“Do you know that there’s hardly anyone left of last year’s Caucasian governments? I’ve tried to stop it, but in vain. Yet they can’t all be Trotskyites and traitors.”
Even today, Scottish society carries the scars of decades of political domination by the Labour party. Founded by the great John Maclean, for most of the 20th century, it fought the cause of the industrial workers who built Scotland into one of the great engineering centres of the world.
By the 1970s. with heavy engineering in steep decline, Labour’s powerful political machine, built around Labour clubs, Miners’ Welfare halls and unions, saw their power base grow shaky and figuratively circled the wagons to ensure their power—so hard-won—would be retained.
From their rock-solid base in widespread council estates, they ensured a layer of councillors controlled the cities and most of the Central Belt. Though a gifted few were selected to provide leadership, most were selected on the basis of loyalty. This provided a training ground for a phalanx of MPs, noted mainly for their loyalty and lack of contributions o Westminster. A similar recruitment base, leavened by some hard-fought gender balance, provided the MSPs who ran an uninspired first two terms of the Scottish Parliament. Control by the Bath Street STAVKA and individual CLPs brooked little dissent. An activist who worked hard and stayed loyal could expect a council sinecure and those dutiful in that role could hope for a “Buggins’ Turn” quiet and rewarding life as a voting-fodder MP. Few rocked the boat as most had no ambition or wish to lose either prestige or income. While not as brutal (nor as fatal), it reeked of Beria’s control under Stalin.
Then came the heresy of an SNP government in 2007, compounded by the majority sweep in 2011 and the landslide in 2015 that saw 40 Labour MPs lose their Scottish seats, leaving Ian Murray as the last of their MPs standing.
To be fair to Ian, he earned his survival, not being of the standard numpty stock. As a councillor, he worked hard for his Liberton ward and so earned his 2010 MP win in Edinburgh South. He proved his credentials as his own man by speaking out against Corbyn’s leadership and lobbied hard for a second referendum when the official Labour policy line was waffle.
“The Labour Party will have to come off the fence on that (i.e. a referendum) at some point pretty soon because I think what they’re trying to do might be incompatible with what’s available.”
—Ian Murray MP. Good Morning Scotland, BBC Scotland 18.12.18
Murray accused the party leadership of breaking its “broad church” when seven Labour MPs broke away to join a group of independent MPs in February. While still the only Scottish Labour MP, he resigned the post of Shadow Scottish Secretary because he could not thole staying quiet under Corbyn’s leadership.
So, given this and the history recounted above, it was perhaps no surprise that an attempt was made to deselect their most successful MP in Scotland at their meeting on October 24th. But it was not the CLP, nor its branches, nor even its affiliated unions who moved de-selection.
The move to deselect Murray came from the Unite union—not from the local branch but from its national headquarters, possibly even from Lavrentiy McClusky himself, an avid Corbyn supporter. Even by Unite’s standards it’s a demented move: Murray was re-elected in his Edinburgh South seat with an increase in his vote of 6,976. Labour party rules state that a contest to replace a sitting MP is triggered if a third of local members or affiliated unions back it.
“Corbynistas are using the prospect of an election to tighten the far-Left’s grip on Labour”
—Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph, 22.10.19
Murray saw off the attempt by Unite to have him deselected in the Edinburgh South constituency with aplomb. The move was overwhelmingly rejected in a vote of local members. All four member branches in the constituency backed the 37-year-old’s reselection in the meeting. Trade union and affiliate branches also rejected a selection contest, with the sole exception of Unite itself. As Murray commented at the meeting:
“It is a huge honour to have been reselected for the forthcoming General Election,” Representing my home city is a great privilege, and I have always put this constituency first and foremost.”
However much they may disagree with Labour policies, objective voters in Edinburgh South are likely to prefer Murray’s principled backbone to just another numpty loyal to the strict orthodoxy of Lavrentiy and STAVKA.
(See also Diana Johnson MP’s similar battle in Hull North)