Friday 4 September 2020

The Unremarkable Life of Ian Murray

Thanks to The Times by way of the ridiculous Corbyn book, Left Out, news reaches us that Ian Murray was all set on being the eighth founding member of our old pals The Independent Group/Change UK/The Independent Group for Change. Some might congratulate Murray for making the right decision to stand by the red team, but I'm not one of them. Having pulled out from TIG/CHUK's opening presser at the 11th hour and electing to stay has condemned him to drawing his handsome Westminster salary and getting to play the Big I Am in Scottish politics trading off his last man standing/shadow Scottish secretary shtick. Someone much more capable and honest could have had the seat he's now squatting in. Unlike the others who traded in their seats for the boards of water companies, trade union-busting consultancies, and chairing the pressure group for bailiffs.

According to the people he's been yacking to, “I didn’t want to hand my seat to someone from the Corbyn wing of the party and felt loyalty to all the people who had worked so hard to help win over the years" was the post-facto justification. The same article also says that if the seat had fallen to the SNP (which was a doubtful prospect), he'd have suffered "major reputational damage." Hard to sell yourself as a competent consultant if you appear too self-interested, though it hasn't slowed down his contemporaries. He goes on to say "All my life I’ve fought for a Labour government", except for the past five years when he did all he could to prevent one from happening.

Scabby behaviour like Murray's is nothing new to the Labour Party. It takes place at all levels and is, in many ways, inscribed into the political DNA of Labourism. As a party wedded to forming majorities in Westminster as the sole (permitted) agent of social change, many of its MPs think they were elected on the basis of how wonderful they are as opposed to the Labour ticket they ran on, which in turn gives them license to behave as they please. The utter failure of Murray's would-be confederates last December would, you think, drive home the brute fact of MPs' dependence on the party label for electoral success. But it won't. And then there is the privilege afforded the back and forth of procedure, votes, committee hearings, and the rest of it. This is a venue for compromising or, if you want to be blunt about it, peddling away principles and the interests of constituents for a minor policy concession here, or a bit of preferment there. John Mann and Ian Austen being prime, but by no means unique examples of crapping on the people who put them into the Commons for Tory approval and cash. Labourism's exclusivist parliamentarism therefore insulates those on the inside from the pressures on the outside, a position that simultaneously flatters them as artful practitioners at the top of politics and people who know its realities (and secrets) better than the constituency activist and trade union branch secretary. It's a place where banalities like "we need to win elections" become profundities, and factionally convenient myths assume the status of eternal truisms. This is the lot for most Labour MPs and why they tilt toward reconciling themselves with the received way of doing things - it's a social thing, not just a matter of personal failing.

Ian Murray is a creature of this environment, a duplicitous toad inhabiting his pool alongside all sorts of pond life. He should be sacked from his shadow role, sent to the back benches and face deselection. But he won't be. His fate as Labour's token Scottish MP in this parliament is assured, and makes him invulnerable to shenanigans, scandal, and the consequences of his own banal, unremarkable mediocrity.

NB What do you know. Ian Murray was also in negotiations with the Liberal Democrats about defecting. Charming.

Image Credit


John said...

Re 'Secret Talks' with the Lib Dems. I'd be a little bit careful about making too much of this. I expect that throughout most of last year the Lid Dems approached quite a lot of Labour (and some Tory) MPs with offers to join them. All parties do it if they think they can gain a defector. Even odious MPs like Murray & Watson would have given them short thrift, hardley 'secret talks' more like one sided entreaties.

Anonymous said...

What is the role of the Labour Whip ? A small point perhaps but where they send their kids to school does say something about MPs values in general whatever their party of choice.

Your article hits the nail on the head.

David Walsh said...

Quietly under the Tony Abbott smokescreen a certain Patricia Hewitt has also been appointed a UK 'Trade Advisor'. There's a good back story there for Labour members of a certain age.

Anonymous said...

I am at the point of giving up on the Labour Party- it, as the conservative party is full of quite a lot of, albeit well connected, mediocrity. To think of all the study and hard work over years that others have to do to get on... and yet we are expected to vote for these people. Imagine the consequences of this disloyalty in the work place for most people. Good grief- the real world does not seem to be something they have any understanding about.

Anonymous said...

A degree in social policy gets you an entry level job in a local authority if your lucky. You don't get to slag off the authority, the CEO or your boss, that's if you want to keep your job. After many years of work you may get a top job as assistant director etc. in that place or usually after many years of working in a number of different authorities. We want to see our politicians having some background in the world of work maybe then they will understand their luck and focus on representing the party that gave them their chance. To represent and understand their constituents most of whom have not been given such opportunities.

Anonymous said...

So the message is clear. In politics (or at least the Labour Party ) loyalty does not pay. Zero consequences. We don't have to respect that or to focus our energy on it. Time is valuable.

Anonymous said...

Well they put up with it. Party management? Party Whip role? Constituency party and role of party members? Labour Party values? Does any of this count?