SNP leadership election result is announced
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Almost 12 years ago I was having a cup of tea on the Parliamentary estate in Westminster with a promising young Labour MP from Glasgow called Anas Sarwar.
He was talking through the disastrous Scottish election result a few weeks earlier where Alex Salmond led the SNP to an improbable majority. The name of a newly elected SNP MSP seen as a future star came up – Humza Yousaf, also representing Glasgow. I said to Sarwar: “At some point, the two of you are going to be vying to be First Minister of Scotland.”
Today that Mystic Meg-like prediction came true with Mr Yousaf unveiled as the winner of the SNP and his main opponent in the 2026 Scottish Parliament election will be the very same Mr Sarwar, leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
But while the “SNP establishment” will be cheering the result and breathing huge sighs of relief, it is Labour’s Mr Sarwar who is the real winner today.
While he should not yet be measuring the new red tartan curtains for the First Minister’s Bute House residence in Edinburgh he will never have a better chance to restore Labour as the ruling party in Scotland and in doing so save the Union of the United Kingdom.
So why is this good news for Sarwar and to a large extent the Tories as well?
Essentially, the reason comes from the nickname one Scottish MP gave him – “Captain Calamity.”
Despite being seen as a future leader and rapidly promoted by Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, Yousaf has been a catastrophe in every ministerial job he has held.
As Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: “He is the Chris Grayling of Scottish politics. Everything he has touched in office has turned to sand.”
(For those who have forgotten Chris Grayling was for a long time regarded as the most happless cabinet minister in the Conservative government).
Another Unionist MP added: “He [Yousaf] has no mandate to be First Minister.”
While a Scottish Labbour source added: “And the winner of the SNP leadership election is…..Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer!”
In Yousaf’s case, it was the fine for driving without insurance when he was transport minister.
As Justice Secretary, he accused Scotland of being “too white”.
As Health Secretary, he has overseen appalling NHS waiting times and the worst drug death in Scotland.
These are just tasters in a career which has embodied the ongoing failures of the SNP government in Scotland over 16 long years – failures which are finally catching up with them and were behind Sturgeon’s sudden departure.
The cheers in SNP headquarters will not be because they believe Yousaf can lead them to independence – but are more about jobs.
Yousaf became the SNP establishment candidate with almost every leading party member endorsing him.
Pen pushers, special advisors, campaign coordinators and all the hangers-on of the Sturgeon regime now have the man to continue her toxic legacy and save their jobs.
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The SNP had chosen the Murrayfueld rugby ground to have a big ra-ra reception for their new leader.
But after weeks of bitter infighting, the splits in the party had been laid bare and the atmosphere was more funerial than joyous.
It also looked a bit pre-scripted with Yousaf reading his victory speech from a pre-prepared autocue. Some will think that maybe the result was already known.
As Lib Dem veteran MP Jamie Stone explained: “It could not have been more perfect. A divided SNP with a close result and Humza Yousaf as leader.”
Mr Stone represents a highland seat where the SNP are his main opponents.
It may be early to predict the end of the Nationalist domination in Scotland but today felt more like the beginning of the end.
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