Scottish Labour leadership race: Findlay has the advantage

MSP Block Scottish Parliament

Jim Murphy might be the candidate with experience, as well as the bookies’ favourite, but it is Neil Findlay who has an advantage.

Nominations have closed in the Scottish Labour leadership race and voting is soon to take place, with the new leader to be announced in time for Christmas.

Three candidates are standing for the top spot:

Jim Murphy MP, the experienced ex-cabinet Minister, who stepped down from the shadow cabinet to fight for the role, and is clearly on the right of the party.

Neil Findlay MSP, one of the 2011 Holyrood in take, and is clearly on the left of the party.

And last but not least Sarah Boyack MSP, elected in the same regional list as Findlay, and said the party should be ‘bold and radical’ with new policies.

The post of deputy leader is also up for grabs, with. Kezia Dugdale MSP and Katy Clark MP standing for the position.

Jim Murphy is currently the favourite for the top spot, but Neil Findlay has a great chance of getting elected to the job.

One reason for this is Findlay’s backing from numerous unions. On Thursday, Unison, Scotland’s largest Trade Union gave their backing  to Findlay. In the leadership election one third of the votes will come from members of trade unions and associated groups. Getting official backing from numerous Unions will likely have an impact on the way these voters vote. This puts Findlay in with an excellent chance.

Secondly, Neil Findlay is not a career politician and is positioning himself in such a fashion, putting him at odds with Jim Murphy. Writing on Friday for Labour List, Findlay said:

“I’m not a career politician. I left school with few qualifications and started as an apprentice bricklayer. I worked as a housing officer for 8 years and then as a teacher.”

First and foremost, he is being honest. Secondly, by highlighting this he is tapping into the anti-political mood across the country. Jim Murphy is without a doubt the career politician in the race, so by tapping into to this Mr Findlay is on to something . Mr Murphy was heavily involved in student politics before becoming an MP in 1997 at the age of 29. There is no denying the great extent that he is a career politician.  Findlay is clearly tapping into this anti-political mood by highlighting his work in the ‘real world’ before becoming an MSP.

Of course this can be seen as a disadvantage, with some voters perhaps preferring someone with a vast amount of political experience like Jim Murphy, but Findlay is certainly using it to his advantage.

Thirdly, Findlay has a clear vision for the Labour party. He has a simple but powerful message, likely to get through to ordinary voters in Scotland. Writing for Labour List he said: “We need a return to real Labour values. We need to tackle inequality in Scotland. We need to tackle low pay. We need to strive for full employment, make work fairer and better for people and end zero hours contracts contracts.” Returning to key Labour values will help the party.

The final key advantage Neil Findlay has is that he is already an MSP. He is already in Holyrood and will be able to take the fight directly to Nicola Sturgeon before 2016, something Labour voters would love to see. Compare this with Murphy who would remain outside Scotland’s main political arena until 2016 when he would be parachuted into Holyrood if he wins the Labour leadership race.

The leadership race is likely to be tight, with Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay pulling ahead of Sarah Boyack. Murphy still has a decent chance in becoming leader, but Findlay evidently has the advantage.