Jim Murphy’s leadership of Scottish Labour is under mounting pressure after two trade unions called on him to resign and a former rival for the position branded the party’s defeat by the SNP a disaster.
Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary for Unite the Union, led calls for Murphy to stand down on Saturday, saying that Murphy’s continued leadership would “only prolong the party’s agony” in the wake of its humiliating general election result.
Murphy was a significant casualty on Thursday night for Scottish Labour, who lost his once safe seat of East Renfrewshire to the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald, who claimed victory with 23,564 votes to Labour’s 19,295.
Despite the emphatic defeat, Murphy said he would stay on as leader as the party had lacked “continuity of leadership”, having had five leaders in the past seven years.
Rafferty expressed surprise that Murphy felt he still had a mandate to lead after Thursday’s results.
“Change must begin with a new leader,” he said. “I do not say this out of any personal animus. Jim fought a courageous campaign, and the party’s problems clearly long predate his leadership. But staying on as leader will only prolong the party’s agony.”
He added: “I therefore call on Jim Murphy to resign without delay, and give the membership of the Scottish Labour Party the chance to determine their own way forward in rebuilding from Thursday’s ruins.”
Aslef, the train drivers’ union, swiftly followed Unite’s lead and demanded that Murphy bow out.
Kevin Lindsay, Scottish secretary of Aslef, said: “Jim Murphy has just presided over the worst election defeat in the history of the Scottish Labour party. He has to go – and he has to go now.”
Meanwhile, Neil Findlay MSP resigned from Labour’s Scottish shadow cabinet on Saturday, citing Thursday’s election.
Findlay, who lost to Murphy in last year’s Scottish Labour leadership contest, said the party’s problems are wide-ranging and require “radical solutions”.
The Lothian MSP said he wants to play a full part in rebuilding the party from the “grassroots up”, but can only do so “free from the constraints of being a member of the shadow team”.
Submitting his resignation from the shadow cabinet at Holyrood, where he held the fair work, skills and training brief, Findlay said: “Thursday’s election was a disaster for the Scottish Labour party. Despite huge efforts by all concerned since 2007, we have gone from the dominant party of Scottish politics to a party with only 38 MSPs and one solitary MP.
“The problems of the Scottish Labour party are wide ranging and deep. Radical solutions are needed and can only be implemented following a full, frank, open and democratic debate led by our loyal and hardworking, committed party members – a centralised fix just won’t do.”
This article was written by Jamie Grierson and Libby Brooks, for theguardian.com on Saturday 9th May 2015 17.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010