Labour health campaigners refuse to back Sarwar as leader
SCOTTISH Labour’s leading NHS pressure group has refused to support Anas Sarwar as party leader despite his role as shadow health secretary. The Socialist Health Association Scotland backed Richard Leonard in a fresh blow to Sarwar’s bid to lead the party.
Leonard was the overwhelming choice of the SHA, which was founded in 1930 to campaign from within Labour for the NHS. The group is formally affiliated to Labour, with doctors and health professionals among its membership.
Sarwar was praised by the SHA for doing a “good job” as Scottish Labour’s most senior health spokesman at Holyrood. However, the SHA said it preferred Leonard because he understood the need to tackle the UK’s wealth inequality. Sarwar’s failure to win its support is seen as an embarrassment for him due to his shadow cabinet role.
The Glasgow MSP’s campaign has been dogged by reports about his wealthy lifestyle and his family firm United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd (UWS). Sarwar agreed to dispose of his stake in UWS, believed to be worth around £4.8 million, after the Sunday Herald revealed that some staff are paid below the real living wage and the MSP admitted there is no trade union recognition at the company.
The politician has also faced sustained criticism over his decision to send his children to private school. Last night, David Conway, SHA’s chair in Scotland confirmed the group’s backing for Leonard following a meeting of its members.
He said: “As chair of the Socialist Health Association in Scotland, I am supporting Richard Leonard for leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
“Firstly, he gets the key issue of health inequalities. In his launch speech, he described it as ‘our national shame, with inequalities in life expectancy of nearly 30 years between the richest and poorest communities in Scotland. That ultimate inequality is down to inequalities in power, wealth, and income’.
“He clearly understands that health inequalities is not simply a health service issue, but is about justice – social justice.”
However, a statement from the SHA added: “The meeting recognised the good job Anas Sarwar has done as Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson.”
Meanwhile, Sarwar announced proposals to open up apprenticeships to all ages. Sarwar said the move would allow older workers to learn new skills, offering many a “second chance” in employment. He said: “This would offer an opportunity for Scots to reskill, giving many older workers a second chance.”
A spokesman for Sarwar added: “Anas will launch an action plan to rescue our NHS on day one of a Labour government, which will include more training places and a cap on spiralling private agency spend.”
The Socialist Health Association Scotland’s endorsement of Richard Leonard is seen as a major embarrassment for Anas Sarwar