Scottish Labour needs an authentic voice as its new Leader, that's why I am supporting Richard Leonard.
Unless you have been hibernating, you will have noticed that the voters have moved on from triangulation politics, where leaders follow the latest focus group and chase cheap headlines. Slick presentation and a few sound bites just doesn't hack it any more. As Jeremy Corbyn showed in the recent election, there is a real appetite for change that people can believe in. Articulated by leaders who can demonstrate their credibility through their record.
I have known Richard Leonard for many years and count him as a comrade and a friend. Throughout those years he has developed new ideas, even changed his mind, but never his underlying socialist principles. Richard often quotes from our history, not to literally apply the policies of the past, but to remind us that we stand on the shoulders of giants whose values are just as relevant today.
This shines through in the policy rich platform he has developed in this campaign. On industrial policy, workers rights, poverty, public ownership and many more, these are the issues that matter, articulated by a person who has the credibility that consistency brings. Richard understands that it's inequality that is at the root of Scotland's ills and his track record shows he has campaigned on these issues all of his working life.
The arguments in favour of Anas are sadly remarkably similar to those made for Jim Murphy - often by the same people. His policy announcements lack a consistent theme and are rarely original. This grasping at populism is exactly what led to Jim Murphy's alcohol at football matches debacle, which epitomised that disastrous election campaign.
Unlike Jim, few people actively dislike Anas, always a plus in a politician! He has come some way in recent years from his time in the Progress faction and I have always found him open to new approaches. When he gets things wrong, it's often because of inexperience, or because he hasn't quite thought through his underlying beliefs. When Richard hasn't had the time to weigh up the pro's and con's of an argument, he call fall back on a well developed set of principles. Many years as a union negotiator teaches you a bit about strategy, persuasion and thinking on your feet.
There has been a lot of media froth in this campaign. No one can choose their birth circumstances and Anas has every right to be proud of his family. As a living wage campaigner, all I expect from sympathetic company directors is that they make the case in the firm for fair work principles. If Anas did that, then that's fine by me.
What did surprised me is how unprepared Anas's campaign was in responding to these very predictable attacks. All the basic rules of media management were forgotten in the partial, faltering responses. Failing to apply for living wage accreditation, when Labour was championing this cause, was really sloppy.
Decisions you make in your adult life do have political consequences. I'm afraid sending your child to a private school makes it very difficult to articulate Labour's inclusive education policy and inequality in general. The SNP at least claims that this is their number one priority, so it will be a real challenge for Anas at FMQ and elsewhere. I haven't yet heard from him how it plans to address this challenge.
It has been argued that Richard's support for Jeremy Corbyn will return Scottish Labour to the 'branch office' days. This is particularly rich coming from the right wing establishment that resisted every effort to democratise the party in Scotland. In contrast, Richard was part of those campaigns, always championing democracy over stage managed politics.
Richard supported Jeremy, not out of factional interest, but because he understood that Labour had to change. More of the same old New Labour fudging and nudging wasn't going to work - the voters had moved on. At the very time the Tories were on the ropes after the referendum, the Labour coup plotters gave them a lifeline. Richard stood by the members choice, Anas joined the coup.
Electing Richard as Leader will build on the progress we made at the general election because, like our new MPs supporting him, he knows the strengths Jeremy brings to our campaigns. But Richard is no starry eyed Corbynista, he will always stand up for the Scottish Labour Party when we decide to adopt a different approach.
The lazy outsider may well view this leadership campaign as a typical left v right Labour tussle. However, it's actually more complex than that. Richard has demonstrated, in the overwhelming number of nominations he has gained from both CLPs and affiliates, that he can reach out across the party - and he can do the same with the electorate.
That's because people are looking for an authentic leader with a consistent track record. Richard embodies the principles that Scottish Labour stands for. Someone who has walked the talk and has a message of real change. That's why I will be voting for Richard Leonard.