Anas Sarwar reveals Labour frontbench to take party into election

New Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has unveiled a “campaign cabinet” and put his leadership rival Monica Lennon in charge of the party’s economy brief.

Anas Sarwar has unveiled his shadow cabinet.
Anas Sarwar has unveiled his shadow cabinet.

He said “protecting and creating jobs” would be at the heart of the party’s election campaign and Ms Lennon would lead on these issues, with a focus on tackling the structural barriers faced by women getting back into work as a result of the pandemic.

However despite an offer of a frontbench role, former leader Richard Leonard has decided to return to the backbenches.

Mr Sarwar said: “I had very positive exchanges with Richard and he felt he didn’t want to come back on the frontbench at this time. But he’s been nothing but supportive and we’re both determined to work together to rebuild the party going into the election.”

Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon, who had challenged for the Scottish Labour leadership, has been given the economy brief. Picture: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

He added: "I want to win as many seats as possible. What the public have been used to when new leaders come in is to act macho and pretend all is changed overnight and we’re on the cusp of victory but if you look at the polls we’re in a difficult place, but we’re working to win as many seats as possible in May.

“The pathway I want to take the party on is survival to relevance to credible opposition to credible alternative and I think that will probably take longer than 10 weeks but we can develop over next five years. I do think we can stop an SNP majority.”

Two MSPs who led an aborted coup against Mr Leonard last year, Daniel Johnson and James Kelly, are back in the shadow cabinet with roles in finance and community safety and drugs policy.

In a break with tradition, Mr Sarwar has also given two high-profile roles to non-MSPs, with Dundee councillor Michael Marra taking on the education portfolio and disabled rights campaigner Pam Duncan-Glancy speaking on social security issues. Both are standing for Scottish Labour in the May elections.

Deputy leader of the party, Jackie Baillie, will take up the health and social care brief, while former government minister and Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack returns to a frontbench role with environment, climate change and land reform.

Admitting the Glasgow Southside election, where he will take on Nicola Sturgeon will be “interesting”, he added: “I’ve got the energy, stamina and determination to do this for the long haul. I know what the project is, and that’s to rebuild so Labour is credible party of government again and I’m determined to go on that path.

“We are only weeks away from the Holyrood election and we have built a team from both the Parliament and our wider movement. I am determined to bring our party together and harness all our talent.

"There will be a lot of talk about tactical voting, my appeal to people would be rather than tactical voting, vote for what is in the best interests of the country, and if that’s to focus on what unites us not divides us, I want you to vote Labour, if you care about a focus on your job, your child’s education, the NHS, the planet, and a party that obsesses about Covid recovery and not a referendum, I want you to vote for Labour.”

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