Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Anas Sarwar and the case that shames Labour

Jews are familiar with the malice, prejudice and stupidity that governs the Labour Party’s complaints process when it comes to anti-Semitism. They will find no comfort in the news that other allegations of racism get short shrift too, even when the complainant is a prominent Labour politician.

The party has said there is no case to answer against a councillor accused of telling Labour MSP Anas Sarwar that Scotland wasn’t ready to vote for a ‘Paki’. The incident is alleged to have occurred in 2017, when Sarwar contested the Scottish leadership against left-wing union fixer (and eventual victor) Richard Leonard.

Sarwar went public with his claim and Davie McLachlan, then Labour leader on South Lanarkshire Council, was suspended. But in an omen of what was to come, McLachlan was subsequently invited as a guest of the party at a charity Burns Night do. 

McLachlan said yesterday that he had been ‘badly maligned’ by ‘false accusations’; Sarwar said he was ‘disappointed with the process and outcome’.

It was a case of he said/ he said, and impossible to know with certainty where the truth lay. The 2017 leadership campaign was rancorous. I wrote on Coffee House at the time that I detected ‘a whiff of a whiff’ in the fixation on the Sarwar family’s cash-and-carry business and its employment practices.

When the New Statesman put my observation to Sarwar, he said social media had been ugly ‘but in terms of the actual contest itself, my ethnicity, the colour of my skin and my religion hasn’t been a feature of this campaign’. I wasn’t sure what to make of his denial — complaining about racism among your electorate isn’t a big vote-winner — and I figured that unintended peeps of prejudice are still heard as dog-whistles by the right people.

Now Sarwar has released a scathing statement about his treatment that suggests an arbitrary process utterly uninterested in what he had to say and happy to rule against him without hearing his evidence.

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