Jim Murphy to lead Scottish Labour - can he beat the SNP ?

Jim Murphy

This Saturday Jim Murphy was voted in as Scottish Labour leader. But could he eventually become First Minister?

The East Renfrewshire MP won with 55.77% of the total vote, with Neil Findlay, the Lothians MSP, coming second on 34.99%. Sarah Boyack - another Lothians MSP - came third with 9.24% of the total vote.

The election was held under Labour’s electoral college system, where a third was made up of party members, a third parliamentarians and a third of affiliates.

Jim Murphy won a landslide of the vote in the MPs/MSPs/MEPs section. He also won over party members with almost double the number of votes that Neil Findlay got. However, he failed to win the affiliates section, coming a reasonable second to Neil Findlay.

Sarah Boyack came third in every category.

As for the deputy leadership election, the MSP Kezia Dugdale won, beating Katy Clark MP for the job.

Commenting on Mr Murphy’s win, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the SNP, said:

“While we will undoubtedly cross swords often in the months ahead, my door is always open to those who wish to find common ground and work together in the best interests of people in Scotland – something I hope we will have the opportunity to do.”

Jim Murphy’s election was expected by many commentators, but now he can get on with leading the party into the future. His first challenge will be next year’s general election, for which polls put the SNP well ahead of Labour in Scotland. Jim Murphy’s party could lose a lot of their seats next year. Murphy is now captain of a potential sinking ship.

After that, the next challenge will be the Scottish elections in 2016. If Jim Murphy leads his party to victory he will become Scotland’s First Minister - and the first non-SNP member to do so since 2007.

Scottish Labour are facing an uphill battle. Many Labour supporters ignored the party position in the referendum and voted ‘yes’ and many more would now vote SNP.

However, one problem that the party may face with Murphy is his political positioning. Murphy is clearly on the right of the Labour party. Many of those who previously voted Labour but would now vote SNP for the left of centre vision. The worry for Scottish Labour now is that Murphy’s win will mean no going back for many who have jumped ship to the SNP.

Another is that he is an MP, not an MSP. That will likely change in 2016 - or before if a suitable by-election arises - but this could be a major problem. Jim Murphy can speak for Scottish Labour, but not in the Holyrood chamber. He lacks the megaphone through which to attack Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP directly. Then again, his deputy is in the Holyrood chamber so she will have a say. But without the ability to challenge Sturgeon in the chamber, parts of his message will be drowned out.

Scottish Labour are facing an uphill battle. Indeed, with polls predicting the SNP to do well next May, Scotland is a key battleground if Ed Miliband wants to be Prime Minister.

The party’s future in Scotland - and perhaps across the UK - is in Jim Murphy’s hands.

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