Anas Sarwar MSP: who is the favourite to replace Richard Leonard's as leader of the Scottish Labour party?

Anas Sarwar is the favourite to succeed Richard Leonard

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 1:25 pm
Anas Sarwar is an early front runner in the Labour leadership contest (Getty Images)

Scottish Labour is looking for a new leader following the resignation of Richard Leonard.

Mr Leonard, who held the position since November 2017, announced on January 14 he was stepping down with immediate effect.

His departure comes ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, where Labour will be hoping to improve on their haul of 23 seats in 2017.

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The new leader will be charged with regenerating support for the party which has been relegated to the third most popular party among Scots in recent years behind the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives.

Anas Sarwar has emerged as an early favourite to assume the position of party leader

Who is Anas Sarwar?

Anas Sarwar stood against Richard Leonard at the 2017 leadership election, and will likely be looking to go one step further this time.

Sarwar was born in Glasgow in 1983 and joined Labour at the age of 16.

After studying in dentistry at the University of Glasgow, Sarwar practiced as a dentist for five years, before becoming an MSP.

In 2010 Sarwar was elected to represent the constituency of Glasgow Central.

A year later he was voted as deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, leading the party’s campaign against Scottish independence in the lead up to the 2014 referendum – a campaign which tarnished Labour’s reputation with some north of the border, as the party opted to work alongside the Conservatives.

In 2016 Sarwar was reelected and was chosen by Kezia Dugdale to work as Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health.

At the 2017 leadership election Sarwar was defeated soundly by the Jeremy Corbyn backed Richard Leonard.

What challenges face Anas Sarwar is he’s voted Labour leader?

Richard Leonard was a relative unknown when he emerged as leader of the Labour in 2017, and during his four year stint as leader, the party struggled to build the leader into a household name.

Arguably, Sarwar already has a better public profile than Leonard, so voter recognition is unlikely to be any more of a problem than it already was for Leonard.

The main obstacle facing Sarwar if he’s voted leader is whether he can serve as an effective opposition at First Minister's Questions during the pandemic. Whether he can rise to the occasion is an unknown but his appearances since he was made constitution spokesman have been encouraging.Sarwar is a more centrist candidate than Leonard and he could face a battle to get the left on side, especially if he gets the leadership by coronation rather than a standard election.