"Is he doing it deliberately?" is the question which springs instantly to mind when one looks at the chaotic campaign being run by struggling Scottish Labour spokesman Jim Murphy.
It's almost inconceivable to imagine that such a disastrous general election campaign could be happening organically: the Labour express has gone from Disaster Central to Crisis Halt, and looks as though it'll be terminating at Wipeout Junction.
When the election to be Labour's spokesman in Scotland was announced, those of us who wish ill on the Scottish Labour Party and intend to do them harm felt a bit down. They had a decent, progressive socialist, untainted by association with the shameful experiment in neo-liberalism that was New Labour, who has actually got experience in the real world of work, a strong background in trade unionism, and a genuine link between Scottish Labour and the voters who had started to flirt with leaving, but hadn't committed to abandoning the party wholesale.
And then, with the unerring talent of Scottish Labour when presented with two options, they chose the wrong one. They chose Jim Murphy - a man inextricably linked with the sleaze and violence which categorised the New Labour era which had so alienated the party from its heartland supporters.
The metropolitan media interviewed each other, and Jim Murphy. And they all agreed with each other that Murphy was just the chap to throw a bit of stick about, whip the jocks back into line, and get the kudos for reviving a moribund party structure up north. They didn't ask the voters, though, for whom Mr Murphy represents exactly the sort of sleazy, greasy, besuited, grubbing, troughing, brown-brogued careerist machine politician that they so despise.
But even having selected the wrong leader, Scottish Labour really ought to be doing better. The latest poll shows only a quarter of Scots intend to vote for Labour this time. In 2011, widely viewed as the most catastrophic ever for Labour (and the point, natürlich, at which they would re-engage with Scotland, you see, at which they would listen to our voters and realise we lost touch with the electorate. They sound more like Tony Mowbray with every passing election with the "I know what's going wrong and I know how to fix it" shtick") when they won only 31,7% of the constituency vote. They won 42% of the vote a year earlier.
31,7% of the constituency vote in this election would represent a triumph from adversity which would make St Lazarus of Bethany seem like a bit of a quitter. It would be a late victory and a cause for celebration which would leave Jimmy Glass in the shade.
However, having selected the wrong leader, they subsequently set about conducting exactly the wrong campaign.
There's not been a single leaflet or poster from Scottish Labour telling Scots why we should vote for the party which has won a majority of Scottish seats since the 1950s. Their entire campaign has been about the National party. They have raised the Nationalists in the public consciousness to unprecedented levels. Every Scottish Labour press conference is about the Nationalists. When their leaders come up from London to lecture us, the speeches are about the Nationalists. Their Twitter feed is called @ScottishLabour, but is a Twitter account which seems to be entirely about the National party.
They've not covered themselves in glory on the social progressivity side of things either, trying to raise money from racists by selling merchandise demanding that The Foreigners be restricted from entering the country. In fact, they seem to have only two campaign themes: "SNP bad" and "it's a nice country, but a few too many foreigners".
Scottish Labour, when it's not been demonising immigrants, has spent their election campaign talking the National party and its influence up. It has even brought the idea of a second independence referendum into Scotland's overton window, a risk considering the mauling the party took as a result of its behaviour - not its position - in the first referendum.
At every twist and every turn since Murphy became leader, they've taken the wrong decision and made the wrong choice.
|Jim Murphy charming the audience at a recent leadership debate|
And it makes me think - what if Murphy wants Labour to lose this election?
If Labour wins the election, Ed Miliband will be prime minister and Murphy, an extremist Blairite, will remain purged. Almost Miliband's first acts as leader was to sack Murphy. There is no way back for Murphy as long as Miliband is Labour leader.
Murphy insists that he wants to be Labour's candidate for First Minister in 2016, but bizarrely, he's standing for re-election as a Westminster MP when the Scottish election takes place less than a year after he would be sworn in, if successful.
But if Miliband loses the election, then Murphy is in a very convenient place.
The "left-wing" experiment will have failed, and the Blairites, of whom Murphy is a very prominent one, will be in pole position to "reclaim" the Labour Party. He will be a Westminster MP - one with much more experience than Miliband when he became leader. He will have served under the leadership of three Labour leaders, two of them prime ministers, and have Cabinet experience. He will have "leadership" experience from Scotland (and will spin this as sacrificing his Shadow Cabinet career to save the Scottish party from total wipeout).
If Labour don't win the election, and there's a huge bloc of SNP MPs who're just short of preventing the Tories from controlling the government, there's only really two men who benefit from it - David Cameron, and Jim Murphy.