Scottish Labour leader hopeful Anas Sarwar: “I’m the anti-establishment candidate”

Anas Sarwar

Sarwar was seen as the frontrunner in the race to be the next Scottish Labour leader. Then the negative headlines began.

One day, when Anas Sarwar was a boy, he left his Glasgow home to go to school and found a letter on the doorstep. “I rather stupidly picked it up and opened it,” Sarwar, now 34, recalls. “There was a picture mocked up of my mum, tied to a chair, with two guns pointed to her head, saying ‘bang bang, that’s all it takes’ in those cut out words.

“That’s quite difficult when you’re a young child, and it’s quite difficult when you have to go to the police station because they want to rule out whose fingerprints are on the letter.”

Growing up with your dad as Britain’s first Muslim MP, it seems, came at a price. As well as the letter, there were abusive phone calls, hate mail, long absences and the controversies that come with a career in politics. Yet Anas Sarwar left a career in dentistry to follow his father, Mohammed, into politics, and now wants to be the leader of Scottish Labour. Why?

“When my father finally accepted I was never going to go into politics, that’s when I probably started thinking about going into politics,” Sarwar says when I meet him in his campaign office on a sunny but stormy Glasgow morning. Then he adds a second reason: “You can try and prove the haters wrong.”

With his rolled up shirtsleeves, youth and conversational style, Sarwar seems every aspect the modern politician. His rise has been swift. Elected to his father’s old seat of Glasgow Central in 2010, he became Scottish Labour deputy leader a year later and was briefly acting leader in 2014. Then, in the devastating election of 2015, he lost his seat. Undeterred, he stood in the Scottish Parliament elections the following year, and became an MSP for the Glasgow region.

When Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale resigned in August, Sarwar seemed the obvious frontrunner. Although he had not backed Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, the Labour leader’s most prominent allies in Scotland ruled themselves out of the race. The left’s candidate, Richard Leonard, was almost unknown outside party circles.

Yet Sarwar’s campaign was quickly mired in controversy. First, it emerged that his family’s wholesale business did not pay the real living wage of £8.45 an hour (it pays the current minimum wage of £7.50 an hour). Sarwar relinquished his stake in the firm. But there was still the awkward fact that he sent his son to the same fee-paying school he had attended. The Sun referred to him as a “millionaire Blairite”.

“I accept that it is legitimate for people to ask about decisions I make in my private and political life,” Sarwar says. What he bristles at is the idea that his politics are in question. “I belong in the Labour party,” he insists.

He points out that before politics, he was an NHS dentist, not a businessman. As for admiring the former Prime Minister …read more

Source:: New Statesman

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