Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is Ian Murray's triumphant tenure as Shadow Scottish Secretary drawing to a close?

I suggested semi-facetiously the other week that if Liz Kendall won the Labour leadership, she'd probably ennoble John "the Gardener" McTernan and make him Shadow Scottish Secretary. But in truth, I think we've all been assuming that Ian Murray has a guaranteed job until either the 2020 general election or Scottish independence (whichever comes soonest). As with so many other assumptions, that's been abruptly called into question by the Jeremy Corbyn surge. A couple of days ago, Murray made an extraordinarily rude and ageist comment about Corbyn (who is eighteen months younger than the current frontrunner for US President). He certainly didn't sound like a man gearing up to be the Islington MP's loyal Scottish lieutenant after the leadership contest is over.

It could be that he's just lazily assuming that the Labour party will, in McTernan's phrase, "come to its senses" in time for September. If so, he might see things differently in the event of Corbyn actually winning. But would he already have burnt his bridges by then? With almost any other leader, the answer would be yes, but Corbyn does seem to be remarkably magnanimous and free of grudges. The snag is, though, that Corbyn is also the only candidate proposing to reintroduce elections for the Shadow Cabinet, and with the best will in the world, it's very hard to imagine Murray being favoured by his parliamentary colleagues in a beauty contest of that sort. If the system works as it used to, the leader will be able to add a couple of unelected members (a bit like captain's picks in the Ryder Cup), but why would Corbyn waste his wildcards on Murray when he could use them to bring in allies like John McDonnell and Diane Abbott?

My guess is that a Corbyn win would trigger Murray's exit from the Shadow Cabinet, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Labour might then take a leaf out of Tim Farron's book and decide that having an elected party leader at Scottish level is sufficient, and that the post of Shadow Scottish Secretary is superfluous. At most, Murray might continue in a downgraded spokesperson role, if only to ensure there is someone to face David Mundell at Scottish Questions.

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Is anyone else gutted that the Sunday Times has named eight Shadow Cabinet members who would refuse to serve under Corbyn, and Rachel Reeves isn't one of them? What does it actually take to get shot of her?


  1. You have to admit it would be interesting and amusing to watch Rachel Reeves operate under a Corbyn leadership. How many words can the woman eat?

  2. There are of course any number of Scottish Labour Peers with much political experience to draw on who could serve as SoSfS. John Reid, Helen Liddel, Lord 'the end of civilisation' Robertson and many more.

    1. None of those would be likely to serve under Corbyn (or at all, actually - Robertson would hardly accept a nothing job after being Secretary-General of NATO).

    2. I thought it obvious I was being rather ridiculously facetious.

  3. Glasgow Working ClassAugust 2, 2015 at 11:01 PM

    Seems strange James you give your time to Corbyn and do not dwell a bit on his past loyalties towards onerous people. But of course you are a democrat and respect democratic decisions. But not from the ballot box! The 2 + million idiot Scots!

  4. A Corbyn-led Labour party would be practically ungovernanable. You would have around 200 MPs out of 232 Lab MPs not agreeing with him on much.