I've just been reading Sarah Boyack's '100 ideas for a new Scotland', the culmination of her leadership campaign.
There are three threads which run through all these ideas:
- a commitment to compassionate social justice - the political ideology which makes them as 'Labour'
- a commitment to evidence-based policy-making
- a commitment to listening, subsidiarity and internal devolution
They are all, moreover, formed within Sarah Boyack's oft-restated framework of social, economic and environmental justice, a 'Borromean knot' in which all the elements are equally important and interdependent (if you take one out, the other two fall apart)
Social, economic and environmental justice within a framework of compassionate, evidence-based, devolutionary policy-making is more than merely a vote-winning manifesto. It is a manifesto with the potential to transform politics.
Sarah Boyack is an exciting politician because she does not stand for the old Marxist ideas of mid-twentieth century Labour Party, nor the old Blairite ideas of the late-twentieth century Labour Party. This is creative, relevant, twenty-first century politics. I'm not the first person to say she is the most serious Labour thinker around.
I was born in 1978, in the uncomfortable crack between Generations X and Y, and have grown up amongst contemporaries disillusioned by the irrelevance of political debate. I am a prime example: despite being a historian of political culture and an environmentalist, I never got involved in politics until this year.
This is the vote that a politician like Sarah Boyack could win: not scraping support from other parties, but engaging new alienated and young voters. We are longing politicians and manifestos which ring true, which are about building a better society, which are full of honest, informed, relevant content. We don't want point-scoring; we don't care about media image; we couldn't care less about 'historic' loyalties or ideologies; and above all we are sickened by the cynical politics of 'othering' which is raising its miserable head all over Britain and on all sides of the spectrum.
Whoever wins the Scottish Labour leadership elections this week, I hope Sarah Boyack's 100 ideas and extensive elaboration of them on her blog and elsewhere will form a serious contribution to Scottish Labour's manifesto, as well as influencing British Labour policy. She is, after all, a collaborative and not a confrontational politician with long experience, and should hold a senior position in any coalition or majority Holyrood government of which Labour is a part.
So I commend her 100 ideas document to you, whatever party you support. It's far more than a 'to-do' list: it is a discussion-starter, an example of an approach politicians across the spectrum might adopt. It's far more than a leadership-contest gimmick: it's a phoenix in a political landscape with too many dinosaurs.