The winds of change
JIM MURPHY says the reforms announced at the weekend deserve to be welcomed across the party
Our Scottish Parliament election defeat in May was probably our worst since the 1930s in Scotland. The response from Scottish Labour over the weekend are the biggest structural changes to our party in 90 years.
This is a total restructuring of Scottish Labour from top to bottom. And while structures don’t win us elections – vision does – these plans totally transform our party and give us a party architecture to organise the campaigns of the future.
The media will understandably focus on the wide franchise of those who can stand for the new job of Scottish party leader. This is a much wider role than the post Iain Gray held and we felt it was right that any elected Scottish parliamentarian should be permitted to throw their hat in the ring and trust the party members.
A really significant change is the switch of party structures to Holyrood boundaries instead of Westminster parliamentary seats. Not everyone will be keen, but the evidence on this was clear and it was why I changed my view on it to champion the change. Taking the example of our review co-chair, Sarah Boyack MSP, when Sarah tried to build a campaign team she had to go in search of volunteers across five Westminster seats that her seat touched on. In short, our structures hampered our campaign.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves, however, that moving to Holyrood seats as the unit of organisation deals with the problem. In truth it probably displaces our difficulties. In future it will be MPs that have to build a campaign team from across a myriad of smaller MSP seats that their expanded Westminster constituencies cover. However it’s the right change for Scottish Labour and will make us more competitive in our most contested elections. MPs are elected in a British general election where there is a higher turnout amongst the voters and our volunteers. It’s just a truth that there is greater energy in the UK election – even if some wish it wasn’t the case.
Our structures prevent us from organising for the election where the Scottish party is on its own and where we have to go toe to toe with our main opponent in Scotland, and the only likely alternative party of Scottish government. So in future our CLPs will mirror the Scottish Parliament seats and make sure that our structures focus our party management, fundraising and member mobilisation for that election. There are issues for us to deal with arising from this, like how to maintain MP interaction with the party. But to oppose this change for that reason is an excuse rather than a reason.
We also agreed the completed devolution of the party and setting up a powerful management board chaired by our party leader. These are all good things that I might blog on again soon but in the meantime I have to get back to doing my emails.
A date for your diary is 29th Oct, which is our special conference to agree this. Hustings for our new leader will also take place then. I’m pretty excited about these changes. More to come next month from Sarah and I and the Review Group. That part of our review will be about campaigns, fundraising, relations with business and a lot more. The things that can help us win an election.
The Rt. Hon. Jim Murphy is MP for East renfrewshire, Shadow Defence Secretary and a former Secretary of State for Scotland. Follow him on Twitter at @jimmurphymp.