ANAS Sarwar has dramatically resigned as Scottish Labour’s deputy leader to clear the way for an MSP to stand on a joint leadership ticket with Jim Murphy.
The Glasgow Central MP said he was quitting at the end of another turbulent day for Scottish Labour that saw support for the party plunge in the polls.
His resignation was announced at a gala dinner in Glasgow to raise funds for the Scottish arm of the party, which has now lost its leader and deputy within the space of a week.
The UK leader Ed Miliband had travelled north for the dinner, which coincided with a devastating Ipsos Mori poll, which suggested that backing for the SNP has soared at the expense of Labour.
Mr Sarwar revealed that he had decided to follow in the footsteps of Johann Lamont, who resigned last week complaining that UK Labour had been treating Scottish Labour as a “branch office” of London.
The outgoing deputy leader insisted that he did not share Ms Lamont’s criticisms of the London end of the party, but was going because he felt the Scottish leadership should be focused on Holyrood.
His announcement was a turnaround from the view he expressed earlier in the week when Mr Sarwar said he had no intention of stepping down.
Had he stayed in post, however, it would have hampered Mr Murphy’s chances of defeating MSPs Sarah Boyack and Neil Findlay in the contest to replace Ms Lamont.
Like Mr Sarwar, Mr Murphy is also a Westminster MP. Having the two most prominent figures in Scottish Labour based at Westminster would not have played well with the Labour politicians, members and Trade Unionists who will vote for a new leader.
Mr Sarwar’s departure could trigger a contest for the deputy leadership and will enable a Holyrood MSP to come forward to look after the party at Edinburgh while Mr Murphy remained an MP.
Mr Sarwar said: “After thinking about it long and hard over the last few days I have decided that I believe Scottish Labour should be represented by a leadership team that is focused on the Scottish Parliament.
“It has been a privilege to serve as deputy leader for the last three years and a honour I never thought I would receive.
“But I think the leadership contest that is going on now is a time for everybody to reflect on what is best for Scottish Labour.
“And after much soul searching I have come to the conclusion that I believe the Scottish Labour leadership team should be focused on Holyrood.
“I have spoken to Ed Miliband and informed him of this decision and told him I want to devote my efforts to securing a Labour victory at next year’s general election and help make Ed Miliband Prime Minister.”
Mr Sarwar will remain in post - as acting leader - until Johann Lamont’s successor is elected by the party on December 13.
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