Sarwar sets out stall as Scottish Labour leader contest begins
Anas Sarwar has launched his campaign to be Scottish Labour leader at an event in Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency in Glasgow, where he accused the first minister of presiding over unacceptable poverty.
Sarwar, the candidate with the largest support from Labour MPs and MSPs, suggested he was the best-placed of the two candidates to defeat Sturgeon and her Scottish National party, and the best able to appeal to voters.
Hinting that supporters of his leftwing rival Richard Leonard were more concerned with tribalism than government, Sarwar also referred to the bitter disputes over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of UK Labour. He said the contest was a choice between being a party of power or of protest.
“I don’t want to be a Scottish Labour leader who just talks about fighting inequality, creating opportunity, ending austerity and building a fairer society,” Sarwar told the campaign launch yesterday. “I want to deliver that equality, opportunity and fairness as the next first minister of Scotland.
“That is why here in the Gorbals, at the start of this campaign, we are parking our tanks on Nicola Sturgeon’s lawn. This campaign is not just about electing a Labour leader, it’s about electing the next Labour first minister.”
The contest was triggered by the shock resignation last month of Kezia Dugdale as Scottish Labour leader.
The campaigns have been given until 9 October to recruit new members at the full price of £48 or as registered and affiliated supporters, who will be allowed to vote for a £12 fee. The result will be declared on 18 November.
Although Scottish Labour has avoided the open conflict between centrists and leftwingers that has racked the Labour party, the contest is coloured by factional disputes between the backers of the rival contenders.
Leonard, a former political officer with the GMB trade union who is widely respected inside the party but little known, is backed by the pro-Corbyn Campaign for Socialism, and is expected to win support from the largest trade unions. Corbyn is not expected to formally back either candidate.
Relatively inexperienced in frontline politics, Leonard’s campaign is being launched today in Glasgow, where he is expected to call for greater public ownership of key industries, and greater public spending on housing, infrastructure and industrial investment. Sarwar, who last month hosted a large rally for Corbyn at Glasgow central mosque, is the son of Mohammed Sarwar, who became the UK’s first Muslim MP in 1997.