Call me old fashioned, but I happen to believe that the political manifesto actually matters. And I’m not just talking about its content.
For far too long now, political parties – of all persuasions – have constructed manifestos within the confines of their own party structures. No early draft documentation, no topic-based consultative meetings, no open request for interested organisations to input their ideas, no mechanism for members of the public to have their say.
Instead, a formulaic insider process with no external influence.
As anyone from almost any other walk of life will tell you, launching into a potential 5-year programme of work without first testing your early ideas – and being open to changing those initial plans – is a recipe for disaster.
And so it has proved for many a political manifesto over recent years.
So, Edinburgh Labour has attempted to really break the mould with this upcoming election, and the way in which we’ve gone about writing our local manifesto: Moving Edinburgh Forward together.
Because – for those who need reminded – we lost the last local election back in 2007. But rather than retreat into old ways, we have spent our time in opposition doing our best to be a constructive check on power; and we’ve also consciously reflected on how we go about our own business of politics.
And the stark conclusion we arrived at, several years ago, was that ‘business as usual’ was just no longer an option. I think most politicians – of all persuasions – privately know that’s the case, but very few are willing to challenge the comfortable status quo of their existence.
Edinburgh Labour has done just that.
I believe we’ve collectively produced, with very significant public input, a bold agenda that will shake up the bureaucracy that is Scottish Local Government here in Edinburgh. If trust is given to us, by the electorate, on Thursday 3rd May, then the way that Edinburgh City Council plans, procures, delivers and evaluates its services will alter fundamentally.
We will indeed hand power back to local people in a radical bid to improve public services and strengthen local communities. Instead of doing things to our communities, Edinburgh Labour’s Co-operative Council will work with our communities to make sure local services meet the needs of local people. This will mark the end of top-down services where Edinburgh residents are expected to put up with whatever’s on offer. Residents, rather than council officials, will be in the driving seat.
In arriving at our final set of proposals, here’s what we did:
- For many months during mid 2011, we did go through the internal consultation processes that many are comfortable with.
- But then on the 3rd November 2011, we launched a draft manifesto document – alongside announcing all of our Local Government candidates.
- This draft was thrown into the public domain a full 6-months prior to the Local Government elections on Thursday 3rd May 2012 --- it was an entirely unprecedented move, the likes of which I’m not aware has happened anywhere else in Scotland?
- Then between early November 2011 and early February 2012, we delivered well over 100,000 newspapers across Edinburgh alongside an equal number of questionnaires seeking feedback on resident’s priorities and their views on our ideas.
- During the same period, our Council Spokespersons conducted a very significant number of public meetings seeking organisation-input to our early manifesto ideas.
- As a result we had over 120 organisational submissions, and well over 1,000 individual submissions, to that 3rd November document.
- Very much linked to this process, we also – as in previous years – published the full details of our Alternative Budget in early February 2012, which costed out many of our proposals in a fully balanced manner.
- A week later, in mid-February 2012, we published a revised version of our manifesto and actively sought further external feedback on those re-drafted proposals.
- Once again, we were overwhelmed by the response we received.
- And this all eventually led to the publication of our final document at the start of the election-period, on Tuesday 13th March 2012.
Numerous articles on this website have expanded on our key policy pledges – I won’t reference them all here – and this very week we’ve discussed and debated the main tenets of our plans for a Co-operative Council.
Here we are now, with 3 weeks to go until polling day, and let's contrast the above to what else is on offer:
- To their credit, the Conservatives have a manifesto published, but it’s not clear what input – if any – Edinburgh residents had in its construction.
- Again, to their credit, the Greens have a manifesto published, but again it’s not clear what input there has been from Edinburgh residents.
- And from the two parties who have run the City for the last 5-years? The SNP and the Lib Dems? Nothing.
What will that say about those parties, about how they do business, and about how they would continue to run this Local Authority if re-elected?
3 weeks today and Edinburgh residents will be able to choose between a future based on tired practices and worn-out dogma and a future that will be based on co-operation, empowerment and enterprise, that will help to transform local services and local communities.
Edinburgh Labour’s intentions are clear – and our style of potential governance is there for all to see.