Anas Sarwar has made a direct pitch to SNP voters to back Labor at the next general election as only his party was capable of removing the Tories from power.
The Scottish Labor leader used his conference speech in Glasgow today to take a swipe at Boris Johnson – who claimed “was not fit to be Prime Minister”.
Sarwar told delegates in the Royal Concert Hall that his party was “changing and fit for the future”.
In an appeal to supporters of Nicola Sturgeon, he said: “I say directly to people who may not have voted for Labor in the last three General elections – maybe you voted for the SNP to send the Tories a message.
“When the next election comes, if you want to get rid of the Tories, the only way – the only way – to do that is by voting Labour.”
Sarwar recently marked one year in the top job but faces a tough task in convincing voters his party is now capable of taking on the SNP.
Scottish Labor lost power at Holyrood in 2007 and won only a single Westminster constituency north of the Border at the 2019 General Election.
But party members are confident they can make advances at the council elections in May and push the Tories into second place in terms of councilor numbers.
Sarwar claimed local authorities had been “continually undermined and underfunded by the SNP”.
“We recognize that Scotland is a series of diverse communities with distinct local identities and geographies,” he added.
But the MSP focused his speech on the next UK-wide election which will take place either next year or in 2024.
“The events of the last few months have demonstrated what we already know,” he said.
“That we have a corrupt, uncaring, out-of-touch Tory government led by a lying charlatan in Boris Johnson.
“Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister.
“Every day he stays in office he further degrades that office.”
Sarwar insisted that Scotland must strengthen the economy to properly fund better public services including the health service.
He told the conference: “The fairer society we want to create can only be built on the foundations of a strong economy.
“I want us to be remembered in the 21st century not just as the party that created the NHS, not just as the party that then saved the NHS, but as the party that rebuilt and renewed the NHS to make it fit for the future.
“Because, without action, our NHS in Scotland is under threat.
“The warning signs were there for years before the pandemic – staff shortages, longer waiting times, GP surgeries closing, beds cut, delayed discharge rising so don’t let anyone claim that today’s challenges are all because of Covid – they were already there.
“The truth is our NHS wasn’t properly prepared for the pandemic, and its problems have only been exacerbated by the crisis we have faced in the last two years.”
Sarwar also said Labor must change its “culture of defeatism” and start winning elections again.
He added: “We don’t change people’s lives by just debating the big issues.
“We only actually get to deliver on our values, only get to implement our ideas, and only get to change people’s lives if we win.”
He continued: “It’s not enough that the Tories deserve to lose, it’s not enough that the SNP deserve to lose.
“We have to prove to the people of Scotland that we deserve to win.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.