After last week’s political earthquake, Ian Murray was the only Labour MP to survive – and in the most unlikely of constituencies. Of all the seats held by Labour, the one arguably least likely to survive was Edinburgh South. It hardly ranks as a Labour stronghold in the Clydeside tradition: it takes in Morningside.
How ironic that in the one seat where Labour might not have felt an entitlement to win it was the only one to withstand the nationalist storm – and that lack of entitlement may well have been a contributory cause.
Another factor may also have helped. Mr Murray has had a life outside party politics.
He led the campaign to save Hearts Football Club from administration – winning over fans across Edinburgh. He started his own event management business running large festival events. He has also owned a small bar and hotel business, running several premises. He organised a charity concert for a Landmine Free World featuring well-known popular music performers, and a student exchange programme in Nepal to fund school buildings and staff.
That, in political parlance, is a “hinterland” many across the political spectrum would respect.
Now Mr Murray and Labour MSP colleague Kezia Dugdale (also representing an Edinburgh constituency) have a job on their hands to help lead the party out of the post-election mess.
While he has no leadership position, there will inevitably be greater focus on him as the party’s only Scottish MP. He must show leadership and become an exemplar for why electing a Labour MP can again be a positive.
It is to Glasgow and the west that the party has traditionally looked for its big hitters.
But – as last Thursday dramatically illustrated – Scotland has changed. Labour needs to build a new base of support that extends well beyond its declining traditional heartlands.
Edinburgh is a great growth city. Jobs are plentiful. It is attracting bright young talent.
There is nothing stuffy about its politics. It has the capacity to create and encourage radical new political talent. And it can be the cradle for a revival of Labour in Scotland if Dugdale and Murray can step up as lamplighters to show the way forward.