Anas Sarwar was on Saturday elected as the new leader of Scottish Labour, the U.K. Labour Party’s arm in Scotland, following a ballot of members.
He will contest crucial Scottish parliament elections on May 6, where he’ll seek to arrest the party’s declining fortunes. Sarwar promised in his acceptance speech that he would work to win back the trust of voters in his party.
Once dominant in Scottish politics, Scottish Labour has fallen to historic lows since the 2014 independence referendum — dropping from 41 MPs in Westminster in 2010 to just one in the last U.K. general election. The party has been out of power in Scotland’s Holyrood parliament for close to 14 years.
An MSP for Glasgow, Sarwar has described his politics as “Brownite” in reference to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and is opposed to a second Scottish independence referendum. Sarwar said Saturday that he would be a leader who “focuses on what unites our country — not what divides it.”
SCOTLAND ELECTION POLL OF POLLS (CONSTITUENCY VOTE)
Sarwar was the favorite to win the two-horse leadership battle against Monica Lennon, who made headlines around the world for her role in a period poverty campaign. He was previously the constitution spokesperson in the Scottish parliament, and now becomes the first Asian leader of a major political party in Scotland.
Sarwar was endorsed by Brown and a majority of Holyrood Scottish Labour MSPs. It is thought that U.K. Labour leader Keir Starmer was quietly supportive of his bid.
Starmer congratulated Sarwar after Saturday’s results, saying he looked forward to working with the new leader on “making the case for a socially just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom.”
Sarwar previously ran for the post in 2017, losing to Richard Leonard who led the party until his resignation in January.