Former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont yesterday issued a staunch defence of Anas Sarwar’s character as the race for the leadership of the party north of the Border draws to a conclusion.
With the winning candidate due to be announced on Saturday, Lamont declared she was backing Sarwar in his battle against Richard Leonard.
A prominent feature of what has been a fiery contest has been attacks on Sarwar for sending his children to private school and his links to a family firm which does not pay all staff the living wage.
Sarwar is regarded as the more moderate candidate and is seen as the underdog compared with Leonard, the left wing trade unionist who is close to Jeremy Corbyn.
Lamont insisted the leadership battle was not a “proxy test for our loyalty to our UK leader”.
She said she wanted to make her support public because she believes the “cartoon depiction of his character unacceptable and deeply unfair”.
Lamont said: “Anas was my deputy at a time of heightened challenges for our country and he and I worked closely as we fought to support Scotland’s place in the UK and to begin the battle to win back voters to Labour’s cause.
“His loyalty to me was a constant in a world of upheaval, a loyalty as certain in private as it might be on public display. I saw close up his energy, tenacity, clarity of thinking. I saw his politics allied to organisation that took him out on to the doors, engaging in the arguments, not just directing from the centre. I saw then, as I see now, someone who listens to people’s concerns and understands the root causes. He seeks answers and solutions, and persists in his desire to make a difference. That is what our party needs now.”
Lamont added: “It is testimony to his loyalty and values that Anas remained steadfast in his support for Labour when many of his friends and in his community had turned away from us.”
In the article, published on Sarwar’s campaign website, she said she had initially planned to keep her views on the leadership contest private, saying that there is “little so ‘ex’ as an ex-leader”.
But she stated: “I now have decided to add my thoughts because I have become increasingly concerned at the gap between what this contest could have meant, and how it is now being conducted.”
Writing in Scotland on Sunday today, both candidates outline why they believe they are the best candidate to succeed Kezia Dugdale, who resigned unexpectedly earlier this year.
Sarwar writes that he has the credentials to be a future First Minister of Scotland and acknowledges that the leadership campaign has “not always been conducted in the comradely spirit that most of us hoped for”.
He argues that his campaign has remained positive and has put forward “radical, bold” ideas.
Leonard argues that with Labour in third place, behind the SNP and the Tories, the party has to be bold and stick to Labour principles “rather than simply manage, manoeuvre and position to win support”.