Sarwar takes over Labour mantle ahead of crucial Scottish elections

19th Mar 2021
Sarwar takes over Labour mantle ahead of crucial Scottish elections

(Photo Scottish Labour/Flickr commons)

Congratulation is in order for Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, who in February became the first Muslim to lead a major political party in the UK when he succeeded Richard Leonard in leading the Scottish Labour Party, a poisoned chalice post held by seven others in just 14 years.

38-year-old Sarwar is the son of former Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar, who in 1997 broke another glass ceiling when he became the first Muslim to win a seat for Labour in the British Parliament. His father was an MP for a Glasgow constituency until he stepped down in favour of his son in 2010.

Since winning the first two elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and 2003 and later forming a coalition with the Lib Dems, Labour has been in decline with politics over the border dominated by the Scottish Nationalist Party.

Sarwar’s leadership comes at a time when Labour holds just 24 seats in the 129-seats devolved chamber and just over two months before Holyrood elections, which is expected to be dominated by a renewed push for independence by the SNP.

Unlike England, Scotland voted against Brexit, a fact used by the SNP to justify the push for a second independence referendum. Sarwar will hope to capitalise on the SNPs internal corruption row crises and in a pandemic backdrop, he insists that “protecting and creating jobs” would be at the heart of Labour’s election campaign to stop another SNP landslide victory.

Scottish Labour is an autonomous section of the national Labour Party, which in the past has always depended upon success in Scotland to win a majority in the House of Commons, however, like with the devolved parliament in Edinburgh, it faces an uphill struggle to revive its earlier fortunes, holding just one of 59 Scottish seats at Westminster. A staunch task, indeed, for Sarwar if he is to avoid the misfortune of being yet another short-lived Labour leader north of the border. Winning trust, as he says, will be the key.

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