Scottish Labour leadership hopeful Anas Sarwar has said he would call former leader Richard Leonard on his first day in charge in a bid to unite the party.
The Glasgow MSP also said he would get in touch with fellow contender Monica Lennon, who he said would play a “huge role” in the party’s future.
The pair took part in a virtual hustings for members in the Mid Scotland and Fife region on Saturday morning, discussing their approach to Scottish independence, child poverty and the recovery from Covid-19.
Both were asked what they would do in the early part of their new administration, with Sarwar – who has been described by some as the favourite – putting the focus on uniting the party ahead of the election.
“We can only argue and seek to reunite the country or preach unity to the country if we demonstrate unity ourselves,” he said.
Discussing his first day in office, Sarwar told members: “I would call first of all Monica Lennon, because Monica’s got a huge role to play in the future of our Labour Party and I want her to be at the heart of our team.”
He added: “I would also call Richard Leonard on the first day, because Richard isn’t just someone who has given three years of service to the Labour Party, he has given 30 years of dedicated service to the Labour and trade union movement and he is going to have a big part to play, not just in our parliamentary group in the next parliamentary term and I want him to be a big part of our team.”
Both candidates pinpointed child poverty as a key issue for them, pledging to end it by 2030, with Lennon setting a target of halving child poverty by 2025.
Sarwar also spoke about his desire to bring a more tolerant style of politics to the Labour Party, describing Scotland’s political landscape as “toxic”.
“Our politics is currently designed to pull us apart,” he said.
“How we confront that type of politics is absolutely crucial to how we rebuild the party and change Scotland and change the world at the same time.”
He added: “Part of how we deal with it is how we conduct ourselves.
“I fall into this trap, I know other politicians fall into this trap, there are times where we do get caught up in the bubble and there are times where we do fight with our opponents in other political parties in a way that we think gets us some reach amongst the bubble but for the wider public probably turns them off politics altogether.
“How we expose the failures of the SNP is really important but I think we’ve got to do it in sorrow rather than in anger.”
From recent experience, Sarwar said, the party has shown it is not enough to point out what they believe the Scottish Government is doing wrong, it must give an alternative to voters.
“Unless we offer the people of Scotland a credible alternative, people will still vote SNP and we’ll continue to lose elections.”