Jim Murphy

This article is about the UK politician. For other people named Jim Murphy, see Jim Murphy (disambiguation).
The Right Honourable
Jim Murphy
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
In office
13 December 2014  13 June 2015
Deputy Kezia Dugdale
Preceded by Johann Lamont
Succeeded by Kezia Dugdale
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
In office
7 October 2013  2 November 2014
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Ivan Lewis
Succeeded by Mary Creagh
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
8 October 2010  7 October 2013
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Bob Ainsworth
Succeeded by Vernon Coaker
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
11 May 2010  8 October 2010
Leader Harriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded by David Mundell
Succeeded by Ann McKechin
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
3 October 2008  11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Des Browne
Succeeded by Danny Alexander
Minister of State for Europe
In office
28 June 2007  3 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Geoff Hoon
Succeeded by Caroline Flint
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
2 November 2005  5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by John Hutton
Succeeded by Hilary Armstrong
Member of Parliament
for East Renfrewshire
Eastwood (1997–2005)
In office
1 May 1997  30 March 2015
Preceded by Allan Stewart
Succeeded by Kirsten Oswald
46th President of the National Union of Students
In office
Preceded by Lorna Fitzsimons
Succeeded by Douglas Trainer
Personal details
Born James Francis Murphy
(1967-08-23) 23 August 1967
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Claire Murphy
Children 2 sons
1 daughter
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]
Website Official website

James Francis "Jim" Murphy[2] (born 23 August 1967) is a former Scottish Labour Party politician who was the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party between 2014 and 2015 and was the Member of Parliament (MP) for East Renfrewshire (formerly Eastwood) from 1997 until 2015.

He previously served as Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office from 2005 to 2006, Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform from 2006 to 2007, the Minister of State for Europe from 2007–08, and the Secretary of State for Scotland in the Cabinet from 2008–10.

After surviving a vote of no confidence, Murphy announced on 16 May 2015 that he would step down as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party on 13 June.[3] The national executive voted 17-14 in favour of his remaining in the role, more than had voted for him in his initial bid for election. He stood down on 13 June 2015.[4]

Early life

Murphy was born in Glasgow and raised in a flat in Arden. He was educated at St. Louise Primary School, followed by Bellarmine School in Glasgow until 1980, when he and his family emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa, after his father became unemployed. In Cape Town, he attended Milnerton High School.[5]

In 1985, Murphy returned to Scotland aged 17 to avoid having to serve in the South African Defence Force.[6] He studied Politics and European Law at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. During sabbaticals from his studies, he held the posts of President of both NUS Scotland and NUS. He left his university to become the youngest Scottish MP at the age of 29.[7][8]

Early career

During his time at university he was elected President of the Scottish National Union of Students, one of the "special region" organisations within the NUS, serving from 1992 until 1994. Murphy then took a further sabbatical from university in 1994 to serve as the President of the National Union of Students, an office which he held from 1994 to 1996, during which time he was a member of Labour Students. As NUS President, he also served concurrently as a Director of Endsleigh Insurance from 1994 to 1996.[8]

In 1995, the NUS dropped its opposition to the abolition of the student grant.[9] He was condemned by a House of Commons early day motion, introduced by Ken Livingstone and signed by 13 other Labour MPs, for "intolerant and dictatorial behaviour" regarding Clive Lewis' suspension.[10] He was elected for a second term as NUS President, serving until 1996.

Murphy then became Special Projects Manager of the Scottish Labour Party.[11] He was also selected to stand as the Labour Party candidate in the seat of Eastwood at the 1997 general election.[12]

Member of Parliament

MP for Eastwood and Parliamentary Public Secretary

Murphy was elected as MP for Eastwood at the 1997 general election on 1 May, winning the formerly safe Conservative seat with a majority of 3,236 as Scotland's youngest MP.[13][14]

From 1999 to 2001, Murphy was a member of the Public Accounts Select Committee, which oversees public expenditure.[15] In February 2001, he was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Helen Liddell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, after the resignation of Frank Roy over the Carfin Grotto fiasco.[16] Upon becoming a PPS, he stood down from his previous other roles as the Vice Chair of the Labour Party's Treasury, Northern Ireland and Culture, Media and Sport Committees.

At the 2001 general election he was re-elected as MP for Eastwood, with an increased majority of 9,141.[17] In June 2002, he was appointed as a government whip, with responsibility for the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office.[18] His responsibilities were expanded in November 2002 to include the Department of Trade and Industry, and again in June 2003 to cover the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. He was the Chair of the Labour Friends of Israel from 2001 to 2002.[19]

For the 2005 general election, the Eastwood constituency was renamed East Renfrewshire, although the boundaries were unchanged. Murphy was re-elected with a majority of 6,657 and subsequently promoted to ministerial rank as the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office.[20] His responsibilities in that role included the promotion of e-government, better regulation and modernising public services.[21]

In January 2006, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office, Jim Murphy was the government minister responsible for introducing the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 in the House of Commons. The Act was very controversial, because of a perception that it is an Enabling Act substantially removing the ancient British constitutional restriction on the Executive introducing and altering laws without assent or scrutiny by Parliament.[22][23] The Bill proved unpopular with MP's and the Green Party. However, the Bill received royal assent on 8 November 2006.[22][23][24]

Minister of state for Employment and Welfare Reform

Murphy was promoted in May 2006 to become the Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform.[25] He oversaw the Welfare Reform Act 2007 during his tenure. This act introduced Housing Benefit changes and the Employment and Support Allowance, designed to help single parents and older citizens back into work.[26]

Minister of State for Europe

He was promoted again in June 2007 when he was appointed Minister of State for Europe.[27] He helped to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, which was confirmed on 16 July 2007. The stated aim of the Treaty was to "complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam [1997]and by the Treaty of Nice [2001] with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of its action."[28][29]

As Minister for Europe, Murphy was commended for his commission of the "Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World" collection of essays, organised with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.[30]

Secretary of State for Scotland

In October 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Murphy to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Scotland, with additional responsibility for retaining Scottish seats at the next general election. He was also appointed to the Privy Council.[31]

Murphy apologised "on behalf of all politicians" for the expenses scandal in 2009.[32]

At the 2010 general election, the Labour Party held every seat they had won in Scotland in 2005, although they lost the election overall. Murphy was subsequently one of the two campaign managers for David Miliband's failed bid for the leadership of the Labour Party, along with Douglas Alexander.[33]

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

Following the election of Ed Miliband, Murphy was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Defence on 8 October 2010. In this role Murphy criticised moves to boycott Israel, stating that the Labour Party's policy was to avoid participation in boycotts.[19]

Murphy was the Cabinet Minister responsible for co-ordinating Pope Benedict's visit to the UK in 2010 - which was the first ever State visit by a Pope to the UK.[34]

In 2010, The Herald awarded Murphy with the title of "Best Scot at Westminster" for a second year in a row, having given him the title for the first time in 2009.[35]

In 2010, a commission chaired by Sir Thomas Legg demanded Murphy repay £577.46 in expenses which he had overclaimed. He did not appeal, and repaid the money in full. Expenses documents made available showed he also claimed over one million pounds between 2001 and 2012. In 2007/8 he claimed £3,900 for food, £2,284 for petty cash and £4,884 for a new bathroom. He claimed £249 for a TV set and a further £99 for a TV stand; £1762.50 of taxpayers money paid for Murphy's website whilst further claims included Labour party adverts in the local press. He claimed almost £2000 of public cash to pay private accountants to handle his tax returns.[36] In 2012 Murphy was among a group of 27 MPs named as benefiting from up to £20,000 per year expenses to rent accommodation in London, at the same time as letting out property they owned in the city. Although the practice did not break rules, it has been characterised as a "loophole" that allows politicians to profit from Commons allowances. He also designated his constituency home in Glasgow as his second home for which he claimed £780 a month in mortgage interest payments in 2007/8.[37] Murphy had previously apologised "on behalf of all politicians" for the expenses scandal in 2009.[38]

Murphy voted against the restriction of housing benefit for those in social housing deemed to have excess bedrooms, otherwise known as the "Bedroom Tax" in when it was first introduced in 2011.[39]

In 2011, The Daily Telegraph published documents, compiled by a senior US official at the US Embassy in London and published by WikiLeaks, stating that throughout 2009, Murphy had a leading role in organising the support of opposition parties in promoting the implementation of the Commission on Scottish Devolution's recommendations. The aim was to "block an independence referendum" in Scotland.[40][41]

Murphy praised the "vital" role of NATO during the military intervention in the 2011 Libyan crisis resolution, stating that Libya had been set "on a path to censure, democratic and peaceful future".[42]

Murphy co-chaired the review of the Labour Party in Scotland with Sarah Boyack, commissioned by Ed Miliband in May 2011 in response to the landslide victory by the Scottish National Party in the Scottish general election of 2011, which reported in late 2011.[43]

In 2012 Murphy was among a group of 27 MPs named as benefiting from up to £20,000 per year expenses to rent accommodation in London, at the same time as letting out property they owned in the city.[44]

As Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Murphy criticised the scrapping of the Rolls Royce Nimrod, stating that it was "probably the most expensive technically capable aircraft in our history" and that it had been treated "like second hand car sent to scrap", despite its usefulness in defence.[45]

On 3 July 2013, Murphy criticised the Unite trade union for "bullying" and "overstepping the mark" for allegedly interfering with the selection of a candidate in Falkirk.[46] A Labour Party investigation later cleared Unite of any wrongdoing.[47]

Murphy voted in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry in the February 2013 vote on same sex marriage in the United Kingdom.[48] He also voted against capping discretionary working age benefits, allowing them to rise in line with prices, in 2013.

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Later that year, Murphy was moved to the post of Shadow Secretary of State for International Development in a "purge of Blairites" by Ed Miliband.[49][50] His unease with the Labour leader's decision to oppose military action in Syria may have contributed to the move. Murphy stated that he had agreed to take a more prominent role in the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK.[51]

In October 2013, Murphy told a radio show that,[52]

From what I can sense, the very best women in our armed forces are as remarkable as the very best men and they should be given that chance if they meet the criteria, and the criteria isn’t based on gender, it’s based upon capability, skill, professionalism, discipline and the ability to innovate on the front line... If I had the privilege of being the Defence Secretary after the next election one of the important decisions I would take would be a fundamental review of any and all of the evidence, but in particular learning from our allies. And on the basis that it's good enough for the US, Canada, France and others, it would appear to be good enough for the United Kingdom. So I think it's important that we look at that, and only if there's a convincing argument against it should we prevent it in future.

In March 2014, during his tenure Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Murphy criticised FIFA for the management of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, citing the "sub-human working conditions" he saw when visiting the worker camps for the Qatar stadiums.[53][54]

On 7 May 2015, Murphy lost his parliamentary seat to Kirsten Oswald of the Scottish National Party (SNP), with a swing of 31.7% since the 2010 election.[55]

Scottish independence referendum campaign

During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Jim Murphy gained prominence in the media for his role in the "No" campaign, due to his "100 Streets in 100 Days" tour.[56][57]

Murphy briefly suspended the tour on 28 August 2014, after an egg was thrown at him by a member of the public in Kirkcaldy. Video evidence showed other members of the public wearing 'Yes' campaign insignias and berating Murphy as he spoke. Murphy claimed that this was the result of an orchestrated attack by mobs of protesters organised by the Yes Scotland campaign in a deliberate attempt to intimidate him.[58][59] The man responsible was a local resident who was a supporter of Scottish independence, who alleged that Jim Murphy had not answered a question asked of him. Pleading guilty to assault, he apologised for 'bringing the Yes campaign into disrepute unintentionally'.[60]

Murphy was awarded The Spectator's Campaigner of the Year prize for his role in the 'No' campaign during the independence debate.[61]

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Election to leadership and early activities

Following Johann Lamont's resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour Party,[62] Murphy announced that he would be a candidate in the election to replace her, alongside Neil Findlay MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP.[63] He resigned from the Labour Party Shadow Cabinet in November 2014 to focus on his campaign.[64] The Guardian's Kevin McKenna has argued that Jim Murphy's tour during the Scottish 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign "wasn't really about his new-found enthusiasm for the union... [but] was, instead, a three-month job interview for the post of leader of the Labour party in Scotland.[65] In announcing his candidacy Murphy stated he would end the electoral losing streak of Labour in Scotland,[66] creating a revival similar to Tony Blair's return to power in 1997 in the UK.[67] On 13 December 2014, Murphy was elected as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, having secured 56% of the vote under the party's electoral college system.[68]

In December 2014, Murphy stated he was in favour for alcohol ban at Scottish football matches to be overturned on a trial basis. Mhari McGowan, representing Assist, a domestic violence support organisation, called the proposal "absolutely crazy".[69] Ruth Davidson of the Conservative Party had previously called for a review of the policy in 2013.[70]

In February 2015, Murphy claimed that four times as many NHS operations were being cancelled in Scotland as in England. When it emerged that the claim was based on a misreading of the statistics, Murphy had to delete a YouTube video and a tweet he had made capitalising on the false claim.[71]

In March 2015, citing figures from The Guardian on the low rate of Scotland's poorest pupils going to university, Murphy confirmed that higher education tuition would remain free for Scottish students.[72][73]

2015 General Election

On his election as party leader Murphy said he was determined under his leadership Labour would not lose any MPs to the SNP in the British general election of May 2015.[74] On 27 February 2015, Murphy announced that he would again stand for the Westminster parliamentary seat of East Renfrewshire in the election.[75] In the run-up to the United Kingdom general election, 2015, Murphy predicted that a late swing would save Labour in spite of unfavourable polls.[76] During his campaign, the SNP suspended two members of their party after it emerged that they had disrupted Murphy's speeches with fellow campaigner Eddie Izzard.[77]

In the event on 7 May 2015, the Scottish National Party won the majority of the seats. The SNP won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster and Scottish Labour lost 40 of the 41 seats it was defending. Murphy lost his own East Renfrewshire seat to the SNP's Kirsten Oswald, leading to calls for his resignation.[55]

Murphy, his chief of staff John McTernan and strategy head Blair McDougall were criticised for their role in Labour's defeat. Criticism was made of Labour party resources in Scotland being assigned to favoured candidates such as Alexander and Curran.[78] Murphy stated that the loss was due to "an absence of ideas" rather than a "lack of passion", and referenced Labour's additional defeats in England as another factor affecting the party's success.[79]

Following his defeat, Murphy said he would remain Leader of Scottish Labour, despite calls for his resignation.[80][81][82][83]

In spite of surviving a vote of no confidence by 17 votes to 14 at a party meeting in Glasgow, Murphy announced on 16 May 2015 that he intended to step down as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party in June.[84] At the same press conference Murphy also stated that he wanted to have a successor as leader in place by the summer, and confirmed he would not be standing for a seat at the Scottish Parliament in the 2016 general election. He added that Scottish Labour was the "least modernised part of the Labour movement", and commented that problem with the Labour party lay not with the trade unionists, but with Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, whose behaviour he described as "destructive".[85]

Murphy's resignation took effect on 1 June 2015. While Kezia Dugdale, as Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour, would normally have acted as leader until a permanent leader was elected, former Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray became acting leader as Dugdale resigned the Deputy Leadership in order to run for the Leadership vacated by Murphy.[4][86][87]

Henry Jackson Society membership

Jim Murphy is on the Political Council of the Henry Jackson Society,[88] a cross-partisan, transatlantic think tank named in honour of Cold War anti-communist US Senator Henry M. Jackson. The society advocates an interventionist foreign policy by both non-military and military methods.[89]

As Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Murphy gave a speech at an HJS event entitled 'A New Model for Intervention: How the UK Responds to Extremism in North and West Africa and Beyond’, arguing for the UK to remain engaged in defence policy beyond its borders, while learning lessons from past experiences.[90]

In January 2015, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish Greens called on Murphy to resign from the Henry Jackson Society.[91][92] In response the Henry Jackson Society reaffirmed its cross-partisan nature, saying "we believe ... the broadest possible coalition of politicians – of which Jim Murphy is just one of 15 Labour parliamentarians to do so through our political advisory council – should engage with such ideas [of foreign policy]."[91]

Post-parliament career

After the 2015 election, Murphy set up a consultancy and became an advisor to the Finnish non-profit Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), advising on "conflict resolution in central Asia".[93][94][95]

In November 2016 Murphy took up an employed position as an adviser to Tony Blair.[96][97]

Personal life

Jim Murphy is married with three children. He captained the Parliamentary Football Team.[98] He is a vegetarian[99][100] and teetotaller.[101]

He is also a practising Catholic. He is the author of "The Ten Football Matches That Changed The World...And The One That Didn't."[102]

Murphy was passing near to the Clutha Pub in Stockwell Street in Glasgow on the night of 29 November 2013, shortly after a Police Scotland helicopter crashed onto the roof of the pub, killing 10 people and injuring 31 others. He was later interviewed about the aftermath of the accident.[103]


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Non-profit organisation positions
Preceded by
Derek Munn
President of the Scottish National Union of Students
Succeeded by
Douglas Trainer
Preceded by
Lorna Fitzsimons
President of the National Union of Students
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Allan Stewart
Member of Parliament
for Eastwood

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for East Renfrewshire

Succeeded by
Kirsten Oswald
Political offices
Preceded by
John Hutton
Minister for the Cabinet Office

Succeeded by
Hilary Armstrong
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Preceded by
Geoff Hoon
Minister of State for Europe
Succeeded by
Caroline Flint
Preceded by
Des Browne
Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
Danny Alexander
Preceded by
David Mundell
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
Ann McKechin
Preceded by
Bob Ainsworth
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Vernon Coaker
Preceded by
Ivan Lewis
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Succeeded by
Mary Creagh
Party political offices
Preceded by
Johann Lamont
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Succeeded by
Kezia Dugdale
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