I suspect that the Scottish Labour gala dinner in Glasgow tonight won’t feel like much of a gala. The Scottish Labour party is in crisis: its leader has quit attacking the UK Labour party for treating it like a ‘branch office’ and now an Ipsos-Mori Westminster voting intention poll has the SNP on 52 per cent to Labour’s 23 per cent.
This poll is a reminder of the scale of the challenge facing whoever is the new leader of the Scottish Labour party. I argue in the magazine this week that Jim Murphy is, by a distance, the best candidate for the job. He has what Scottish Labour so desperately needs right now: energy, no fear of the SNP and its agenda and the ability to win elections.
But Murphy’s victory is, by no means, a done deal. Much of the Labour left, including the powerful union Unite loathe him. Last year, Len McCluskey, secretary-general of Unite, warned that if Miliband was ‘seduced by the Jim Murphys’ of this world he would be ‘defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history’. They’ll argue that Labour should be trying to match the SNP’s march to the left. There’ll also be those who claim that Scottish Labour can’t be led by someone who isn’t a member of the Scottish Parliament.