New Labour leader
Brown says Sarwar facing ‘impossible job’
Anas Sarwar: overcoming division (pic: Terry Murden)
New Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has been warned that unless it drops its “dismissive attitude” towards independence he has no chance of rejuvenating the party.
Mr Sarwar was elected with 57.56% of the vote against Monica Lennon’s 42.44%. He succeeds Richard Leonard who stood down last month.
He said that under his leadership he will “focus on what unites our country – not what divides it”.
In his acceptance speech, he promised to be ‘brutally honest’ with the people of Scotland.
“You haven’t had the Scottish Labour Party you deserve – with rising injustice, inequality and division, I’m sorry we haven’t been good enough,” he said.
But Keith Brown, depute leader of the SNP, was equally brutal, saying Mr Sarwar has “an impossible job on his hands breathing life into a party with no new ideas, ambition or vision for Scotland.
“For as long as Labour’s dismissive attitude towards independence – and towards Scotland’s right to decide its own future – continues, they have no chance of rejuvenating a party which has already lost nearly all credibility in the eyes of the Scottish people.”
Mr Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow, is the first minority ethnic leader of a major political party in the UK.
He said: “That doesn’t say something about me. That says something great about Scotland and its people.
“I want to say directly to the people of Scotland, I know Labour has a lot of work to do to win back your trust. Because if we’re brutally honest, you haven’t had the Scottish Labour Party you deserve.
“With rising injustice, inequality and division, I’m sorry we haven’t been good enough.
“And I will work day and night to change that, so we can build the country we all need.”
He added: “Today we have elected the first ever ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK.
“That doesn’t say something about me. That says something great about Scotland and its people, but the fight for equality is far from over.
“And I’ll work with all our diverse communities in Scotland to rebuild the country we love.”
Mr Sarwar concluded: “I’m determined that the Labour Party I lead will always be on your side because I will be a leader who focuses on what unites our country – not what divides it.
“Together we will build a better future for Scotland.”
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “Huge congratulations to Anas on his election as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
“I look forward to working with him to secure our economy, protect our NHS and rebuild our country.”
“We will fight the Scottish Parliamentary elections by making the case for a socially just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom. Under his leadership, Scottish Labour will focus on what unites us – not what divides us.
“I know Anas will do the hard work that is necessary to win back the trust of the Scottish people and build for the future as we emerge from this pandemic.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “I would like to congratulate Anas Sarwar on his victory and offer my commiserations to Monica Lennon. They are both a credit to their party.
“Liberal Democrats have long championed a federal future for the United Kingdom and in recent times there has been an increased recognition from Gordon Brown and others that the governing architecture that underpins the United Kingdom needs reform.
“I am keen to work with Anas and his party to make reform of the UK a reality. It is time to fix the foundations on which our house of nations sits.”