Labour leader Anas Sarwar has a secret space at Holyrood, he tells Jamie Stone
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Stone’s Scoop: Anas Sarwar
Far north MP Jamie Stone speaks to the Scottish Labour leader about Holyrood and Westminster, his inspirations and how he blows off steam
Anas Sarwar: MSP for Glasgow (region) and leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Favourite ice cream scoop: Raspberry ripple. Or, if you can’t get a raspberry ripple then the best fresh ice cream is, of course, the Queen’s Cafe in the south end of Glasgow. Best ice cream in the world.
What would be your dream meal?
Nice lamb ribs or lamb chops to start. It would have to be a lamb achari for the main course – lots of lamb here! And for dessert, a thick layer of custard – trifle.
Onto politics… Are there any historical figures from a political party other than your own that particularly inspire you?
From your own party, Charles Kennedy was an amazing personality as well as an amazing politician. I always had a lot of respect for Paddy Ashdown.
In the SNP, Alex Neil was always great fun. Particularly when we were on a committee together. He’s someone that I think has a genuine social democratic mind which is similar to mine – even if we obviously disagree around independence.
In the Conservatives, I always had a really good relationship with Ruth Davidson. We travelled a lot together doing debates during the referendum campaign.
I think it’s really important to stress that no one political party has all the answers or all the good people – I think there are good people in every single political party. I’ve always believed that the vast majority of people (of course, there will be the odd rogues), come into it for the right reasons and the right ideals. We should learn to respect each other and disagree without disliking.
And who inspires you in your own party, historically or present day?
In terms of communications, Tony Blair was an incredible communicator. In terms of conviction and values, Gordon Brown was absolutely extraordinary.
Glenys Kinnock was an inspiration, particularly around international development. And Alistair Darling was a huge inspiration as a man with no ego and who was always doing things for public service rather than self-gain. Never fighting for anything, never plotting for anything, just doing public service and it took him to very high places.
You’ve been an MSP and an MP. What are the main differences between Holyrood and Westminster?
I think we get a lot of public discourse about a culture in Westminster and we talk about it as if it’s alien to communities here in Scotland. Actually, for a lot of communities in Scotland, Holyrood is just as distant or just as alien as Westminster is.
I think there are a lot of positive things we can learn from Westminster, particularly around committee infrastructure. I think committees are much more robust at not taking their party lines and instead really challenging their own government ministers.
There is much greater willingness, especially on the backbenches, of parliamentarians from different political parties to work together, communicate with each other, and build campaigns with each other. We’ve had some examples of that here, but not enough in my view.
For all the bad write-up it gets, there are still good people in Westminster and good things happening. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.
We’re sat in the Scottish Parliament, do you have a favourite space here?
I’ve got a relatively secret space in the parliament that I really like. Nobody else seems to use it – the Donald Dewer room, which has the Donald Dewer library room.
I think I might be one of the only MSPs who actually uses it on a semi-regular basis. It’s a great place for reflection, it’s really right in the middle of lots of history and it’s a good thinking space.
If you’re feeling stressed, what’s your favourite way to blow off some steam?
Nothing beats spending time with my youngest, Aliyan, who is 7 and now has a newfound love of wrestling. We’ve got a wrestling ring with figures and we do fake wrestling matches on it, which is great fun.
My middle son, 13, is an avid pool player now. I used to love playing pool when I was a student. So, we go and play American pool when I get the odd bit of time with him.
And my eldest is an avid football supporter so I watch football with him.