Anas Sarwar

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Anas Sarwar
Anas Sarwar MSP.jpg
Official portrait, 2016
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Assumed office
27 February 2021
DeputyJackie Baillie
UK party leaderKeir Starmer
Preceded byRichard Leonard
24 October 2014 – 13 December 2014
UK party leaderEd Miliband
Preceded byJohann Lamont
Succeeded byJim Murphy
Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
In office
17 December 2011 – 13 December 2014
LeaderJohann Lamont
Preceded byJohann Lamont
Succeeded byKezia Dugdale
Shadow Minister for International Development
In office
5 November 2014 – 8 May 2015
LeaderEd Miliband
Preceded byAlison McGovern
Succeeded byMike Kane
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Glasgow
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
Assumed office
5 May 2016
Member of Parliament
for Glasgow Central
In office
6 May 2010 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byMohammad Sarwar
Succeeded byAlison Thewliss
Scottish Labour frontbench roles
2020–2021Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution
2016–2018Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport
Personal details
Born (1983-03-14) 14 March 1983 (age 39)
Glasgow, Scotland
Political partyLabour
Furheen Ashrif
(m. 2006)
RelativesMohammad Sarwar (father)
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow Edit this at Wikidata

Anas Sarwar (born 14 March 1983) is a Scottish politician who has served as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party since 2021. He has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Glasgow region since 2016, having been Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow Central from 2010 to 2015. Ideologically, he identifies as a Brownite.

Born in Glasgow to Pakistani Muslim parents, Sarwar was educated at the independent Hutchesons' Grammar School and studied general dentistry at the University of Glasgow. He worked in Paisley as a dentist until being elected as Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central at the 2010 general election when he succeeded his retiring father, Mohammad Sarwar. During his time in the House of Commons, he served as Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party from 2011 to 2014.

Sarwar lost his seat to the Scottish National Party (SNP) at the 2015 general election. After leaving Westminster, he was elected at the 2016 Scottish Parliament election on the Glasgow regional list. Having been defeated in the 2017 Scottish Labour leadership election by Richard Leonard, he was elected as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party in the 2021 leadership election. Sarwar led Scottish Labour into the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, which saw Scottish Labour return to opposition with two fewer Labour MSPs than at the previous election. He was defeated by incumbent First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside but was returned on the Glasgow regional list.

Early life and career[edit]

Sarwar was born on 14 March 1983 in Glasgow to Perveen and Mohammad Sarwar, both Pakistani Muslims.[1][2][3] He is the youngest of four children and was educated at Hutchesons' Grammar School, an independent school in Glasgow. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in general dentistry in 2005, becoming an NHS general dentist in Paisley until 2010 when he was elected as an MP.[4] Sarwar became a member of Scottish Labour at the age of 16 and was an executive member of Scottish Young Labour.[4][5] He later joined the Co-operative Party, Fabian Society, trade unions Unite and Community and pressure group Progress, of which he served as a vice-chair.[5][6]

Political career[edit]

2007 Scottish Parliament election[edit]

For the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, Sarwar was selected to stand as the number one regional list candidate for the Glasgow region.[7] He was a member of Labour's Scottish Policy Forum which was responsible for drawing-up the Scottish Labour Party manifesto for that election. His attempt to enter Holyrood failed at the election when Labour lost control of the Scottish Parliament for the first time.[8]

Member of Parliament: 2010–2015[edit]

Sarwar was elected at the 2010 general election as MP for Glasgow Central, succeeding his father Mohammad Sarwar; who was the first-ever Muslim MP in the UK and increasing the previously held majority.[7] He was elected by colleagues to serve on the International Development Select Committee. His parliamentary interests included foreign policy and international development, with specific areas of concern being Palestine and Kashmir.[9] He was also co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-corruption and was a member of the Welfare Reform Bill Committee.[10] In January 2013, Sarwar was awarded the Politician of the Year award at the British Muslim Awards.[11]

In 2013, Sarwar took a strong line in attacking both the "Bedroom Tax" and the Scottish Government for its failure to mitigate its worst effects. During a vote on its repeal, Sarwar was in Pakistan, giving a speech to students at Hajvery University, and so was paired off with a Conservative MP, cancelling out the two votes. He was criticised for his absence by the SNP.[12][13]

In 2014, Sarwar came under criticism for choosing to send his son to Hutchesons' Grammar School, an independent school and the same school that he himself attended, rather than a state school. MSP John Wilson stated: "Anas Sarwar once again highlights the hypocrisy of the Labour Party – talking of social justice and defending public services while sending his own child to a private school."[14]

From 5 November 2014 until 8 May 2015, Sarwar was Labour's Shadow Minister for International Development.[15] In January 2015, he was awarded the Spirit of Britain award at that year's British Muslim Awards.[16] At the 2015 general election, he lost his Glasgow Central seat to Alison Thewliss of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party: 2011–2014[edit]

Margaret Curran, Sarwar, Johann Lamont and Gordon Brown at the launch of United with Labour

In December 2011, Sarwar was elected Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party receiving 51.10% of the vote.[17] In 2012, he was appointed to co-ordinate Scottish Labour's 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaign.[18] The campaign, alongside Better Together, was ultimately successful, with Scotland voting 55% to 45% to remain in the United Kingdom. However, Scottish Labour were all but wiped out in an SNP landslide victory at the 2015 general election. Following the resignation of Johann Lamont on 25 October 2014, Sarwar became acting leader until a new leader was elected. On 30 October, he resigned as deputy leader at a Labour Party dinner in Glasgow.

Early tenure as Member of the Scottish Parliament: 2016–2021[edit]

Sarwar was elected as an additional member in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election for the Glasgow region. In 2016, he was made Scottish Labour Spokesperson for Health and Sport. In September 2017, he announced he would run for the Scottish Labour leadership following the resignation of Kezia Dugdale.[19] He eventually lost to his opponent, Richard Leonard. On 4 October 2018, he was sacked from his position as Health and Sport Spokesperson, stating he had only learnt of the sacking on Twitter.[20]

During the 2017 leadership election, Rutherglen councillor Davie McLachlan allegedly said "Scotland wouldn't vote for a brown Muslim Paki". In April 2019, Sarwar's case against McLachlan was due to be heard by the National Constitutional Committee but was dropped on a technicality, as Sarwar had not given his case within a narrow timescale which had been given out at short notice. Richard Leonard acknowledged the process was flawed and the committee would need to be reformed to avoid similar incidents.[21]

In November 2019, Sarwar was given access to a leaked report from 2015 which had considered infection controls at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to be at "high risk". 10-year-old patient Milly Main died in the hospital in 2017 from a water infection, while she was there to recover from leukaemia. Sarwar raised the leaked report's findings in a Scottish Parliament debate in which he criticised NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for not closing certain hospital wards despite the report's findings. He requested on behalf on Main's mother, a constituent of his, a response from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.[22]

In November 2020, Sarwar was made Scottish Labour Spokesperson for the Constitution.[23]

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party: 2021–present[edit]

Following the resignation of Richard Leonard in 2021, Sarwar was elected as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, winning 57.56% of the vote.[24] Sarwar and some in the media suggested this made him the first ethnic minority person to lead a major UK political party,[25] although The Spectator pointed to political leaders of Jewish descent such as Benjamin Disraeli, Michael Howard and Ed Miliband while acknowledging he was the first Muslim and person of Asian descent.[26]

Sarwar led Scottish Labour into the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, which saw the worst result for Scottish Labour since devolution, with two fewer Labour MSPs returned than at the previous election.[27] Although he was defeated by incumbent First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside, he was reelected as a list MSP for the Glasgow region.[28]


Sarwar supports a continuation of Virgin Atlantic flights to the Punjab airports of Pakistan.

Described as being on the political right of the Labour Party, Sarwar identifies as a Brownite and has been critical of both Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn.[29] He says former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is one of his political heroes. As for Blair, Sarwar has been heavily critical of the Iraq War, calling it "the worst foreign policy decision in my lifetime".[30]

Sarwar was opposed to leaving the European Union and insisted that the UK needed to stay in the single market in order to counter the Conservatives' austerity policies.[31]

Despite having criticised Corbyn in the past, Sarwar insisted that his economic plans would be "even more progressive and radical" than those of Corbyn and John McDonnell.[32]

As the leader of Scottish Labour in 2021 Scottish Parliament election, Sarwar pledged to reduce poverty and inequality in Scotland as part of his policy solutions to the aftermath of COVID-19 crisis.[33] However, Sarwar was criticised by opponents during 2017 Scottish Labour leadership election after it emerged that his family firm was advertising job vacancies with pay below the recommended living wage, calling into question the sincerity of his commitments to issues of poverty.[34][35]

Personal life[edit]

Sarwar is married to Furheen, who works as an NHS dentist, and the couple have three young children.[4][36] He is a Muslim.[37] He owns a quarter share of his family's cash-and-carry wholesale business; his share was valued in 2016 as worth between £2.7 million and £4.8 million.[38] In September 2017, Sarwar transferred his shareholding to a discretionary trust for the benefit of his three young children, so that he could not personally access the assets or dividends.[36]

He is the president of the Sarwar Foundation, and is teetotal.[39][40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anas Sarwar". Democracy Live. BBC News. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  2. ^ Carrell, Severin (3 August 2009). "Dynastic Glaswegian keen to prove he is his own man". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Who's Who". Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "A question of politics". Scottish Dental magazine. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Biography « Anas Sarwar MP | Working Hard for Glasgow Central". Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Progress annual conference 2011 – Progress – News and debate from the progressive community". Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Biography " Anas Sarwar MP | Working Hard for Glasgow Central". Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  8. ^ Peterkin, Tom (18 December 2011). "Anas Sarwar is the brightest of the bright young things – Politics". The Scotsman. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  9. ^ Whitaker, Andrew (16 December 2012). "'I never thought I'd have to fight a political battle for my own country', says Labour MP". The Scotsman.
  10. ^ "Anas Sarwar". Scottish Labour. 20 February 2009. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  11. ^ "Winners honoured at British Muslim Awards". Asian Image. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  12. ^ Ponsonby, G.A. (17 November 2013). "Why Scotland needs a strong independent online news media". Archived from the original on 25 October 2014.
  13. ^ Edward, Rhiannon (14 November 2013). "Scots Labour MPs slammed after bedroom tax no-show". The Scotsman.
  14. ^ Hutcheon, Paul (26 January 2014). "Labour's deputy leader under fire for sending son to Glasgow private school". The Herald. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  15. ^ "Anas Sarwar given new Labour international role". The Herald. 5 November 2014.
  16. ^ "British Muslim Awards 2015 finalists unveiled". Asian Image. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Johann Lamont named new Scottish Labour leader". BBC News. 17 December 2011.
  18. ^ Ferguson, Mark (16 December 2012). "Anas Sarwar to co-ordinate Labour's Scottish Referendum Campaign". LabourList.
  19. ^ "MSP Anas Sarwar launches Scottish Labour leadership bid". BBC News. 4 September 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  20. ^ BBC Scotland (4 October 2018). "Sarwar and Baillie out in Scottish Labour reshuffle". BBC News. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  21. ^ Andrews, Kieran (2 May 2019). "Richard Leonard: Labour complaints procedure flawed". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  22. ^ "'Milly would be here' had Glasgow hospital followed advice". BBC News. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  23. ^ PA Media (16 November 2020). "Anas Sarwar returns to Labour frontbench in reshuffle". STV News.
  24. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (27 February 2021). "Anas Sarwar elected as new leader of Scottish Labour Party". LabourList. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  25. ^ Carrell, Severin (27 February 2021). "Anas Sarwar wins Scottish Labour leadership election". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  26. ^ Daisley, Stephen (27 February 2021). "Can Anas Sarwar save Scottish Labour?". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  27. ^ Hayes, Georgina (8 May 2021). "Scottish Labour records worst result since devolution but Sarwar optimistic party has 'credibility again'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  28. ^ Davidson, Gina (1 March 2021). "Anas Sarwar reveals Labour frontbench to take party into election". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  29. ^ Carrell, Severin (20 September 2017). "Scottish Labour candidate Anas Sarwar laughs off 'neoliberal Blairite' tag". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  30. ^ Rampen, Julia (13 October 2017). "Scottish Labour leadership hopeful Anas Sarwar: "I'm the anti-establishment candidate"". New Statesman. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  31. ^ Sarwar, Anas (13 October 2017). "Anas Sarwar: Tackling austerity means we must stay in the single market forever". LabourList. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  32. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (10 February 2021). "Sarwar: Scottish Labour's tax policies "will be more radical than Corbyn's"". LabourList. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  33. ^ McGrath, Megan (5 May 2021). "Blog: Anas Sarwar, Leader of Scottish Labour". The Poverty Alliance. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  34. ^ "Anas Sarwar criticised by Nicola Sturgeon over pay". BBC News. 21 September 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  35. ^ "Scottish Labour leadership: Anas Sarwar denies being 'one of the few'". BBC News. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  36. ^ a b "Anas Sarwar relinquishes shares in family firm". BBC News. 23 September 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  37. ^ Sarwar, Anas (18 September 2017). "My Unionism will never be in doubt". The Scotsman.
  38. ^ Gordon, Tom (31 August 2017). "Labour frontrunner faces backlash over wealth, schooling and opposition to Corbyn". The Herald. Scotland. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  39. ^ Stephen, Phyllis (20 November 2020). "Church of Scotland makes significant contribution to Sarwar Foundation". The Edinburgh Reporter. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  40. ^ McLaughlin, Mark (10 April 2021). "Covid in Scotland: Anas Sarwar dismisses Labour adviser's pub reopening push". The Times. Retrieved 14 March 2022.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Leader of the Scottish Labour Party