Scottish Labour leadership race takes shape as Sarwar and Leonard enter contest

Former deputy leader Anas Sarwar has announced he is standing against Richard Leonard to be Kezia Dugdale’s successor

ANAS SARWAR this morning announced his candidacy for the Scottish Labour leadership, confirming heavy speculation that he would join the race to face off against the only other confirmed candidate, Central Scotland MSP Richard Leonard.

Sarwar’s campaign will be co-chaired by Pauline McNeill, a fellow Glasgow MSP and Scottish Labour’s shadow minister for housing and social justice, and East Lothian MP Martin Whitfield.

“Over the coming weeks I will set out my positive vision for Scotland’s future, rooted firmly in Labour’s values.” Labour MSP Anas Sarwar

In a press release issued this morning, Sarwar stated: “This is an election that nobody wanted or expected, and I would once again like to pay tribute to Kezia Dugdale for her dedicated service.

“Labour is revitalised in Scotland and I am ready to unite our party and lead us back to power.

“The people of Scotland do not need a Labour party that is fighting itself. They need a united Labour party in Holyrood that is fighting the SNP and ready to form Scotland’s next government.

“And they need a united Labour party across the UK working together to elect Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.

“Over the coming weeks I will set out my positive vision for Scotland’s future, rooted firmly in Labour’s values.”

“We will run a positive and constructive campaign and we will focus on the battle of ideas and issues our party needs to be at the vanguard of.” Pauline McNeill MSP

Pauline McNeill said of Sarwar’s candidacy: “Anas has the experience and energy to take on the challenge to transform us from being an opposition party to being the next Scottish Government.

“I know he can unite our party behind our common aims and socialist values by addressing the deepening inequalities that prevail across the country.

“We will run a positive and constructive campaign and we will focus on the battle of ideas and issues our party needs to be at the vanguard of.”

Sarwar’s announcement makes him the second declared candidate in the Scottish Labour leadership contest, following MSP and former GMB trade unionist Richard Leonard, who confirmed that he was standing in an article for the Sunday Mail, writing that “it is now time to set out our vision of a more equal Scotland with full employment, funding quality public services, providing dignity for our OAPs and hope for our young”.

Sarwar, already the subject of intense speculation as a possible leadership contender, wrote in the same newspaper: "I firmly believe Labour can achieve power again in both Holyrood and Westminster.”

Sarwar’s call for party unity and apparent support for Corbyn run counter to both his former opposition to Corbyn in prior Labour leadership contests, and the widespread perception that he represents Labour’s Blairite faction and would, if elected, continue Dugdale’s relative centrism.

“We should have used the opportunity of Jeremy Corbyn’s growing popularity in that election to ... get away a bit from the entrenchment in constitutional politics which we found ourselves in.” Richard Leonard MSP

Leonard, by contrast, is seen by many as being the more leftwing candidate, and may become the favoured choice for Corbyn supporters following confirmation from Alex Rowley and Neil Findlay that they will not be running.

Leonard had earlier told BBC Radio Scotland that Scottish Labour had failed to capitalise on Corbyn’s leadership, saying: “I think we should have used the opportunity of Jeremy Corbyn’s growing popularity in that election to knock on more doors to get across the Labour message and I think to get away a bit from the entrenchment in constitutional politics which we found ourselves in.”

Media relations for Sarwar’s campaign are meanwhile being overseen by Alan Roden, Scottish Labour’s communications director and former Scottish Daily Mail political editor. The Sunday Herald reported yesterday that Mr Roden’s employment with Scottish Labour, along with strategy chief Martin McCluskey and policy director Gina Davidson, was tied to the leadership of Kezia Dugdale, whose resignation Roden reportedly learned of while attending a Las Vegas casino.

Picture courtesy of Scottish Labour

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