Jim Murphy shakes up Scottish Labour’s senior staff team

9th January, 2015 11:38 am

The Herald have reported this morning that John McTernan has been appointed as new Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy’s new Chief of Staff. McTernan worked as Tony Blair’s Political Secretary from 2005-2007 as well as working in the Downing Street policy unit, before serving as Murphy’s special adviser when he was Scottish Secretary (2008-2010). He later worked for Australian Labour leader Julia Gillard as Communications Director, and is also well-known in both Scotland and Westminster as a combative writer and commentator. He’s no stranger to Holyrood either, having been Henry McLeish’s head of policy when McLeish was First Minister.


The Herald says that McTernan’s role will be to “take charge of Mr Murphy’s team at Holyrood and help shape Scottish Labour’s message as the party seeks to make up ground on the SNP” and “work alongside the party’s new deputy leader, Kezia Dugdale, and oversee Scottish Labour’s media and policy operations”.

McTernan’s appointment forms the latest part of a recent revamp of Scottish Labour’s senior staff team. Brian Roy was appointed as the party’s General Secretary before Christmas (filling a role that he had performed on an acting basis in the past) whilst the party’s press operation has been boosted with the arrival of Kieron Higgins (formerly of the Better Together campaign). Better Together Chief Blair McDougall worked on Murphy’s leadership campaign, and the Herald says that he “has been working in Mr Murphy’s office on a voluntary basis and may become part of the permanent team”.

Scottish Labour (which former leader Johann Lamont referred to as a “branch office”) has often faced criticism both in Scotland and within the Labour Party more widely for its organisational failings – Murphy’s spate of new hires will no doubt be seen as an attempt to move past that.

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  • treborc1

    Slowly he employs more of his right wing Progress mates. I do not think this is going to do much another Millionaire takes a roll within what was once a party of the working class.

    I can see the SNP in laughter

    • Jamie Smith

      You’re right, treborc1. The appointment of McTernan is a backward move. He is a throwback to the bullying days of Campbell and Mandelson. A tenth-rate Malcolm Tucker. And, yes, a gift to the SNP.

  • Doug Smith

    McTernan’s role as Special Adviser with responsibility for housing policy tells us all we need to know about his real-world priorities.

    Murphy’s success will be dependent on his and his team’s ability to convincingly present themselves to the electorate as being something which they are not.

  • Repunitprimes

    If Mr Murphy is serious about winning back Yes voters who don`t vote SNP and reaching out to Yessers in general then Mr. McTernan`s appointment can be summed up in one word – fail. If Mr Murphy hopes to retain what Labour support he has then Mr. McTernan`s appointment can be summed up in one word – fail.
    Right wing is as right wing does.

    • mocata66

      The Labour Party are like the band on the Titanic. They just don’t get it that the ship ie Scottish Labour is sinking. Mr McTernan’s appointment shows that the UK Labour Party is determined to ignore the mood of the voters in Scotland. It’s a disastrous appointment. I fear the worst. The end is in sight for Scottish Labour. One hundred years of Labour in Scotland has been knocked out in less than four months. It shows you the rotten state of UK parliamentary politics. They won’t listen to us.

      • Ian

        The band on the Titanic knew the ship was sinking. They believed there was nothing they could do about it so they just carried on as though nothing was amiss.

        Yes, good analogy.

      • Jessica Maxwell

        Yes.Murphy and McTiernan are tainted with Blairism…..the cancer that lost Labour over four million voters during Blair’s premiership. Those voters will not return until Blairism has been eradicated from the party.I know this,because I am one of the many thousands who have left it.Even the political wilderness is better than Blairism.Get rid of Murphy before it is too late.

  • Tommo

    Yet again we have unnecessary criticism of Labour leaders who are trying to attract as many votes as possible ahead of the GE!

  • Jack Fate

    I have my doubts about how this will go. However Murphy as leader has to be allowed to pick the staff he thinks will propel us to victory. The back-room and media operations in Scottish labour are pretty dysfunctional, and the previous Chief of Staff, Sinclair, was awful, and indeed thought to be a major source of friction with Westminster MPs
    Interesting how lot of commentators think this is a good move by Murphy, though the Scottish Press are already putting the boot in.

    It’s also indicative of intention to take a combative approach. Time will tell how this works out

    • uglyfatbloke

      One of the major causes of friction with Scottish Westminster MPs was – and probably still is – the behaviour of Scottish Westminster MPs. Murphy was active against devolution, seeing it (correctly really) as a development which would reduce the power and profile of MPs from Scotland.

  • Danny

    To be fair, if you are as incompetent and vacuous as Jim Muprhy, having someone like John McTernan around might help him feel a little bit better about himself. There are few people in politics I rate less than Jim Murphy. John McTernan is one of those few.

    Ah well, there goes Scotland.

    • Jamie Smith

      I see it as a sign of desperation by Murphy. Murphy claims to want to start afresh in Scotland. This is anything but fresh; it already smells.

  • Ejacques1938

    Another failed Blairite joins the right-wing Murphy team. How very progressive – that will galvanize the troops and rejuvenate Labour north of the border? The mans out of his depth and a loser!

  • wj

    McTernan is the man who told us that Labour didn’t really need the “white working class” to achieve power again.

    • Daniel Speight

      Exactly and that’s going to win back the lost Labour support isn’t it? Labour in Scotland is being turned into a middle-class opposition to the SNP, a home for former Scottish Tories, Liberals and Blairites. This is what Progress gives you.

      • treborc1

        The whole labour party is Miliband cannot brining himself to say the working class, what he says is working peoples or hard working peoples.
        Between Miliband and Cameron we are bloody doomed.

  • gavin

    Yes, McTernan is an old fashioned thug and bully from the Blairite wing of the Party.
    But THAT is the point.
    He is there to keep the Scottish media in line with his Masters thinking—sadly, not a difficult job these days.
    And make sure the Labour MSP’s do Murphy’s precise bidding—-Murphy has little but contempt for them, I’m told.
    This is only a short term gig. If Miliband goes, then I suspect Westminster will stay his home. He has nothing to lose by aggravating the “natives” here in Scotland.

  • mocata66

    First the Tories were pushed out or slung out of Scotland. Now they are slinging out Labour and the Lib Dems. In England the Tories have steadily been rejected in the three northern regions. The next predictable step is to get rid of Labour and the Lib Dems in the three northern English regions. This would mean the emergence of a new northern dream party. We need a new northern representation as our social and economic interests are being ignored by the three Westminster parties. The south is looking after itself, so should the north.

  • Duncan_McFarlane

    John McTernan has repeatedly said that privatisation is good for the NHS, that the Iraq war was right, that we should go back into Iraq and that a tory revival would be good for Scotland. No mention of that above. Why would that be? Shows too clearly what Murphy, who backed PFIs both sides of the border, privatisation of the NHS south of it , and the Iraq war, still stands for, too clearly maybe?

    P.S is the British Airways pop up ad that won’t close only ticking me off, or everyone?

  • MacZappa

    More good news for the SNP. An own goal I would say, as others have pointed out, he favours privitisation of the NHS (as well as all the other Blairite baggage). Just remind Murphy every single day from now until the election.

  • MacZappa

    McTernan himself could not have done a better job of misleading by omission as this post does.


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