SCOTTISH Labour leader Jim Murphy has refused to commit himself to serving a full term at Westminster 36 hours after saying he would stand to be an MP again.


Murphy declined to say yesterday whether he would serve East Renfrewshire for five years, fuelling speculation that he may vacate the seat after 12 months in order to stand for Holyrood in 2016.

Kirsten Oswald, the SNP candidate in the constituency, accused her opponent of "playing games".

Murphy, an MP for nearly 18 years, succeeded Johann Lamont as his party's Scottish leader in December.

He stressed his commitment to Holyrood by confirming he would be Labour's candidate for First Minister in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

However, since his leadership victory he has shied away from explaining his route map to Holyrood.

Party insiders expected him to stand down from Westminster in May and persuade a friendly MSP to make way for him.

A succession of opinion polls predicting sweeping SNP gains in May has scuppered this plan, as any Holyrood by-election would be risky for Labour in the current political climate.

Senior party figures were also concerned that East Renfrewshire could become a close contest at a Westminster level if Murphy was not the candidate.

On Friday, Murphy clarified his intentions by announcing he would seek a fifth term as an MP.

"We need to do everything we can to stop the Tories being the largest party. I want to contribute to making sure the Tories are kept out of East Renfrewshire and Downing Street," he said.

However, if Murphy holds his seat, and is elected to Holyrood in 2016, he will have two jobs.

Speaking to the BBC in December, Murphy said that serving as an MP and MSP simultaneously was "not something I'm attracted to".

When asked by this newspaper whether Murphy would serve a full-term as an MP, a party spokesman dodged the question: "We are taking one election at a time. Jim is focused on getting re-elected in May. It would be presumptuous to start talking about what happens after that."

The spokesman added that Murphy would "under no circumstances" take "wages from two parliaments at the same time."

Senior party figures believe Murphy could win the Westminster seat in May and resign after a year, triggering a Westminster by-election on the same day as the Holyrood poll.

However, a Labour source said the move would be viewed as "cynical".

If Murphy does "double job", it may undermine the bid he launched this week to clamp down on MSPs having outside financial interests.

In a letter to Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, he called for a ban on certain types of second jobs: "I am writing to you to ask you to consider beginning the process of banning paid consultancy work and directorships."

Meanwhile, a senior Labour left-winger has predicted that Murphy's proposed changes to his party's constitution, to be debated at a one-day conference on Saturday, will pass.

In an article for Tribune, which will be published this week, Vince Mills said three trade union affiliates opposed the leader's plan to describe Labour as a "patriotic" party.

However, Mills revealed the unions "lost" the battle internally and predicted Conference would "endorse" the proposal.

Kirsten Oswald, the SNP candidate in the constituency, said: "Jim Murphy has got himself in a terrible mess - and it is all of his own making. The people of East Renfrewshire deserve better than a candidate who - even if he got elected - is not denying that he might only serve a year. If that is what he is thinking, he has a democratic duty to lay it out to voters before the election.

"And the fact that he is standing for Westminster at all indicates his own lack of confidence in getting into the Scottish Parliament next year - perhaps he has given up on the whole idea of standing for Holyrood. People are sick and tired of Jim Murphy playing games like this - which is why East Renfrewshire needs a full time MP who is fully focused on the constituency, as I pledge to be."

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: "It's incredible that Jim Murphy is so complacent about his constituency, he thinks he can swan off just a year into a term.

"Voters there will look at this and think he's either half-hearted about being an MP for East Renfrewshire, or half-hearted about being Scottish Labour leader."