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The New Arab Staff

UK Muslim lawmaker Anas Sarwar elected new Scottish Labour leader

Anas Sarwar, 37, faces an uphill battle to re-establish Scottish Labour's position [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 February, 2021

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Anas Sarwar has become the first ethnic minority leader of a major political party in the UK.
Scottish lawmaker Anas Sarwar has won the leadership of Scottish Labour in a snap election triggered by the resignation of Richard Leonard last month.

Sarwar defeated fellow Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Monica Lennon with 57.6 percent of the vote.

Sarwar, who is the son of the UK's first-ever Muslim MP, Mohammad Sarwar, becomes the first ethnic minority leader of a major political party in the UK.

The Glasgow MSP said he would lead the party to "focus on what unites our country – not what divides it".

"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," Sarwar said in his acceptance speech.

"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."

He also recognised the significance of his election as the first-ever ethnic minority leader of a major UK political party, adding that the "fight for equality is far from over.

"And I’ll work with all our diverse communities in Scotland to rebuild the country we love," Sarwar said.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer congratulated Sarwar in a statement, echoing the MSP's pledge to "focus on what unites us".

Scottish National Party justice secretary Humza Yousaf also extended his congratulations to Sarwar on Twitter, saying that he will "do politics another day".

"Will do politics another day, but today can I congratulate @AnasSarwar on becoming @scottishlabour leader - think this makes him first Muslim & Person of Colour leading a political party in UK, an incredible & historic achievement of which I am proud of him for. Well done Anas," Yousaf wrote.

Labour faces an uphill battle in Scotland, which was once viewed as a key heartland of the centre-left political movement. Scottish Labour and the UK Labour Party have lost every election since 2007 to the SNP. The party has also slipped to becoming Scotland's third-largest party, behind the SNP and the UK's ruling Conservative Party.

Current polls suggest Scottish Labour could face further defeats in the upcoming Holyrood election in May.

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