Anas Sarwar wins mayors’ backing in Labour leadership race

Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard have held a series of hustings debates as party members elect a new leader. Picture: John Devlin
Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard have held a series of hustings debates as party members elect a new leader. Picture: John Devlin
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Scottish Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar has touted backing from two of the most prominent elected politicians in England, as he and rival Richard Leonard approach the final month of campaigning.

Mr Sarwar, who is still a massive betting underdog in the race, has secured the endorsement of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, and his Liverpool counterpart Steve Rotherham.

The duo praised Glasgow MSP Mr Sarwar as the man with the ‘energy and experience’ to replace Kezia Dugdale, who shocked the party by resigning in August just three months after securing a better-than-expected result in the General Election.

READ MORE: Alistair Darling endorses Anas Sarwar as new Scottish Labour leader

Former Health Secretary Mr Burnham, who stood against Jeremy Corbyn in 2015, coming a distant second, and as a party grandee his endorsement will be seen as a coup for Mr Sarwar, who has thus far secured more nominations from MPs and MSPs, but far less from Constituency Labour Parties.

In a joint statement, the duo wrote: “Having worked closely with Anas in Westminster and witnessed the passion with which he led the Labour campaign to strengthen Scotland’s place in the UK, it’s clear that he has the energy and experience to lead Labour back to power.

“Anas is a committed devolutionist, and knows that we need to devolve power from Whitehall to our cities and regions.”

READ MORE: Dani Garavelli on Anas Sarwar’s “gaffe-prone” candidacy

Meanwhile, leadership rival Richard Leonard launched a ‘Workers’ Manifesto’ which his campaign claim would improve workers’ rights and pay to guarantee they work in safe working environments while tackling low pay.

Mr Leonard said: “My over-riding mission is to abolish poverty. That means the reinstatement of full and fulfilling employment as a goal of public policy. It means we need to invest in our people, our communities, industries and public services and sharing the wealth of our country more equally.

“In-work wages are too low with nearly half a million people in Scotland earning less than the living wage, meaning too many people do not have the means to lead fulfilling and happy lives. And we know that there is a profound gender inequality at the heart of this with twice as many women as men earning less than the living wage.”

The developments come as the battle has become increasingly bitter, with controversy over Anas Sarwar’s personal finances giving way to arguments over the new members both campaigns had signed up.

The winner will be announced on November 18.