Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Just a Thought

Scottish Labour find themselves in the awkward position of having to find themselves someone to lead them into the 2015 General Election and then into the 2016 Scottish Elections. Ideally, the person they want would be an MSP or, failing that, someone who intends to enter the Scottish Parliament in 2016.

That being the case, I wonder: would this not be a good time to dispense (perhaps temporarily) with the rule that the leader has to be a current MP, MSP, or MEP? (And, perhaps even more crucially, the rule that if they lose/give up their seat then they must resign.)

The thing is, the (Westminster) Labour party's favoured candidate, and the media's favoured candidate*, is Jim Murphy. To be honest, he's probably as good a candidate as they've got (though I think I'd prefer Darling), but he does have the big weakness that he's an MP rather than an MSP.

(* I'm not sure whether this is because the media are totally useless, and so simply don't know who the other candidates are (or how to use Google), or whether they've decided he's their favoured candidate. Either way, it's not good.)

Because of the current rules, this gives rise to a very awkward situation: in order to be leader, Murphy must stand as an MP in 2015, and yet he presumably does so with every intention to stand as an MSP in 2016, just one year later, and then resign his Westminster seat, forcing an expensive (and unnecessary) bi-election.

Would it not be better to instead make an exception to the rules, elect Jim Murphy leader but have him stand down in 2015, and instead lead the fight in 2016. (And he can be pretty much be guaranteed a seat - in addition for fighting a constituency he can be placed at the top of a regional list, which is as close to a sure thing as you get.)

Otherwise, we get some guaranteed silliness, and real potential for an actual farce in the making. Suppose Jim Murphy is named leader but then he loses his seat in 2015. It's highly unlikely, but the latest polls actually make it a possibility. In which case he would have to resign as leader, prompting another leadership contest to go into 2016. (And, since Labour are almost certainly going to lose that election, there may well then be pressure for that leader to resign. As I said, a farce.)

(There has been some talk of an existing MSP standing down in order to let Murphy have 'his' seat, in a bi-election that potentially takes place on the same day as the General Election. But that's not going to happen, for two reasons. Firstly, the electorate tends not to like being taken for granted in that way, so there's absolutely no guarantee that even Jim Murphy would win that bi-election. Secondly, and probably more importantly, the MSP who stood down in this manner would be losing out of tens of thousands of pounds that gets paid to MSPs who leave office on the day of the Scottish elections - stand down early and you don't get it.)

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