Ex-prime minister Tony Blair is backing Labour’s only Scottish MP for deputy leader because he understands that the party must “win in every corner” of the UK.
The three-time election winner said Ian Murray “gets it” and is urging Labour members to give the Edinburgh South MP their vote in the five-candidate contest.
Voting in the contest opened yesterday, with Mr Murray fighting against fellow MPs Angela Rayner, Rosena Allin-Khan, Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler in the race for the number two spot.
In Labour’s landslide victory in 1997 that swept Mr Blair into Downing Street, the party took 56 of the 72 seats available in Scotland.
But the party was almost entirely wiped out at the 2015 poll, winning just one of the 59 constituencies on offer – a result repeated at last year’s election.
Mr Blair, in a video played at Mr Murray’s campaign press conference on Tuesday, said the 43-year-old understood the need to reverse Labour’s losses north of the border and reconnect to voters who have deserted the party.
“All of the candidates in this leadership election are wrestling with the inescapable fact that Labour’s lost four times in a row and that it has to be able to win power in order to put its principles into practice, and to bring about real change in the country,” said the former party leader.
“Ian Murray understands that if Labour is to have any hope, it’s got to be able to win in every part and every corner of the United Kingdom.
“Ian Murray gets it, and that’s why it’s important to support him.”
A host of figures from the last Labour government have united in backing Mr Murray for deputy, with ex-PM Gordon Brown and former chancellor Alistair Darling voicing their support, along with Baroness Smith, the widow of former party leader John Smith.
At a speech last week, Mr Blair refused to declare support for any of the three remaining leadership candidates vying to replace current leader Jeremy Corbyn, citing a fear of damaging his favoured contender.
Asked why the New Labour pioneer had gone public with his deputy leadership support, Mr Murray said: “Because it is my message of change. It is the whole message of having to change the party.
“All the people who have endorsed me, whom Tony (Blair) is one of, have said: ‘We have done this before. The programme and pledges that Ian has put forward is hoping to do that again, and that’s why we’re backing him’.”
Mr Murray told reporters in Westminster that if Labour elected a Mr Corbyn “continuity” candidate for leader or deputy then the party could find its taking of 203 seats at the last general election proved a “high-water mark” in the modern age.
The December result was the worst showing by the Labour Party at an election since 1935.
“Any continuity candidate cannot take the country forward,” said Mr Murray.
“That’s pretty clear because the public have told us that.
“If we don’t listen to the public and reflect on what they told us in December, we are not going to be able to recover. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented.
“The message is, these people (his Labour backers) did it before. And we have to do it again.
“If we don’t do it again, then the future of the party might be that 203 seats is the high water mark, not the low water mark.”