Anas Sarwar, the son of Punjab Governor Muhammad Sawar, has been elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party, defeating fellow MSP Monica Lennon by 57.6% to 42.4%.
Anas has set a precedence by becoming the UK’s first Muslim to lead a party and continuing a family tradition in politics. His father, Muhammad Sarwar, was the first Muslim MP elected to Glasgow Central in 1997.
Born in Glasgow in 1983, Anas Sarwar’s first political memory is a threat made against his mother.
The Glasgow MSP recalled opening a hand-delivered envelope at his home in 1997 to see a mocked-up picture of his mother with a gun to her head, saying: “Bang, bang, that’s all it takes.”
Despite racist threats and abuse, Anas left his job as a dentist in 2010 to enter the world of politics, winning the same Westminster seat as his father in an election in which the Labour party lost power after 13 years to a Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition.
His time as an MP also brought with it leadership responsibilities, with Anas elected to be deputy leader of Scottish Labour from 2011 to 2014, as well as the job of coordinating the party’s campaign during the independence referendum.
He would also serve as acting leader following the resignation of Johann Lamont in 2014.
In 2015, he lost his seat to the Scottish National party’s Alison Thewliss as the party swept Scotland, winning all but one of the constituencies north of the border.
The following year, he was elected to Holyrood on the Glasgow regional list, and just more than 12 months later would be fighting his first leadership election, taking on the eventual winner, Richard Leonard, who polled 56.7% of the vote.
Since his loss, he has been the party’s health spokesperson, before an acrimonious sacking by Leonard which he claimed to have heard about through social media, and most recently as constitution spokesperson, as well as campaigning for an inquiry into issues at the Queen Elizabeth university hospital in Glasgow.
Anas, the first person from an ethnic minority background to lead a UK party, said his election was “the greatest honour of my life”.
With just 10 weeks before May’s Holyrood election, he takes the reins of a party third in the polls, with the latest Ipsos Mori survey putting Labour at 15 per cent in the constituency vote and 14 per cent in the regions.
In a video message, Anas said: “I want to say directly to the people of Scotland — I know Labour has a lot of work to do to win back your trust. Because if we’re brutally honest, you haven’t had the Scottish Labour Party you deserve.
“With rising injustice, inequality and division, I’m sorry we haven’t been good enough. I will work day and night to change that, so we can build the country we all need.”
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer congratulated Anas, saying: “We will fight the Scottish Parliamentary elections by making the case for a socially-just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has long been a political rival of both Sarwar and his father before him, extended her congratulations to the Glasgow MSP on Twitter.