Former Jeremy Corbyn aide backs Anas Sarwar to be new Scottish Labour leader
Jeremy Corbyn's former bag carrier has backed Anas Sarwar to be the new Scottish Labour leader.
Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram - who was Mr Corbyn's parliamentary private secretary before standing down as an MP at the general election - announced he is supporting Mr Sarwar over left-wing candidate Richard Leonard.
The move is a major surprise as supporters of Mr Corbyn have tended to back Mr Leonard in the race.
Mr Rotheram was joined by former Labour minister Andy Burnham, who is now the mayor of Manchester, in backing Mr Sarwar.
In a joint statement, they said: “We need Labour back in power in Scotland and across all the regions and nations of the UK.
“Having worked closely with Anas in Westminster and witnessed the passion with which he led the Labour campaign to strengthen Scotland’s place in the UK, it’s clear that he has the energy and experience to lead Labour back to power.”
In his own statement Mr Sawar failed to respond directly to the backing from the two Labour heavyweights, but he noted his support for devolution to the city regions.
Today, MSP Neil Findlay, who served as the Scottish campaign chief for Mr Corbyn’s 2015 leadership election, said Mr Leonard was a “more substantial and credible candidate”.
Writing in the Morning Star, he said: “Only last year when Sarwar joined 12 other MSPs to demand Corbyn’s sacking as Labour leader, Leonard offered the Labour leader his full support. He was right to do so.”
And he added: “He will be his own man, no doubt of that. But he will work with, not against, Corbyn — and together they will transform Scotland and the UK.”
Mr Leonard has also won the support of Unite Scotland - the country's largest trade union - and has received campaign support from the Edinburgh branch of the pro-Corbyn group Momentum.