We had a little Twitter run-in last night with former Scottish Labour deputy leader and current unemployed halfwit Anas Sarwar, when he reported us to Police Scotland for making a joke about bank holiday mail deliveries, “people in England” and “especially” Scottish ones – which of course includes this site’s own editor, that being the gag.
We’d almost forgotten he existed. But the incident brought something back to mind.
To be fair to Mr Sarwar, he was at least partly right.
Back in 2013, Sarwar – then a Labour MP – said in the House Of Commons that:
“We have a majority SNP Government in the Scottish Parliament, but that is not a democratic place in the conventional sense; it is a dictatorship of one man sitting in Bute House, who will do not what is in Scotland’s interests, but what is in his own or his party’s interests.”
Amusingly, that “one man” is now a sitting Westminster MP, while Sarwar was hoofed out on his backside unceremoniously by voters in Glasgow Central 11 months ago – having served just one term after inheriting his seat from his dad in 2010, and having turned a Labour majority of over 10,500 into an SNP one of over 7,600.
But now, seemingly unchided by the resounding verdict of the electorate, Sarwar is bouncing back. Rather than revert to his previous socially-useful role as a dentist, Sarwar wants to be back in politics again, and has set his sights on a Holyrood seat.
Ironically, however, he has no intention of letting anything as trivial as democracy play a role in the process. Sarwar isn’t contesting a constituency seat and risking another humiliation at the hands of voters. Instead, through internal Labour Party wrangling, he’s managed to get himself placed at the top of the Glasgow regional list, from where it’s basically impossible for voters to stop him being “elected”.
Being in first place on the list guarantees Sarwar a seat so long as Labour can gather at least 6% of the vote in the Glasgow region, and even in the branch office’s current ruinous state that ought to be about as safe as safe things get – it’ll need only around 12,000 votes from the city’s electorate of roughly 505,000.
So even though it’s been less than a year since voters told Mr Sarwar in no uncertain terms where to go and shove himself, six weeks from now he’ll be ensconced back in a Parliament that makes their laws again whether they like it or not.
We, of course, have our own opinion on that. But it might be fairer if we instead solicit one from Sarwar’s new leader, Kezia Dugdale.
Back in 2007, Dugdale wrote a post on her blog about failed constituency candidates becoming MSPs anyway via the list. It referenced an Edinburgh Lib Dem MSP called Mike Pringle, but for the purposes of amusement we’ve swapped his details with Anas Sarwar’s in this extract (changes marked in bold). Nothing else has been altered.
My Masters dissertation was on the topic Turnout, Party Politics and Arbuthnott – The Case for Electoral Reform in Scotland. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the topic was a little on the dry side.
However, I was thoroughly entertained with researching voting patterns and the downturn in participative party politics in replace of single issue campaigns like Climate change, Iraq, Trident, Make Poverty History etc. I was also rather alarmed by the deceptive selection policies of the other political parties.
Now I don’t expect much from the SNP. Alex Salmond will try every trick in the book to get elected to the Scottish Parliament – and still keep his seat in Westminster! Standing for both a constituency and a list seat this May doesn’t even register in his party’s mindset as being inappropriate. Anas Sarwar on the other hand should know better.
Now I’m a moderate supporter of electoral reform. I believe that on balance, proportional representation for local government is a good thing and I accept that the House of Lords is desperately in need of reform.
Anas Sarwar was very recently rejected by the electorate. Aware of his vulnerability, Anas has put his name forward for the Labour Glasgow list which means it’s nearly impossible to get rid of him at the next election…
The article can still be found on Dugdale’s blog. We’ve painstakingly read through the blog right up to the present day and also searched elsewhere, and we’ve never been able to find anything where Dugdale has said she’s changed her mind about it.
And yet, with her as leader a whopping 70% of Labour’s constituency candidates in Scotland this year – including Dugdale herself – also have backup places on the list, which on current polling should ensure that approximately half of them get in, including everyone who tops their regional list.
Of the eight #1 list spots who are effectively all guaranteed seats, Sarwar is the only one who’s not also fighting a constituency. Voters in the Glasgow region won’t even get a chance to express their views about him before he represents them.
His seat, in other words, has for all practical purposes been dictated to the people of Scotland. And that, to coin a phrase, is not democracy in the conventional sense.
So we have only one question for Kezia Dugdale, on behalf of the Scottish electorate: how do they actually get rid of him?