Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Jim Murphy offers ceasefire to Salmond and "you'll have had your tea" welcome to hacks

I envy Alistdair Darling and his balti curry bail out. The Scottish pres corps at Westminster had no time for lunch today. The new Scottish Secretary had us round to his Dover House gaff straight after the Chancellor's statement.

Alas the Scottish Secretary offered us nothing except a cup of tea. I was "pure hank marvin", as they say in East Renfrewshire, while the new man outlined his ceasefire plans with the SNP government in Edinburgh.

Jim Murphy said he had called Alex Salmond within ten minutes of being appointed the other day and has spoken to him this morning about the economic situation. He's willing to brief Mr Salmond before and after meetings of the National Economic Council, the war cabinet, which he attends twice a week.

Mr Murphy said he wanted “honest, private conversations about how the UK government and the Scottish Government (he's relaxed about the terminology) can work together” to help families and businesses in a situation that will “affect every village, town and city” in Scotland. . Mr Salmond has responded positively, he said, and a meeting with the Scottish Secretary, the
First Minister, the Scottish CBI and the STUC is being planned.

This is a new Jim Murphy who was previously one the most acerbic Scottish Labour Mps when it came to anything to do with Mr Salmond. But, after dealing with 30 different governments across Europe in the last 18 months in his old job he thinks he can find common ground with one in Scotland. We'll see.

An early test of this new detente will be the Secretary of State's blog which he will maintain on the Scotland Office website - a brave move considering how top blogging Minister Tom Harris was dropped last week. The fact that the blog will be open to comments will no doubt delight the Pantone 300 ink brigade who have raised the poison pen letter into a digital art form on this and other newspaper sites.

“I've got my approach, they might have another,” said Mr Murphy. I'm off to going to buy him a packet of biscuits for his next guests.

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