Usdaw Offers Backing To Jim Murphy

Scottish Labour's under-pressure leader Jim Murphy has been urged to stay in his post and "shape a new direction'' for the party despite its disastrous general election performance.

Leaders of the trade union Usdaw offered their support to Mr Murphy, who has been facing calls to resign after Labour lost 40 of its 41 Scottish MPs last week.

Usdaw, which says it is the UK's fourth largest union with more than 433,000 members, said while the election result "could barely have been worse'', to have a second leadership contest in a year in the party in Scotland would be "navel-gazing''.

The Scottish Labour leader was among the Labour MPs who were kicked out of Westminster as Nicola Sturgeon's SNP swept the board, winning 56 of the 59 seats up for grabs north of the border.

Members of the Unison trade union who are affiliated to Labour said yesterday that it was ''unprecedented for a party leader not to stand down after such a defeat''.

While they stopped short of calling for him to resign, they said if there was a wider call for a new leader in the party, they would not oppose it.

But today Lawrence Wason, the Scottish officer for Usdaw, which represents shop workers, said: "There is no doubt that the general election result for Labour in Scotland could barely have been worse but this is no time to turn on the leadership of the party.

"We need to keep our heads, quickly understand why the people of Scotland have, for the moment, moved away from Labour and focus on turning around the party's fortunes at the Scottish parliamentary election next year.

"Jim Murphy needs the time and our support to get the job done, and a leadership contest now, which would be the second in a year, is not the answer.

"We must not engage in a bout of navel-gazing, we must reach out to Scottish voters and shape a new direction for Labour.''

Mr Murphy was only elected Scottish Labour leader in December last year after his predecessor Johann Lamont quit, accusing the party in London of treating Scotland like a ''branch office''.

He has already said he wants to stay in the post as the "long-standing problems that led me to stand for leadership of this remarkable party in the first place'' still need to be tackled.

Mr Murphy said on Friday that Labour had "for too long lacked a clear message'' and there had not been "time nor space to turn that round'' since he was elected.

But two members of his shadow Scottish cabinet have quit their posts in the wake of the election result, with Alex Rowley, who had been the party's local government spokesman at Holyrood, arguing a "'fundamental change in direction and strategy'' is needed.

The Cowdenbeath MSP said it would be a mistake for Mr Murphy to remain in the post and lead Labour into next year's Scottish elections.

Neil Findlay, who had stood against Mr Murphy for the post of Scottish leader, quit his post as fair work, skills and training spokesman on Saturday.

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