Staunch Jeremy Corbyn supporter Pauline McNeill MSP sets out why she’s backing Anas Sarwar as Scottish Labour leader.


I supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader; I believe in him and I saw what millions saw in him at the general election – a different kind of politician, one needed for today’s politics. My own political outlook changed after the financial crash of 2008 and the long-lasting devastation that has created in ordinary people lives.

It is therefore vitally important to me that the new Scottish leader embraces the direction the UK Labour Party is headed. We are all now fighting for the chance to take the Labour programme to the people in a general election because this time we know – in all likelihood – it will lead us to government.

The stakes could not be higher. The person we choose to lead us in Scotland is essential to our prospects of recovery across the UK. Our fight to win back power at Holyrood needs equally radical polices (and to be fair we already have some good ones), redistributive taxation, a national house building programme, a ban on fracking, and a plan to lift children out of poverty.

The election brought our Labour family together and the winning candidate will be expected to support the UK leader. This cuts two ways and the UK leader must support the new Scottish leader. There needs to be a recognition that the Scottish party is an autonomous party fighting a very different election.

There has been wide recognition that Jeremy Corbyn has successfully taken on a full-frontal assault of the media establishment against all the odds and confounded all his critics.

This contest cannot be a referendum on Jeremy. It is, however, a contest to decide who is best able to strengthen Scottish Labour and take forward distinct ideas and policy to transform Scotland – using complimentary powers from Westminster and Holyrood. Anas Sarwar is my choice for leader. I certainly would not back him unless I knew he supports the UK leadership team and will work positively with them. I’m also confident that he would be firm that the position of Scottish Labour Leader must be respected.

Anas has skewered Health Secretary Shona Robison on her government’s management of our NHS. He has been forensic in the way he has applied himself to the job.  I share an office with Anas and I have seen the endless Freedom of Information papers flood in to be analysed and used for good effect. In case you didn’t know, that’s partly how Nicola Sturgeon made her name.

I have never been in favour of an overtly negative tone towards the SNP in government when Labour has been so unpopular, but the SNP failures on health are real and shocking. I have seen up close what Anas can do in one brief.  His utter resilience to take anything thrown at him and come out fighting is remarkable. He has announced some serious policy suggestions for debate in this selection, such as a job guarantee for every young person.

I have faith in his ability to win over the hearts and minds of new voters. He single-handedly ran the United with Labour campaign and gave a Labour identity to the referendum campaign in 2014.

Coming from an Asian culture means he spends many of his waking hours looking after a marginalised section of society. It’s no small matter that our former deputy leader is from the BME community.

It’s time for Scottish Labour to set out a credible alternative for Scotland with serious ambitions to eradicate child poverty and create a warm decent home for every person.  Anas Sarwar has the policies and the personal determination to take these Labour values into government. I will back him to do that.