How will Labour cope without Jim Murphy's sustaining presence in the Scotland Office? Murphy was the minister that online activists love to loathe, probably for the same reason that many Labour apparatchiks get all foamy at the mouth when Alex Salmond comes on the telly - both are extremely effective politicians. Murphy was always ready with a leaked document (remember the Queen's paths debacle?) and a stage managed announcement (publicly "saving" the missile tracking jobs when the local MP had done all the work). He was the first Labour Scottish Secretary who made it his job to campaign for and with the party in Holyrood.
One thing he will leave behind is Big Lie politics. This is something I wrote about in the column a few weeks ago but didn't post. Big Lie is the propaganda technique where you choose a lie so audacious the public think you would not dare make it up. Then you repeat it continually until they believe it. George Orwell, in his novel 1984, suggests the Big Lie could involve telling fibs while convincing yourself it is true — the famous doublethink. Examples would be Labour's recent claims about health service cuts, and, during the election campaign, the claim that the SNP would support the Tories. You could also add the audacious lie that voting Labour was the way to keep out a Tory government. Or the promise of 100,000 new Scottish jobs from Labour during the campaign. How?
Orwell’s Big Lie demanded the omission of any fact that had become inconvenient, hence, during the election campaign and its immediate aftermath, Labour ignored the Lib Dems who WERE talking to the Tories, to attack the nationalists, who vowed they would not. In historical terms, the biggest Big Lie of all is that Scotland is too poor to sustain itself alone. Or that Europe would not allow an independent Scotland into the club of which it is already a member.
Anyone unfamiliar with Scottish politics might be confused at the vitriol Labour and the Lib Dems pour on the SNP given that all three are left-leaning, social democratic outfits. This is the killer fact you never hear. Labour and the Lib Dems must preserve The Union for their own political advantage. Their respective political parties would both be devastated by the loss of their Celtic power bases. Without a block of Scottish seats, Labour cannot rule England, unless under PR. The Scottish Lib Dem wedge is smaller, but also has a disproportionate influence on the national reorganization. Indeed, they now rule England - at least in coalition - with help from their substantial Scottish block. And England is the prize, as far as these parties are concerned. Securing Scotland is simply a means to an end.
Big Lie politics is self-serving. It is ruthless. It springs from desperation. But often, it works.