Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Scottish Labour leadership crisis deepens as Jim Murphy's personal ratings sink to catastrophic levels

With the Bank Holiday weekend over, YouGov have finally published their Scottish datasets after a long delay.  Among the supplementary questions, the most eye-catching finding is on the subject of leadership -

Do you think Nicola Sturgeon is doing well or badly as First Minister?

Well: 75% (+7)
Badly: 19% (-7)


Do you think that Jim Murphy is doing well or badly as leader of the Scottish Labour party?

Well: 27% (-5)
Badly: 62% (+8)


The gap between the net ratings of the two leaders is now a mind-boggling 91 points, which is 27 points bigger than in the last YouGov poll.

Whatever the die-hard Murphy fans in the media may believe, it is utterly inconceivable that any leader with these ratings could make a case for remaining in harness if he loses his parliamentary seat on Thursday. And even if he clings on in East Renfrewshire courtesy of tactical votes from Tory supporters, there will still be a huge question mark over his position. It's not good enough to pretend that his personal popularity is being dragged down by Labour's generic woes - Ruth Davidson has proved that it is perfectly possible to be associated with a toxic brand, and yet still be held in reasonably high esteem by the public.

It's obviously impossible to quantify exactly how much of a drag the Murphy Factor is on Labour's support, but to persist with the belief that he is (or will miraculously become) a net positive for the party is utterly delusional.

The fieldwork for this poll was conducted between Wednesday and Friday, so as I suspected it mostly predates the Question Time leaders' special on Thursday night, and Miliband's indication that he would be willing to put Cameron back in power in some circumstances. So we're not much closer to knowing what the impact of that development was, other than the little clues provided by Scottish subsamples in GB-wide polls. Today's YouGov subsample is : SNP 44%, Labour 26%, Conservatives 18%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Greens 2%. Yesterday's result was a bit closer, but I haven't spotted anything out of the ordinary since Thursday.

*  *  *

I recently took part in a short interview for an online Al Jazeera article about the general election - you can read it HERE.


  1. Not surprised by the numbers.

    Murphy is deliberately confrontational, that is his political style, and you can't rally the Scottish nation around someone who is fundily-mundily divisive in character.

    Nicola Sturgeon has earned the right to be FM. Jim Murphy just wants to steal it by fair means or foul.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. For what it is worth the Populus poll released today's Scottish sub-sample has SNP 46% Lab 25% Con 16% LD 8% GRN 3% UKIP 2%

  4. Since his election I have been utterly mystified about their reasons for going with him.

    Objectively I can see nothing attractive about him.

    The most important thing in a leader is having policies which match with the aspirations of the country, or at least your target voters. He doesn't.

    Then you have to be likeable. Of course everyone has a different perspective on that, and there must be many who like him, but it's hard to see why. He has no immediate appeal, as I can see. He lacks charm. He comes over as shouty and short tempered.

    I can't imagine that he is swoon material either. And base though it may be, that counts in some way.

    The perceived wisdom, as voiced by Curran on behalf of Scottish Labour right after the referendum, was that Labour needed to reconnect with its traditional vote, or as they somewhat patronisingly called them, 'Glasgow Man'. What Glasgow Man was supposed to see in a right wing, Henry Jackson, neo-Liberal, like Murphy, was beyond me.

    Perhaps his appeal was that he was a bit hitter from England, from the big boys' parliament. A man who'd been a cabinet minister, albeit at a very low level.

    But we should remember that he was also a man who wasn't seen as being of sufficient quality for the job of shadow defence secretary for the UK.

    And yet Labour thought him good enough to be first minister of a country?

    Weird unless of course you consider the Scottish government to be a regional council.

    Johann Lamont, Iain Gray and Wendy Alexander may not have been everyone's idea of leadership material. They may have lacked sophistication and poise that comes form being part of the London establishment, but I'd have been more wary about going into this election with any of them in charge, than with Murphy.

    He was a gift to the SNP.

  5. I don't want him gone. I don't think there's anybody better to lead Labour in Scotland and I don't think he's had enough time to make a real impact.

    Oh blessed Jim, you complete me. I don't know how I could live without you!

    1. The "he hasn't had enough time" excuse doesn't really work. He's done four leaders' debates, three of them extremely high-profile. He's had far more exposure as leader in six months than Johann Lamont had in three years. The public have had ample opportunity to get to know him, and they clearly don't like what they see.

    2. Then surely you should be more than happy for Murphy to continue at the helm? Surely the more prominent he is, the better it will be for the SNP? I don't understand why SNP members and supporters should care about who the Labour party chooses to lead them. Leadership selection is a purely internal party matter.

    3. Well, that sounds suspiciously like the old "you only want him gone because you FEAR him" line. Actually, you said exactly that about Willie Rennie yesterday. You were joking then, and in the light of these figures I can only assume you're joking now.

      I'm not actually proposing a coup d'etat instigated by SNP supporters - if he has to go, it will be Labour themselves who displace him, or he'll resign. But in all seriousness, if by any chance he loses East Renfrewshire, his position will be utterly untenable.

    4. I think that Scotland needs an opposition. And it needs a good one. One that fights for principles and puts up reasoned and clever arguments against government policy where appropriate, and offers worked out, intelligent, real and viable alternatives.

      Murphy and Dugdale seem incapable of that.

    5. "I don't want him gone."

      Neither do any of the activists I know. Let's hope he stays precisely where he is. We all remember how much the SNP supposedly feared him when he was first elected and just how hard we all laughed back then. So it is now. ;-)

      (back out to the campaign :-D )

    6. I neither like Jim Murphy nor is his hyper-partisan, aggressive brand of tribal politics something I would ever endorse.

      But I agree with Stoat, I don't see that Labour have a better alternative at the moment.

  6. I think it was a trick question about Murphy since I think he is doing a fantastic job - A fantastic job of destroying what is left of the Labour Party in Scotland.

  7. To say Murph has been a gift to the SNP is an understatment. Both he and his PR team of McTernan & McDougal haven't an idea between them. Their amazing General Election campaign plan was just to re-do the Better Together, project fear, campaign. Top marks for not bothering guys.

    So while these three continue to pat each other of the back and plan their next smear... you get opinion polls like this. It's sad they can't work out what's right in front of them, but lets hope they never do. SNP are walking this.

  8. Any views, James, on what these results suggest about about tactical votes going to the Liberals?

  9. Bit of a bizarre ashcroft subsample, but then it's small.
    53% SNP
    21% Lab
    18% Lib
    5% Green
    2% Con

    Must be Con to Lib tactical :-)

    1. In all seriousness, the Lib Dems do seem to be making some late progress (albeit not quite that much!).

    2. Yes, we're probably just going to be badly beaten rather than completely murdered.

      It's nice to see we've come back a bit in the final few days, but it's still going to be a pretty painful night. 'Less Bad' is about as much as I'm hoping for.

  10. Unfortunately, I still think Murphy will probably just about hold East Renfrewshire, albeit at a terrible cost to his party just about everywhere else in Scotland. He is certainly now banking everything on the Tory tactical vote to save his skin.

    1. "He is certainly now banking everything on the Tory tactical vote to save his skin."

      Just like calamity Clegg then.

      Clegg and his ostrich faction dragged his entire party further and further right during the campaign in a desperate effort to save Clegg's own skin and seat, and to hell with anyone else. Just like the Eggman Murphy.

      They might even manage to scrape enough tory votes together save their own jobs but at what cost?

      Well, to be fair clearly not one they ever gave a shit about before. What do the rest of their party matter if they can still cling on to their jobs, perks and lovely expenses claims? ;-)

    2. Perhaps the SNP may actually gain some tactical Tory votes against Murphy.
      Do Tories really want to increase the chances of a majority Labour government?

  11. Looking at Kezia, Jim and the others, the question seems to be 'Which obvious sociopath do you think should lead Labour?'

  12. I certainly want Jim Murphy to remain leader, just looking at a picture of him laughing, makes me want to scream blue murder!

    The fall in his personal ratings should be reflected in a fall in Labour % pts, but it is looking like he is fighting for a very narrow number of seats, hoping to get the BT/Orange/Unionist voters to vote tactically for Labours big wigs.

    Looks like he wants to save Himself, Douglas Alexander, Margrit Curran, etc, at the expense of other Labour seats.

    Ian Davidson has already appealed to Ed Miliband to take over the campaign in Scotland but to no avail, so no matter what happens there will be a lot of very bad blood within the Labour Party after this election, that will spill over as soon as the election is over (they all know that voters don't like a divided party)

    Even if we are disappointed that these Labour figures might survive the 'Night of the long faces' just remember election night will be the end of the battle for the SNP and others, but the beginning of the battle for Labour, and it's a battle that I am convinced will tear them apart.

    Jim Murphy has been a disaster for Labour, but great for the SNP.