‘Frustrated’ Darling to quit as MP as Labour woes continue

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Alistair Darling has announced he will step down as an MP at next year’s UK general Election.

In an interview in the Financial Times, the Labour MP who represents Edinburgh South West, spoke of his “frustration” that the party had not used the recent referendum result as a springboard.

“My frustration is that we actually won,” he said. “You can’t say it often enough. We made the arguments, we had confidence in ourselves.”

In the interview the former Chancellor, who led the pro-Union Better Together alliance, said that an In/Out referendum on Europe was inevitable whoever wins the UK general election in May.

He said: “It’s a boil that has to be lanced,” He added “If you sit back and wait till the other lot have taken so much ground then you’re on the back foot,” he said. “You pay a heavy price.”

The announcement is a further blow to the Labour party in Scotland and follows the resignation of its leader Johann Lamont and its Deputy leader Anas Sarwar.  It also comes in the wake of opinion polls which show support for Labour collapsing north of the border with a surge in backing for the party’s main rival, the SNP.

Scottish Labour has now embarked on a contest to find replacements for Ms Lamont and Mr Sarwar.  MP Jim Murphy and MSP Kezia Dugdale have been installed as favourites to take over the respective roles.

Mr Darling’s apparent backing for an EU referendum puts him firmly in the Murphy camp.  Mr Murphy is also on record saying he supports an In/Out referendum.

However there is less support amongst Labour MSPs for an EU referendum.  Speaking on Radio Scotland on Sunday, Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson said: “I don’t accept that there needs to be an in out referendum in 2017.  I think our focus needs to be on reforming the EU from within,”

The issue of the EU returned to centre stage last week when Nicola Sturgeon warned that Scotland could find itself dragged out of the EU even if the Scottish electorate voted to stay in.  The MSP, who will replace Alex Salmond in November as leader of the SNP, has argued that the UK should only be allowed to leave the EU if all four constituent parts vote to leave.