Murphy: Megaphone diplomacy and juvenile politics … again

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Jim and Eddie plan a night on the town

Jamie Wilson reflects on Jim Murphy’s megaphone diplomacy and its latest bout of “robust debate” in Glasgow’s St Enoch Square

From a Labour perspective, it’s hard to imagine a better outcome to Jim Murphy’s last ditch high street campaigning than some angry protesters drowning him out in front of the cameras.

When left to ‘make Labour’s case’ at this election he has been spectacularly unsuccessful. At times, in fact, it’s not been clear if he is even aware of said case – his promise of no further spending cuts in Scotland having no basis in Labour policy.

Murphy: What does he actually aim to achieve with his sparsely-attended "street rallies"? Rallies where there are more media than spectators?
Murphy: What does he actually aim to achieve with his sparsely-attended “street rallies”? Rallies where there are more media than spectators?

Murphy is indeed fully aware of Labour’s commitment to further austerity cuts, as are the majority of Scots, and he simply knows the case is lost. It’s not obvious how Eddie Izzard might have helped turn this around with three days to go.

So when hounded by a handful of protesters in Glasgow on Monday, Murphy was gifted an easy diversion – one that has become something of a signature move of his, seemingly inspired by Nigel Farage’s similarly fruitful visit to Edinburgh this time last year. Whether or not Murphy anticipated such an incident, he once again leapt at the opportunity to portray this as typical of SNP campaigners or supporters, with all the cynical enthusiasm of Mr Farage.

That the “ugly face of nationalism” line should be so eagerly lapped up by the media is no surprise. However, this is a ‘Scottish Labour’ leader with worse approval ratings in Scotland than the Tory Prime Minister. Why, then, should we accept this dubious narrative that the abuse Jim Murphy attracts is all about “aggressive nationalism” and nothing to do with the reputation that precedes him?

And he certainly does attract it. Objectionable as it may be, frankly it would be strange if such a remarkably unpopular politician didn’t get some degree of abuse when standing on a crate in the middle of a busy city centre, shouting increasingly disingenuous propaganda at people.

Press coverage of "protester" Sean Clerkin giving Jim Murphy exactly what he wants - an image of a "violent nationalist". Clerking says a Labour source told him about the "rally" (which was really a press photocell). So who benefited from that little scene?
Press coverage of “protester” Sean Clerkin giving Jim Murphy exactly what he wants – an image of a “violent nationalist”. Clerkin says a Labour source told him about the “rally” (which was really a press photocell). If that’s true, we have to ask ourselves, who So stood to benefit from the resultant little scene?

Having probably used the word ‘referendum’ more times in this campaign than the entire press in all of 2014, Murphy has fallen over himself every step of the way to frame the debate in terms of the independence question. But with a YouGov poll now indicating that around quarter of a million No-voters could back the SNP, the disconnect between Murphy’s rhetoric and the reality is plain for all to see.

His party has never stopped haemorrhaging support as traditional Labour voters defect to the SNP in droves, and under his leadership there has simply been an outright refusal to acknowledge the real reasons for this.

While the conduct of those protestors was patently NOT representative of the vast majority of SNP supporters, their line of attack was very telling:

“Justify the Iraq War”, one demanded. “Expenses cheats!”, cried another.      

“We’ve got people going to food banks [and] they claim to represent the working class!”

“Red Tories Out!”

These are the ‘hardline’ nationalists and even their attacks have seemingly little to do with nationalism.

Of course, with Labour’s collapse in Scotland seemingly now a foregone conclusion, Jim Murphy need only focus on retaining his own seat. And the only way he is going to do that is with the tactical votes of Tory supporters who respond well to his sensationalising of incidents like this.

If all else fails, Jim. In the event that you don’t succeed, though, and you’re out of a job come Friday, you’re welcome to use that as the title of your memoirs.