Garve Scott-Lodge's

Sorry Excuse for a Blog

Murphy's Chance

22 December 2015

There was a 10 minute period last April when Jim Murphy could have turned it around.

Jim Murphy
Blast from the Past

I'm not saying things would have reverted to the 'normal' of the last few decades, with Labour holding 40 Scottish seats - the referendum campaign had opened too many people's eyes for that. But he had a chance to head off the complete catastrophe which has since followed for Scottish Labour.

But he missed the opportunity. Did he 'phone Blair or John for advice? Either way the wrong choice was made. And I suppose, given the kneejerk hatred of the SNP that everyone at Scottish Labour is infected with, perhaps there's no chance he could have made the correct decision.

The Telegraph ran with a story that Nicola Sturgeon had told the French ambassador that she preferred a David Cameron victory to an Ed Miliband one.

Ignore everything we know about that now - instead go back to that evening of the 3rd of April and imagine you're Jim, fingers poised over your Twitter keyboard, wildly excited at the very idea of the story. Ready to get in there, kick her while she's down and make the most of it.

Did something tickle at the edge of his conscience? Was there an angel on his right shoulder, trying to get his attention? An inkling that the Telegraph is a nasty, right-wing paper, and possibly he shouldn't side with it? We'll never know.

If he'd listened to the angel, or he, John or Blair had taken that 10 minutes to think about it, he'd have tweeted:

"Nicola Sturgeon and I may be rivals, but I don't believe what the Telegraph is saying about her."

Job done. Tomorrow's newspaper headlines of "Murphy stands up for embattled Sturgeon" or "Jim to Nic's rescue" would have stood him in good stead with 75%+ of the electorate. And if it had turned out Sturgeon really had said that, what harm would that have done him? Once it came out he could say "I'm shocked, I thought much better of her". But if (as has been proved) she didn't say it, he'd be the big Labour guy who stood up for wee Nicola against the right-wing press. A win/win situation.

But no, he blew it. Jumped on the bandwagon as the wheels were coming off. And his chance was gone.

"For months Nicola Sturgeon has been telling Scots she wants rid of David Cameron yet behind closed doors with foreign governments she admits she wants a Tory government. It's deja vu all over again - the SNP say one thing in public but another in private."

But the very worst thing about the episode is that Scottish Labour have learnt nothing. And I don't mean George Foulkes still insisting the story is true, evidence be damned.

No, I mean they're just repeating the same mistakes, over and over again. At least Murphy had a tiny excuse, in that he hadn't seen just how catastrophic things were getting back then. Kezia knows. Jackie knows. But they can't stop themselves. How low do the polls have to go before they question if they're doing the right thing?

Not a single event happens in Scotland, not a single statistic is published without their first instinct being to find a way to make the SNP look bad.

Take the recent 'Scottish budget' announced by John Swinney. Scotland's grant from Westminster is cut by the Tories due to their dogmatic belief in austerity. Swinney has to pass cuts on. Now, there are various things in the Scottish Government's announcement which Labour could moan about, but surely they should be criticising the Tories at least as much?

But no, Labour turn all their ire on insisting John Swinney could have raised the Scottish rate of income tax to compensate for the cuts in the block grant.

There's a problem with that of course, and I'll give you it in big letters:

Raising the SRIT would increase taxes on the lowest paid taxpayers.

Aha, say Labour, but due to people's tax code, more of the extra tax would be paid by the better off. To which I say:

Raising the SRIT would increase taxes on the lowest paid taxpayers.

Yes, but, say Labour, more of the increased tax would go into services which would disproportionately help the poorer in society. You're right, I say, but:

Raising the SRIT would increase taxes on the lowest paid taxpayers.

I wonder if Kezia sees the problem here. There is not a single vote in Scotland which Labour can realistically gain by:

Increasing taxes on the lowest paid taxpayers.

Additionally, I don't believe anyone in Scottish Labour really wants to:

Increase taxes on the lowest paid taxpayers.

Instead, once again, by looking for an angle to attack the SNP instead of the Tories, they carry out so many contortions that they end up in a position where they're calling for something which is unpopular in Scotland, loses them votes and which they probably don't believe in themselves.

Every time, Labour look for an angle to attack the SNP, the angle proves to be unpopular, their poll ratings go down, so they look for another angle to attack the SNP etc etc.

Kezia, a large majority of the voters of Scotland want to vote for a party which will fight the Tories. And, at the moment, you're not it.

I follow a number of Scottish Labour activists on Twitter. Take the prolific Scott Arthur, who you may know from the audiences of Question Time et al. Scroll back through his timeline from any point and you will find an imbalance in the levels of criticism of Nicola Sturgeon's government compared to David Cameron's.

And I'm not talking about a small imbalance, like, oh I don't know, 55% to 45%. No, we're looking at 99% SNPBad v 1% ToryBad. And Scott's far from alone.

It's not a coincidence that Scottish Labour's polling figures are falling whilst they're obsessed with criticising the SNP rather than the Tories.

My advice to Labour - take a New Year's resolution to aim your ire at the Tories for January and February, then check your polls to see if it works.

They won't take it though.