I interview Jim Murphy in tomorrow’s Spectator, in which he gives his endorsement to Tony Blair as EU president. For the first time, we’re running a longer version of the piece online (click here). I’ve always rated Murphy, ever since I saw him shout down Trots in my student days at Glasgow. Coffee Housers are normally suspicious when we praise Brown’s younger ministers – what, it is asked, have they ever done? This isn’t a Cabinet, it’s a creche. Now, many of these criticisms are valid. But I consider Murphy a cut above for the following reasons:
1. He turned the safest Tory seat in Scotland into one of Labour’s safest seats in Scotland, using exhausting and innovative campaign methods which transcended party loyalties. He calls it "retail politics" – surgeries on train platforms, supermarkets etc. He didn’t inherit a safe seat: he made one.
2. He understands welfare reform, and doesn’t try to downplay the situation by making out Britain has full employment. He is alone (as far as I know) in admitting today’s mass joblessness flies in the face of Labour’s values. The party, he says, was not founded on a "right not to work".
3. I strongly disagree with the party line he is paid to trot out on the hated Lisbon Treaty. But at least he treats opponents with respect, and would never roll his eyes in mock disdain in the European Scrutiny Committee like Miliband did.
4. He is not one of those Conway/Michael Martin figures who came from a working class background to try and behave like a lord. His life remains in Scotland (his wife has only twice visited him in London) and when I asked him if his job was tough he said not as tough as those he grew up with on his Glasgow housing estate have it now. His father, a plumber by trade now aged 60, still works on a construction site.
5. He is not a greasy pole climber. A few years ago, one of his fellow MPs solemnly told me that Murphy had "gone all family-orientated" and wouldn’t put in the hours in Westminster. On my way out of the interview he made a joke about Gordon Brown in front of Fiona Gordon, the PM’s political secretary. That’s the very opposite of careerism, and I quite like it.
Anyway, you can read the interview here – or the abridged version in tomorrow’s magazine.