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by Liam Kirkaldy
07 January 2015
Jim Murphy and Glasgow Man

Jim Murphy and Glasgow Man

Blair had the Mondeo Man, Clinton chased support of the Soccer Mom, but there is a new political vote winner in town.

It may sound like the world’s crappiest superhero, or an option rejected during a brainstorming session to name the Commonwealth Games mascot, but to Jim Murphy, ‘Glasgow Man’ – with socks, not pants, over his trousers – could be a saviour.

The name denotes a demographic Scottish Labour believes will be key to winning in 2015 – men in Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire as well as the central belt, aged 25-40, who voted Labour in 2010 but didn’t vote at all in 2011 and then supported Yes during the independence referendum.

And Murphy has set out to woo them – starting with his pledge to use Scotland’s share of a UK-wide ‘Mansion Tax’ to fund 1,000 more nurses than whatever number the SNP promises.

It is a weird policy given that we don’t yet know how many nurses the SNP will introduce. It is the political equivalent of getting promised 25 per cent extra free on a carton of juice, without being able to see the carton first.

In fact the plan relies on a number of hypotheticals – Miliband winning the general election in May and introducing a ‘mansion tax’, then Murphy winning in Holyrood in 2016, and using the extra money for extra nurses. Or fewer nurses if the SNP were to promise to cut them by more than 1,000.

But as expected, much of the UK press reacted in outrage, with the Telegraph reporting that “Middle-class home owners in England will be taxed to help prop up the NHS in Scotland under a future Labour government.”

"It is a weird policy given that we don’t yet know how many nurses the SNP will introduce"

This anger – or faux-anger – seems to stem from a confusion over where the money for this will come from, though as commentators quickly pointed out, Murphy is not grabbing money from the south of England and sending it to Scotland, UK Labour is saying it would grab it from the UK.

Murphy is just saying how he would spend the money that would already have come to Scotland through Barnett.

Part of the problem came from Murphy’s use of language, saying: “We will tax houses in London and the South East to pay for 1,000 new nurses in the Scottish NHS. It’s a real win-win for Scotland.”

There is nothing wrong with using UK money to fund something in Scotland given that – as the SNP have never tired of pointing out – money from Scotland also goes to funding services in England.

And making the debate appear as one of ‘Murphy vs England’ may not hurt him (at least in Scotland) – given the need to distance the party from London – while the policy also highlights the advantage of having a showing in Westminster.

But what will concern Murphy more is the way that other members of his party took it, with Dianne Abbot taking to radio to accuse him of attempting to “buy Scottish votes with money expropriated from London.”

Admittedly Abbot’s credibility was undermined by forgetting Murphy’s first name, in the interview. And he hasn’t even left the Commons yet.

But it is not just Abbot that Murphy should be worried about. Given the way London commentators leapt on the policy – it made the Evening Standard front page – the policy could have implications for UK Labour’s success if it is seen, as Boris Johnson suggested, to be ‘mugging’ London to bribe Scotland.  Separating the party from London is one thing, but stop it getting elected across the UK and there will be no mansion tax and no extra nurses.

In the end it may not be the Glasgow man, but the Westminster Labour Party, which troubles Murphy over the next few months. Who knows – he could end up with egg on his face.

See - 'the Great Policy Race - how Jim Murphy is outdoing the SNP at every turn'.

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