Labour health cam­paign­ers refuse to back Sar­war as leader

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW WHI­TAKER

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

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