Murphy, whose talk at Policy Exchange on Monday follows his departure at the weekend, had secured a series of reforms he argued would help set the party on a path to recovery following its devastating general election defeat in which it lost all but one of its Westminster seats in Scotland.
In a relaxed valedictory address following a meeting of Scottish Labour’s executive committee in Glasgow on Saturday, Murphy described the election defeat as “traumatic”, saying: “The defeat last month was terrible for the Scottish Labour party, but it makes the difficult argument for reform far easier.”
Announcing that the national executive had approved his plans by a two-thirds majority, he said: “If anything good can come from such a painful defeat, it is that we are free to be bolder in our message, to reach further into the population for talent, and to renew our organisation to better reflect modern Scotland.”
Under the plans, Labour will introduce one-member, one-vote elections – as the UK party did last year – and scrap rules that prevent new candidates getting prime places on regional lists at Holyrood elections. While this gets rid of the formal union bloc in leadership elections, it still has the potential to increase the influence of union activists because there are tens of thousands of union members who pay the political levy.
The changes to the regional lists marks a short-term strategy to deal with the continuing Scottish National party surge across the country. With the latest TNS poll putting SNP support at 60% in next year’s Holyrood election, it is expected that Scottish Labour will struggle to win first-past-the-post constituency seats and will thus rely on the regional list system to get former Labour MPs and fresh talent into the Scottish parliament as it attempts to rebuild its opposition base.
The plans will also incorporate a system of US-style primaries in time for the election of Westminster candidates for the 2020 general election, allowing for the injection of fresh talent from outside the usual political career path, something analysts believe greatly bolstered SNP success in this year’s general election.
Murphy himself ruled out standing for election again, saying that his political career was behind him. “After I have made a speech on Monday about the future of the party, I will leave the stage”, he said, adding that he would be a source of discreet advice – “if asked for it by my successor” – and that he would remain “an active and faithful servant of the party that I love so much”.
Unable to resist a final swipe at the SNP, he added: “Any insights I offer to those who come after me will be in private. As Nicola Sturgeon is learning, very little good comes from a leader who steps down but doesn’t shut up.”
This article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland reporter, for theguardian.com on Sunday 14th June 2015 14.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010