When it comes to the three candidates fighting it out for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party - Jim Murphy, Sarah Boyack, and Neil Findlay - if the Tories in Scotland and the SNP could cast a vote between November 17, when the ballot commences, and December 13, when the new leader is announced, you can be sure it would be for Jim Murphy. Why? Because with Murphy as leader the likelihood of a Tory government at Westminster in 2015 increases to the point of being guaranteed, and likewise the continued dominance of the SNP in Scotland, bringing with it renewed danger of the break-up of the United Kingdom.
This is the reason it is no exaggeration to state that the upcoming election of the next leader of Scottish Labour is the most important internal election in the party's history, not only in Scotland but UK-wide. For on the result hinges not just the future of Scottish Labour but also the outcome of the 2015 general election and, even more importantly, the very future of the United Kingdom.
On 18 September 3.6million people in Scotland cast a vote in a referendum on Scottish independence. The prospect of the break-up of a more than 300 year old political union was real. In their droves people voted Yes - 1.6million to be exact - even though the programme for independence put forward by the Scottish National Party, the dominant force within the wider Yes campaign, rather than a significant departure from the status quo had status quo stamped all over it. Yet regardless 1.6 million people voted for independence, of which, according to a Lord Ashcroft poll after the referendum, 37% had voted Labour at the 2011 Holyrood elections.
When it comes to the main issues that drove support for Yes, the same poll identified 54% whose priority was concern over the future of the NHS and 74% who cited disaffection with Westminster politics. The truth is that the unemployed, people from low income communities, and those alienated from the status quo were more likely to have voted Yes, while the obverse was the case when it came to voting No. Four out of 32 local authorities voted Yes, with three of those - Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, and West Dunbartonshire - for decades impregnable Labour strongholds.
Only those in denial or suffering a severe case of myopia could fail to arrive at the conclusion that the referendum provided clear evidence of the deep political and ideological malaise that has gripped Scottish Labour, responsible for it shedding support to the SNP and one step away from its political grave. The sixty thousand new members that the SNP has attracted post referendum has bolstered not only the finances of the Scottish nationalists but more significantly their confidence. Compare this to the desultory 13,500 current membership of the Scottish Labour Party and the scale of the challenge facing the next leader of the party is considerable. Indeed in many parts of Scotland, Labour is every bit as reviled as the Tories, with the appellation Red Tories gaining currency.
An even more alarming poll when it comes to the crisis facing Scottish Labour was conducted by Ipsos Mori for Scottish Television. Its findings revealed that Labour in Scotland faces electoral wipeout at next year's general election, on course to retain just four of its current 41 seats at Westminster.
Thus, not only Scottish Labour's future success its very survival depends on the party electing a leader who understands the need to return to the founding values and principles upon which Labour came into being. It requires a political reorientation of the party towards the needs of ordinary working people, whose need for social and economic justice is non negotiable after four years of one of the most extreme Tory governments we have seen, engaged in the peddling of human despair under the aegis of austerity.
Jim Murphy is a politician wedded to Westminster and the ideals of Blairism; in other words the very policies that saw Labour shed five million votes between 1997 and 2010. An unapologetic supporter of the war in Iraq - indeed during a recent interview with the Fabian Society, when it came to Iraq, Murphy opined that, "It's not Tony Blair's fault." - and still a supporter of the concept of British military intervention overseas regardless of the series of disasters that have resulted as a consequence in recent years, Murphy is also a supporter of the kind of cuts to public spending that have wrought so much damage to low income communities and the economy overall. During a 2011 interview with the Spectator magazine, for example, the former secretary of state for Scotland said that "the job for all of us now in the shadow cabinet is to work through our portfolios on just where we could make the savings, where would we make the cuts".
A passion for cutting public spending, regardless of the damage to the economy and in particular the lives of working people and the poor, describes a mistaken understanding of economics as a morality play. For too long the emphasis has been on society serving the needs of the economy rather than an economy which serves the needs of society. Jim Murphy, as we have seen, is an adherent of the former and not the latter. In fact his credibility as a potential leader of the Labour Party in Scotland is largely derived from his willingness to stand on an Irn Bru crate in towns and cities throughout Scotland during the referendum campaign being abused by the general public. But if a talent for enduring public flagellation is the main criteria for the leadership of the party founded by Keir Hardie to address the needs of working people, Jesus Christ would be in the running.
Ultimately, Mr Murphy stands proudly in this election as the candidate for New Labour at a time when Scotland is crying out for real Labour. Surely it is only those who have just awoken from a long slumber who would suggest otherwise.