser, finally unleashed from constraint.

Much of this was learned in Blair’s offices where the chain of command appears to have been: Alastair Campbell as monkey to Blair’s organ-grinder, and McTernan as the bell on Campbell’s tail.

He failed to inculcate the other strength (along with intimidation) of Campbell – the facility to command respect. One suspects that McTernan does indeed have the capacity to analyse politics and articulate scenarios and could produce potential solutions, but that it is his hostility and aggression that clouds his judgement as the red mist descends.

As a facilitator, he is more destroyer. He enjoys rubbing people the wrong way and disconcerting with extreme opinions. He will misread the public view of the SNP and become Paul Sinclair Mark 2, demonising Sturgeon, ridiculing policy and ensuring that any idea of cooperation and reconciliation will be stillborn.

He will intimidate the journalists, many of whom have shown themselves to be puppets of big politics in any case, threatening them with no stories unless they co-operate. Our politics will become toxic again, the stench of contrived accusation and mendacious claim will be pervasive and – my guess – he will commit the cardinal mistake and become the story as he tries to badger Labour MSPs to do his bidding and ends up in conflict with the unions.

This could all work sweetly for the SNP and at the same time give a stomach ache to those progressives still left in Labour and wondering where to turn.


  1. Derek I think the term you are looking for to describe McTernan is,narcisistic with sociopathic tendencies. He is an odious little creature devoid of any human warmth or emotion. If you think Murphy is creepy then he is off the scale.

  2. Good article, and written with some sympathy for the basic Labour grassroots which I think are still there. As a regular poster elsewhere, I find it hard to join in with the downing of Murphy who I don’t really know, except to think he was OK at Clutha, and funny and kind of normal on his Irn-bru crate tour. Of all the BT people, he actually tried and put hard work in. I also find it hard reading the postings of his supporters, faced with a barrage of criticism, trying their best. The underdogs.

    I suppose like most Indy supporters there’s a (huge) part of me watching the unravelling of Labour in Scotland with, well, glee. It’s letting in the SNP to fight for Scotland, and more powers for Scotland, something Labour have failed to do. But having voted Labour in the past at times (for Westminster), it is somehow sad to see such a party of the past, becomng the past with every stroke.

    I hoped during the Ref enough would find courage and breakaway, even if to be neutral and not take sides. Well, that only happened small scale. But if Labour in some form is to survive in Scotland, then some of its MPs, MSPs, Councillors and activists have to look at breaking away, going back to Labour’s roots, and setting themselves up for the future. Some may even survive 7/5/15. Currently I think, by going along with Murphy and his cohorts, none of them deserve to.

    • I totally agree. I always thought Labour would lead Scotland to independence until Blair emerged. During the referendum campaign, I waited for Scottish Labour MPs to break away. Now I want them destroyed. I have no connection with the present party of red Tories.

  3. He is indeed a hateful, decisive character, so fits well within Labour especially as they get ever more desperate,
    and they are proving just how much, by having this low life involved in his spiteful spin.
    Murphy is doomed to fail, and will recede with his tail between his legs. By employing a mini better together team, he is sure to anger the remaining Slab supporters, leaving just the dinosaurs that live in times past.

    They will reap what they sow, this IS going to be a disaster for them, regardless of how they spin it, with the BBC and a compliant MSM to help, it will not work. This is a final nail in the coffin of Slab, why?, the people do not like them anymore. The Red Tory label, is just too hard to forget in the eyes of voters, and taking this creep on sees them falling over the cliff. I am ex labour, but now cannot wait for their fall.

  4. More a case of Thatcher & Bingham MkII. Can’t wait to see a repeat of their double-act under the guise of SLAB/New-New Labour.

    Just relieved I’m not a member of that so-called ‘Labour Party’ – if I were, I’d be posting back the membership card and cancelling the Direct Debit, PDQ.

  5. good article Derek.

    Can just see Murphy finished reading it, lifting the phone to McTernan. Telling him to tone it down, they’re onto you.

  6. I met McTernan on a summer course when he was a teenager. Even allowing the certainty and vehemence of adolescent political opinions, he seemed to be a character of a exceptional bitterness and misanthropy.

  7. “Mac the Knife” McTiernan: More fuel chucked on SLAB’s pyre.

    My grandfathers would have spat upon what their party has become if they hadn’t had more dignity.

    Mind you, as admirers of John MacLean, they always kept a canny eye on this so-called party of the people – a Fabian front almost from Day One now signing-off on its epitaph in Scotland with this Russian Roulette appointment.

    I wonder just how many electoral bullets have they now left in their Scots ballot box chamber?

    We’ll know come the next (and last?) UK General Election.

  8. Dadsarmy
    I know everyone has different opinions However I can’t agree with you about Murphy being kind of normal on his Irn Bru crate I witnessed many of his performances which were usually conducted in front of a few passers by and the odd dog. A common thread was the unwillingness or inability to answer any of the questions put to him. His mild manner soon changed to a ranting diatribe at the first hint of challenge. His face getting so red I feared he would take a stroke or a heart attack He did indeed make sure he was seen and heard which I believe was all part of his stage managed plan for self advancement
    He is now desperately trying to distance himself from the entrenched Unionism that he has diligently followed up until now. He has miraculously changed tack and has suddenly declared himself to be a Trade Unionist…Which I suppose is in deference to the overwhelming support the unions gave him in his recent elevation to Branch Manager…………Then again perhaps not!!!!
    His simpering ,syrupy, insincerity seeps from every pore and it is for ths reason I could never take him seriously and I distrust every thing he says
    I find it absolutely tragic what has happened to Labour and I totally agree with you that if Labour is to survive their representatives must take a stand and break away and go back to their roots
    However, I think McTernan will prove to be the final nail in Labour’s coffin

  9. I think it has to be remembered that Jim Murphy is Blairite to the core
    His Referendum pantomime on the Irn Bru crates was stage managed from start to finish I witnessed some of his performances which were mlst notable for his inability or unwillingness to answer any questions that were put to him They tended to be be beetroot faced rants screeching diatribes at a less than inetersted audience of stray passers by …….and his usual stalwarts from the BT campaign…who on the whole tended to outnumber the rest of the onlookers
    He has desperately tried to distance him self from being an entrenched unionist and he has miraculously morphed into a Trade Unionist for this week….I suppose in deference to The Trade Union movement which were so vociferous in their support of him becoming the new Branch Manager
    I believe Jim Murphy’s agenda is entirely devoted to the advancement of himself rather than that of the most needy within our society….He has abandoned any pretence of Labour values and with his latest henchman McTernan in tow I think Labour appears to be in its death throws
    Perhaps Labour members and supporters will reassess their socialist principles and look towards orher parties as Labour turns more and more towards adopting the policies of The Right

  10. Sheila Mck …

    Completely agree more with you re Murphy, especially this bit: “His simpering, syrupy, insincerity seeps from every pore …” Couldn’t have put it better myself. Everything about his elevation has been preposterously stage-managed, à la Blair. Murphy is a phoney, and you would have to be completely brainwashed to imagine otherwise. Now, the vile McTernan is upon us.

    Leech upon leech or snake upon snake. Take your pick. Neither is palatable nor credible in Scotland. I’m still smarting from Sept 18 last year and all the more determined to see Scotland rid of the likes of those two, whose only interest is in their own self-enrichment. A pair of rogues out of the parcel of rogues disguised as “Scottish Labour”. Damn them and their force-fed cronies.

  11. To Sheila McK .. Above comment should have started: Couldn’t agree more with you …. doh! Typing not my best suit!


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