‘JIM Murphy is Tony Blair’s final horcrux.” That was Frankie Boyle’s Harry Potter inspired verdict on the Scottish Labour leader last week, as Murphy tore into Nicola Sturgeon in a confident — some would say over-confident — performance in one of the interminable succession of Scottish debates.

For his critics and detractors, it is all too easy to see Mr Murphy as the undead, malevolent soul fragment of Labour’s late, unlamented wizard of spin. Having assassinated the decent but lost figure of Johann Lamont, and snatched the “branch office” from her, Jim has evolved into a divisive figure who kicks up remarkable levels of antipathy.

Many see him as a sort of Lovecraftian monstrosity, conscienceless, centreless: all surfaces and no depth, his shifting harlequin face twisting and bending into whatever expression he imagines his audience want him to wear.

Today, he is anti-austerity Jim, crusader against cuts and defender of the rights of the common man. Scant months ago, he was Trident Jim, a fully paid-up cheerleader for the military industrial complex, calling on his leader to accept Tory spending cuts and shun “shallow and temporary” populism to prove the party’s credentials as a “credible” opposition to Cameron’s Conservatives.

On Monday, launching the party’s UK manifesto, Ed took Jim’s advice, trumpeting Labour’s commitment to “fiscal credibility,” cuts and “consolidation.” But Murphy had already tangoed left, presumably seeing the temporary advantages of shallow populism in his efforts to resist the SNP.

In a more forgetful age, we might have been blinded by the brass neck of this – but Jim found himself pinned. Honest Abe Lincoln put it best: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” A more sincere politician wouldn’t even try.

This slipperiness isn’t only ideological. Murphy’s public persona is one of heavy good fellowship – lugubrious, patient, and wholesome, but inevitably he is also a conniving and hard-hearted figure – a less appealing facet of this shapeshifter politician which leaked onto the airwaves during his recent bouts with Sturgeon, Rennie and Davidson. Blairite Jim, socialist Jim, Jim for the Union, Jim the ardent anti-Unionist – Scottish Labour’s new leader shows a remarkable capacity to reconcile irreconcilable positions.

He doesn’t even blink at the contradictions and reversals.

But hey: Jim is large. He contains multitudes. And you can’t be philosophical about the pursuit of power. Can you?

Forget the slung eggs and the Irn Bru crates: Jim embodies almost everything which lapsed Labour voters have come to despise in the party of their parents and grandparents.

Napoleon demanded lucky generals. Jim has been remarkably unlucky in the party which he has inherited. But it would be unfair to pile all the blame onto his shoulders. Scottish Labour’s problems have been long in the incubation. Many hands made their current predicament, not least the party’s absentee landlords in Westminster, many of whom have reacted with stunned credulity to the idea that they have to campaign for their seats and make the case for their re-election.

But Murphy has also made consistent missteps and overstatements. As recently as December, he announced to the media that he wouldn’t lose a single seat to the SNP in May. In January, he was bragging to Buzzfeed about his astonishment about how easy it was to rough up the Nats.

Political adversity tries men’s souls. But it also provides chances to shine, opportunities to endure with stoicism, to defy odds and expectations, to show your qualities.

Jim has shown a hardness; a pluck in the face of calamity for which he is to be commended, if not admired. But the evidence is mounting: for Scottish Labour, Murphy is the wrong man, with the wrong message, at the wrong time.