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16 November 2017updated 07 Sep 2021 10:24am

NOT FOR PUBLICATION: Anas Sarwar elected Scottish Labour leader

Sarwar is the first British Asian leader of any political party in the UK. 

By New Statesman

Anas Sarwar has been elected leader of the Scottish Labour party, beating the “Corbyn candidate” Richard Leonard, in a result that took many by surprise.

Originally seen as the frontrunner, Sarwar was soon bogged down by newspaper headlines focused on his family firm, as well as his decision to send his son to private school.

Leonard, a former trade unionist and left-wing MSP, also gained the support of Momentum and the Campaign for Socialism, its sister organisation in Scotland. 

Sarwar, however, fought back with a distinctly anti-Brexit platform, going further than the UK Labour leadership in pledging to keep Scotland in the single market and customs union

The son of Britain’s first Muslim MP, Sarwar is the first British Asian leader of any political party in the UK. 

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In an interview, he told the New Statesman he was the “anti-establishment” candidate. Under his leadership, Scottish Labour is likely to remain distinct from the UK Labour party, with Sarwar pledging to always put Scotland first. 

His policy promises take advantage of Scotland’s new devolved tax-raising powers, and include a £10 weekly means-tested child tax credit and a more progressive tax system. Labour remains only the third biggest party in Holyrood. 

A more pressing task for Sarwar will be to reunite the Scottish party. While he attracted more support than Leonard among elected Scottish Labour politicians and members, he was less popular among the constituency parties and trade unions, nearly all of which opted for Leonard. 

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