Scottish Labour leadership candidate Anas Sarwar has appealed to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn to back him in the race, insisting that he wants to help him become Prime Minister despite previously calling for him to quit.
The MSP, who is set to go head-to-head with Richard Leonard in the forthcoming leadership contest, said Labour had been “revitalised” under Mr Corbyn’s leadership and could again become a party of government.
Writing for our sister title the i, Mr Sarwar heaped praise on the Labour leader’s “radical manifesto” ahead of June’s general election, which saw the party deny the Conservatives a majority after winning more votes than expected in Scotland and across the UK.
Despite Mr Sarwar being perceived as the front-runner in the contest to replace Kezia Dugdale, his opponent Mr Leonard is more closely associated with Mr Corbyn and many believe he could sweep to victory if there is a surge in people signing up to the party to vote. “The Labour Party has been through tough times in recent years,” Mr Sarwar wrote.
“But this year’s general election revitalised our party, with Jeremy Corbyn’s radical manifesto capturing the imagination of millions of people across the UK. “The path to Number 10 runs through Scotland, which is why I was delighted to speak alongside him on his recent tour of constituencies across the country.
“I want our movement to work together to elect Jeremy as Prime Minister, putting Labour’s vision for a fairer society into action across the UK.” However, he also warned that Labour should “never aspire to be a pressure group” and should not be content to simply remain in opposition, promising that he would fight to become the next First Minister of Scotland.
Mr Sarwar’s praise of the Labour leader is in marked contrast to the position he took in July last year, when he was among the signatories of an open letter from Scottish MSPs calling on Mr Corbyn to step down. The 13 MSPs said the Labour leader should quit “for the good of the party and, more importantly, the country”, claiming he did not have the confidence of the MPs he was leading in the House of Commons.
Mr Sarwar is understood to have since privately withdrawn his support for the letter. On Mr Corbyn’s recent visit to Scotland, he praised him at a public rally as a “different kind of politician and a different kind of leader”. Scottish Labour’s executive committee is due to meet on Saturday to decide on the timing of the leadership contest, with the final result not expected to be announced until November.
The meeting will also decide how much members of the public will have to pay to join Labour and register to vote, as well as the cut-off date for registration. Mr Leonard’s supporters reportedly want the price to be as low as possible and the sign up period to be longer, believing that they can mobilise support online in the same way as Mr Corbyn through his Momentum group.