Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Can Anas Sarwar rescue Scottish Labour?

Anas Sarwar (photo: Getty)

When the Scottish parliament was set up by Tony Blair in 1999, it seemed as if Labour would govern Holyrood for the foreseeable future. The Scottish Tories were a contradiction in terms. Devolution was sold as a device that would kill nationalism ‘stone dead’. Suffice to say, this plan did not quite work. The Scottish National party took power in 2007, the Tories were resurrected as the new opposition and it was Scottish Labour that ended up on the brink of extinction. Now, for the first time in two decades, Scottish Labour is on the up, with a new party leader. Anas Sarwar, 38, was elected in February so has not had long to prepare for the campaign. We meet in Edinburgh, a few days after a video went viral that showed him dancing enthusiastically to Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ at an open-air dance class.

‘Even my biggest critic would accept that I look like the leader who’s enjoying this campaign the most’

‘Even my biggest critic would accept that I look like the leader that’s enjoying this campaign the most,’ he says. He had so little notice that he had no option but to act on instinct: ‘I can just be myself in the campaign, doing what I feel is the right thing.’ Sarwar’s dancing stunt, and his performance in the TV debates, has reminded some of former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. She made the once-moribund Scottish Conservatives the main opposition at Holyrood. She has now, aged 42, retired to the House of Lords. Her replacement, Douglas Ross, has been something of a flop on the campaign trail. His attempt to counter Sarwar’s dance video by showing cameras his own dance moves to Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ only served to underline his political misery.

Who should a committed Scottish unionist vote for now? Perhaps ask Eddie Barnes, Davidson’s long-standing adviser.

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