As I predicted in mid-January the London Labour officer elected to manage the Scottish branch office of the party, their 10th office manager in only twenty years, has indeed been announced as List MSP for Glasgow Anas Sarwar.
The privately educated millionaire Anas Sarwar has trumped the working-class alternative in the shape of Monica Lennon.
The idea that a privately educated son of a millionaire who chooses to send his children to private schools will be able to speak directly to the millions of former working class Labour voters scunnered by years of gross inequalities and reduced life opportunities on the back of grinding Tory austerity is laughable. Anas and his family epitomise the inequalities which confront millions of ordinary Scots. He is ill-equipped to speak with conviction about tackling them.
Anas Sarwar is undoubtedly a nice guy and a clever one to boot but his politics are unionist to the core and derived from years of personal privilege and comfort. He refuses to accept any responsibility for the fact his family company is a low pay employer claiming lack of involvement but if he can’t even sort out the scourge of low pay in his own family’s business how on earth is he going to tackle the curse of low pay across the whole Scottish economy?
Some point to the fact he is the first leader of any mainstream party in Scotland to come from an ethnic minority as a positive signpost for an inclusive Scotland open to all regardless of skin colour, creed, or religion. Anas’s father, Mohammed Sarwar became the UK’s first Muslim MP in 1997. That too was welcomed at the time as progress in equality terms. Personally, I am much more impressed by the policies, actions, and character of political representatives than their ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference.
Thatcher the Woman Prime Minister Impoverished Millions of Women
Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister ever elected in the UK, but her politics and actions impoverished working class women even further for decades and failed to address the actual and structural inequalities which confront women daily and maintains pay and opportunity gaps. The fact she was a woman mattered not a jot. It was her divisive right-wing ideology in defence of grotesque inequalities which defined her.
What will define Anas Sarwar is his actions as the leader of a party in Scotland which used to hold in trust the allegiance of working-class communities. That trust was severely challenged during the Blair years and denunciations of socialism and the lies and deceit which led the UK into the disastrous and criminal Iraq war in 2003.
But that trust was completely lost when they sacrificed their anti-Tory principles on the altar of defending the British Union by linking arms and Union Jack flags with the children of Thatcherism during the Better Together campaign in 2014. That campaign saw Tory and Labour representatives cheer and celebrate together as they toasted maintaining the status quo, the unequal and exploitative British Union.
In September 2014 Labour in Scotland boasted 41 of the 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster. Eight months later that forty-one total was decimated to only one in the 2015 General Election. Today, after the 2019 General Election, they still have only one. Their loyalty to Britain the brand and the Union Jack as their flag has reduced them in relevance, size, and stature. The task facing Anas Sarwar in seeking to rebuild Labour support in Scotland is a huge one and his first days in post do not augur well. It would appear no lessons have been learnt over the past six years.
Anas Sarwar is Both a Unionist and Undemocratic
During a radio interview last Tuesday Anas signalled his intention to forgive a group of nine renegade Labour councillors in Aberdeen. They had been suspended from membership by previous Scottish Labour branch leader Keiza Dugdale in 2017 after they had entered into a formal coalition with Tory councillors to run the city despite the fact SNP had won 19 council seats to the Tories’ 11 and Labour 9.
Formally linking arms with the masters of economic austerity, welfare cuts, poverty pay, and social division appears unproblematic to the bold Anas. According to him the nine are “doing a good job” and he said their suspension is “far from acceptable” and down to a “political decision”.
In the same interview he displayed his distinctly anti-democratic credentials when he again ruled out support for a second independence referendum even if the people of Scotland elect a majority SNP government in nine weeks’ time. He even argued that no one in Scotland cares about independence and the constitutional question “beyond the Twitter bubble” when in fact the latest Ipsos MORI poll confirms not only that the SNP maintain a massive lead in May voting intentions (52% compared to Tories on 23% and Labour on 15%) but the single biggest issue likely to determine how a Scottish citizen votes is independence (44%), followed by education (32%) and healthcare/NHS (25%).
Only Wasted SNP Votes on Regional Lists Will Save the Unionists
The SNP are heading for a majority government based on the constituency vote alone in May and the unionist parties are left relying on the vagaries of the mixed D’Hondt voting system at Holyrood for survival. If enough SNP supporters continue to give their constituency and regional list votes to the SNP, then the Tories and Labour will return MSPs from the regional lists intent on talking Scotland down and opposing any moves towards another independence referendum. The SNP will do so well in constituency votes again that their massive regional list vote will be entirely wasted.
Sir Keir ‘Establishment Lackey’ Starmer will be pleased his Scottish branch office is in the safe hands of a millionaire unionist who supports independence for Kashmir from India but not Scotland from the UK but such hypocrisy and acute lack of democratic principles will ensure Anas is just another short-term manager who will fail to re-vitalise Labour in Scotland. While Scottish Labour prioritise the rights of Britain over the right of Scotland to be an independent nation it will continue to whither on the vine and diminish even further in terms of support and relevance.