Monday, 13 April 2015

The Murphy Bounce

Oh dear. It's not going to plan for Jim Murphy. The plan was a simple one hatched after being sacked by Ed Miliband from the Shadow Cabinet: use his experience and public recognisability to mount a coup against Johann Lamont. Be the big, clunking Westminster fist and put a bit of stick about. Hope Ed Miliband didn't win the General Election. Replace him. Become prime minister of a country tired of two terms of Conservative rule at the age of 51. Or, in the worst case scenario, be the powerful Blairite leader of a significant number of MPs and hold a weak Miliband to ransom, John Major-style.

Oh dear.

To be fair to the hapless unionist extremist, he did manage to pull some of it off. He successfully managed to outwit Johann Lamont.

Although it was much closer than he would have wished: rather than the coronation he wanted - and probably needed - he only managed to get 55% of the vote.

But aside from that, it's all gone horribly wrong. Far from the Scottish Labour group of MPs giving him a power base from which to extract Blairite concessions from Ed Miliband in the Commons, it's gone entirely the opposite way. 

Now, he's been thrown under a bus. His bosses in London have clearly calculated that the number of seats Murphy can bring them by being allowed to, well, be Jim Murphy, in Scotland is far outweighed by the damage he would do to them in England. So they've ditched him. 

There were dozens of ways Ed Miliband could have gone about reassuring middle England that austerity will continue under Labour without publicly humiliating Jim Murphy. It's very telling that he chose to send a member of the Shadow Cabinet out - a man who himself is tipped to one day replace Miliband - to utterly destroy Jim Murphy on live television, to call him a liar, and to cut the man off at the knees. It's clear that the Labour leadership has now given up on Scotland, and it might very well be the case that they've calculated that it's best to destroy Scottish Labour and potentially start again, with the added bonus of destroying Jim Murphy's political career into the bargain. 

Murphy tried desperately to get one of Labour's fifteen constituency MSPs to stand down and let him into Holyrood, but he couldn't manage it. Is it conceivable that not a single MSP could be persuaded by the offer of a peerage? I don't believe so. Might it have been the case that Murphy wasn't able to offer a peerage because the leadership didn't want to help him? It's not outwith the bounds of possibility, is it?

Murphy's seat is a marginal one in the new Scotland, with a now small majority of 21.452 over the National party. Ashcroft polling in his constituency showed that Murphy would hold onto the seat by three points. However, 3% of respondents said they'd vote Green - but the Greens have now confirmed they're not standing. If the Labour vote collapses further, and the Greens vote National instead of one of the four Unionist parties, or Class War, Murphy's seat is gone, his position as branch manager untenable, and his career in politics struggling badly to exist.

We were told there was going to be a Murphy bounce, but there's so much in the man's past that Labour voters seem to be looking for excuses to ditch him - and he's not shy about providing them. Indeed, his appalling behaviour in the three televised debates - aggressively howling down and screaming at the First Minister - must have alienated voters by the hundred, particularly women voters. 

There has been a Murphy bounce, but it rather resembles the bounce one observes when hurling a tomato from the roof of a tower block.

The graph above shows how popular Murphy's leadership has been. In opinion polling so far, he's never made it above a third of people intending to vote for his party. The last time Labour failed to get at least a third of the vote in Scotland was the 1931 General Election; the last time they failed to breach the 30% mark was 1918. 

Murphy is not doing well, and it seems that the more the Scottish people get to know him, the less they like him.

For a man who's very vocal and very visible, he's been very voiceless today since his public dressing-down by his bosses. There's no more strutting around the country, pretending to be some sort of leader. Indeed, the man who's on television more often than the test card has - in an unprecedented move - turned down an invitation to come on STV's Scotland Tonight show this evening and explain exactly why the Labour leadership has thrown him to the wolves and made a conscious decision to publicly humiliate him.

It'll be interesting to see if we see Jim Murphy between now and the General Election. Because for a man whose first statement upon taking office was that he didn't need permission from London to rewrite policy, and who has now had that shot down in flames, he's lost every shred of authority he ever had over Scottish Labour, and has lost every shred of dignity he once had. 

Murphy is toast.

1 comment:

  1. A pretty definitive explanation. Nice work.