Murphy goes to ground as cracks in Labour’s facade grow wider

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by a Newsnet reporter

The Labour party in Scotland looks set to descend into a new round of chaos and in-fighting as Jim Murphy’s much-touted review of party structures received a poor reception from the party’s Westminster MPs.  

In a repeat of the criticisms of “no-show” laid at Jim Murphy during the Holyrood election campaign in May, last night the East Renfrewshire MP failed to appear on Newsnight Scotland to explain and defend the results of the review which bears his name.  It was left to co-author Sarah Boyack to defend the review, in a poor performance during which she spoke entirely about the needs of the Labour party and not how Scotland would be better served.  

As this article goes to press Mr Murphy has still not given any interview to the media on the subject.  

During the Holyrood election Labour’s rivals alleged that Mr Murphy was keeping his head down in order to avoid being associated with Labour’s disastrous campaign.  It will now be alleged that he is attempting to distance himself from the controversy his review has provoked amongst party colleagues.

On Monday night a furious row broke out amongst Labour MPs during the Westminster party’s weekly meeting.  Several Scottish MPs vehemently expressed their great anger about the plan to devolve the Scottish party.  

The critics were led by East Kilbride MP Michael McCann, who described the premise of the Murphy review as “a complete fallacy”.  Mr McCann angrily rejected the notion that Labour had been humiliated in the May election because “the British party fettered Scotland in some way”.

In Mr McCann’s opinion the party did so poorly in May because of “personalities” and complained that the party’s Holyrood leadership “didn’t have gravitas”.  Mr McCann further complained that the party had adopted SNP policies, and was “moving on to Tory and Nat territory”.  

Mr McCann and other Scottish Labour MPs feel that the review is “playing into the SNP’s hands” by effectively accepting the SNP proposal for full fiscal autonomy which is understood will be included as an option in the referendum.  

Amongst Labour’s Scottish contingent at Westminster there is considerable resentment at the way in which the review boosts the standing of Holyrood MSPs within the party.  One unnamed Labour MP was quoted in the Scotsman newspaper saying:  “We seem to be offering the Holyrood party what it wants and getting nothing in return.  We need to remember that they wanted nothing to do with us in April and wanted us out of their election.

“The MSPs are the ones who lost it in May and now we’re trusting them with the future of the party in Scotland.”

Commenting the SNP’s Deputy Whip Fiona McLeod said: “This rift is tearing the Labour party apart.  Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack’s review had meant to reform and unify, however it appears to have achieved the exact opposite.

“It appears that Labour’s MPs are in full-out revolt over the plans with one of them claiming that it treats them like ‘second-class citizens’.

“Everyone is well aware that Labour lost a majority of their big-hitters at the last Holyrood election but for their colleagues in Westminster not even to trust the current crop with responsibility over devolved issues must come as a kick in the teeth.

“It is somewhat ironic that Labour in party in Scotland want independence but don’t want Scotland to have independence.

“Perhaps they should follow the mantra of Murdo Fraser – those who want to focus on Scotland should join or start a party focused on Scotland and those who want to focus on the Westminster could have one of their own.

“It’s maybe the only way we will ever see any real peace and harmony in Scottish Labour.”