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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 5,973

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"Scottish Labour: Inside the campaign from hell"

A (Scottish) Sunday Herald article looks at some of the dysfunction within Scottish Labour's campaign (Reddit link as the Herald article's paywalled - they also didn't deliver to my local shop today, drat). I'm sure there's a lot more to come out, but much of the focus is inevitably on Jim Murphy:

One colleague, explaining Murphy's approach to the media, said: "He once told me he was not bothered about the words in newspapers, just the pictures, and how he looked on TV."

During the campaign, some of Murphy's supporters were taken aback by his obsession with how he looked in the tabloids: how big the photograph was; and whether he came across better than Nicola Sturgeon. He was said to have been driven mad by the exposure given to Sturgeon - particularly after the first leaders' debate involving Miliband and David Cameron - and was grumpy when a daft photo of him emerged in the media. One senior party figure said he didn't know if Murphy was campaigning for office, or for "the front page of Vogue". Members of Murphy's team admired his energy, but were bemused by his vanity. They were irked by his bad habit of pulling stupid faces in photo-shoots and grew weary of his incessant football references. He stopped dying his hair, but only reluctantly. The flip-flop campaign strategy was believed to be another reflection of Murphy's shallowness.


Meanwhile, McTernan appeared to revel in his status as Murphy's top dog. Under Johann Lamont, the then general secretary Ian Price had occupied the sole private office in the party's Bath Street headquarters. With Murphy in charge, McTernan got the office, while new general secretary Brian Roy used a desk in the open-plan area. McTernan was also unpopular among some colleagues at Holyrood and acquired a reputation for making bold statements that were rarely borne out by reality. It was said he claimed that Sturgeon would struggle in the first UK leaders' debate, and announced that an event by Gordon Brown in Margaret Curran's constituency would have a big effect on the campaign. In the end, Sturgeon shone in London and the Brown press conference sank without trace. One source said McTernan had two modes: nice guy or wannabe Malcolm Tucker.

As the polls refused to budge, other grievances developed. Deputy leader Kezia Dugdale was said to have been under-used, as was senior MSP James Kelly, and Murphy's shadow cabinet was deemed to be a paper-body subordinate to his well-paid helpers.


Labour also suffered from tension between candidates in the scramble for scarce election cash. In most campaigns, Scottish political parties prioritise a handful of constituencies; this time, Labour was faced with protecting all of its seats.

Roy, to his credit, produced an incentives-based plan that rewarded effort with resources. If a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) met voter contact rates, extra leaflets would follow. According to documents seen by this newspaper, the Roy plan flushed out the grafters from the slackers. In early February, East Lothian CLP had made 1,547 voter contacts. Other CLPs were in single digits. Some seats naturally fell off the radar at Labour headquarters, but in the latter stages of the campaign insiders believed favouritism trumped effort as resources were diverted to the established "sons and daughters" - code for Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran, the latter of whom was believed to be an undeserving resource-hogger.


I expect Murphy to be gone within the week. He's mainly hanging on now in the hope of negotiating a secure regional list slot in the 2016 Holyrood elections (oh Christ, another election ...).
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