The next Labour leader in Scotland – a look at the candidates

With three declared candidates so far, Left Foot Forward gives a snapshot of those who hope to take the reigns as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Scottish Labour ncr

With three declared candidates so far, Left Foot Forward gives a snapshot of those who hope to take the reigns as leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Jim Murphy

Undoubtedly the most well-known name in the race, the shadow international development secretary and MP for East Renfrewshire was believed to have had a good referendum campaign, visiting 100 towns in 100 days with his trusted Irn Bru crate.

A supporter of the Iraq war, Murphy remains associated with the Blairite wing of the party which may cause the party problems when faced with an attack on its left flank from Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP more widely.

Speaking to the Daily Record today, his ambitions are quite clear – “I’m applying for the job of first minister”, he said.

Calling for a “fresh start” for Scottish Labour, Murphy pledged to “strike a tone that stops the Scottish Labour Party from committing self harm”.

Pledging to bring the party, and more importantly the country together following the referendum, he explained:

“I am not going to shout at or about the SNP, I am going to talk to and listen to Scotland and I am very clear that the job I am applying for is to be the first minister of Scotland.”

Call for the energy shown during the independence campaign to be harnessed now to address some of the major challenges Scotland faces, he made clear that his priority would be to tackle the “gross inequalities in Scotland. To deal with the generational poverty”. He called also for a debate about “how we protect the NHS, how we improve our schools and how we end that sense of hopelessness that some people have”.

Sarah Boyack

Sarah Boyack
Jon Davey Photography

Boyack’s decision to stand for the leadership took many people by surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t have done.

One of Scottish Labour’s most senior MSPs, she has been at Holyrood since the Scottish parliament was first established in 1999, serving under the first first minister Donald Dewer as minister for the environment, planning and transport.

Having lost her Edinburgh Central constituency seat in 2011 to the SNP, she never the less found herself in the Scottish parliament again as a list member for the Lothian Region.

Following the SNP’s victory in 2011, she was appointed by Ed Miliband – alongside Jim Murphy – to undertake a full review of Scottish Labour to understand what went wrong and what needed to change.

Calling for a “constructive” conversation about how both the country and Labour moves forward, she said on announcing her candidacy:

“I want to make sure we take the opportunity to have a constructive conversation about the country and taking Labour forward; we had a huge democratic debate in this country over the last few months and we have to continue that debate.

“People are looking for ambition and vision, and I think that is what the Scottish Labour party is about. We need to look at not only where power lies, but how we use that power for everybody.”

Neil Findlay

Neil FindleyFirst elected in 2011 as one of the list members for Lothian, Findlay is ironically the one candidate who didn’t really want to be in the contest.

Appointed as shadow health secretary at Holyrood in 2013, he initially called for Gordon Brown to stand, putting his name forward only after the former prime minister ruled himself out as a candidate.

A former teacher in Falkirk, Findlay will be the standard bearer for the left in the contest, with the Scotsman having reported that “sources close to Mr Findlay” had argued that it would be “unacceptable” if Jim Murphy were to be elected leader.

In a sign of the direction he would want to take the party in, even before Johann Lamont resigned, he took to the pages of the Morning Star to argue that Labour needed to tack to the left to tackle the threat now posed by the SNP. He said of Scottish Labour that “anyone who thinks that we can take on the SNP from any other position than firmly to their left needs to re-enter this world from cloud cuckoo land”.

Among a number of policies he called for where a commitment in principle to a policy of full employment; establishing a new national house building programme to build new social housing on a “grand scale”; greater efforts to promote the living wage through the use of government and public sector contracts; a wholesale review of the NHS; and establishing a charter of workers’ rights.

He concluded his article:

“Those on the left should remember this. The SNP is not a social-democratic party. It is a nationalist party that is at the same time populist. It seeks links with the trade union movement — but also with big business. Its economic policy documents show it to be essentially neo-liberal, ultimately defending the privileges of the market.

“This is the open goal for the Labour Party. Policy is the key to our future success — let’s start to build that radical policy programme now.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

9 Responses to “The next Labour leader in Scotland – a look at the candidates”

  1. swat

    Going by appearances alone, Jim is the only one that looks like a credible Leader of the Scots; you can just picture him in Official photos standing amongst a group of world leaders at EU Summits discussing the admission of an Independent Scotland into the EU community.
    He’s also a Scot, and experienced so is qualified. So I’m backing Jim.

  2. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Candidates? Murphy will be anointed.

  3. David Lindsay

    Jim Murphy has no degree to show for his nine years at university collecting student union sabbatical positions.

    He followed them up with a year in some party non-job, leading into a parliamentary seat at the grand old age of 29.

    Wikipedia (I know, but even so) lists him as “Profession: None.”

    Quite.

  4. Norfolk29

    I wish all three of them well and wonder how the Labour Party in Scotland got itself into this position. Could it have been 18 years of Tory rule, followed by 13 years of Blair and Brown (both either Scots or associated with Scotland). I know none of them but would have been labelled a Blairite myself if anyone could be bothered, in that I supported the Iraq War. However Findley’s policies are what I now campaign for and the sooner Labour takes control of more social housing, a Living Wage, proper funding of the NHS and the Education System, the better. I don’t know what he means by “establishing a charter of Workers Rights” and I look forward to a better explanation of how that would be applied.

  5. AVBK

    Why didn’t Jacobs review them in alphabetical order – Boyack, Findlay, Murphy?

  6. treborc1

    Progress lad then.

  7. steroflex

    Good thorough review – well written! Very helpful.

  8. Red Meggie

    “Anyone who thinks that we can take on the SNP from any other position than firmly to their left needs to re-enter this world from cloud cuckoo land”. Spot on – whoever wins needs to take on the SNP from the view that Nationalism is a diversion from the real issues involving the crisis of capitalism that can only be satisfactorily resolved by UK-wide policies. That is why I opposed separation, I want a socialist approach to governing the country which I don’t think is possible with an arch-liberal economy on the doorstep (definitely impossible while using the same currency). It wasn’t about relying on the return of Scottish Labour MPs, it was about the fact that Nationalism is never the answer to any question (being the second most frequent cause of wars, after religion of course, and I’m an atheist too).

  9. Alan Ji

    If I recall rightly he won a Constituency that had never elected a Labour MP before. That’s a considerable achievement.

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