Sarwar to quit business after selection
The Labour selection campaign for the Glasgow Govan parliamentary seat was bitter, with malicious rumours spread about both candidates and the party accused of incompetence. Yet all the publicity has only helped, the victor tells Stephen Naysrrrith.
‘l was at Govan Cross this week and children of six were coming up and saying: "Hello Sarwar. we saw you on the telly." It is as if 90 per cent of the campaigning has been done.’ says Molrarrrrrred Sarwar.
The Glasgow City Councillor's corrrrrritrrrent to taking Govarr at the next general election — so becoming Britain's ﬁrst Muslim M.P. — is stressed by the fact that he is poised to sever his ties with the cash-arrd-carry errrpire wirere he built his fortune.
‘I will be almost conrpletely divorced from the business in a rrratter of weeks. If I wanted to be in the list oftlre 500 richest people in Britain I wouldn't be in politics. but that was never nry goal. never my aim.‘ he explains.
However the seat is clearly a target for the Scottish National Party. and internal wounds remain in the Labour carrrp after Mike Watson's one vote win was overturned iii a ballot re-run amid tight security.
After the second poll gave him a resounding 82- vote victory. Sarwar declared his ﬁrst goal to be healing those rifts. ‘We are building bridges.‘ he claims. adding that bitterness was inevitable in a contest where boundary changes left a shortage of seats in the city. ‘It was a challenge for the party but they didn’t sweep it under the carpet when there were problems and they decided to re-rurr the ballot.‘
lfSarwar becarrre Britain‘s ﬁrst Muslim M.P.. he would be delighted to accept the honour. but he has had to deal with suggestions that it will be rrrore difﬁcult for him to represent non-Muslims in his constituency.
‘I will serve the people ofGovan irrespective of colour. culture. creed and religion. I believe there is rrrore that unites us than divides us.‘ he stresses. ‘Govan has sorrre of the worst problems in the country — vast unemployment. law and order problems. social and housing problems.‘
Nevertheless. he recognises the importance of the breakthrough for the Muslim community. There are currently no Muslim MPs in the House of Commons
and precious few ethnic rrrinority members.
So it seems strange that the ‘Muslim Parliarrrerrt‘ in London carrre out recently against Sarwar's candidacy and urged Muslims not to vote for him. The Parliament is a council of Muslim leaders set up to improve the lot of the British Muslim community. Sarwar claims it is an urrelected. unrepresentative group: ‘They believe there is no roorrr for Muslims in rrrairrstrearrr politics. but I disagree — we have to secure the future of the next generation.‘
His view is backed by Dr h’lulrarrrmad Shaﬁ Kausar. honorary president of the United Muslim Organisation of Scotland. He says support for Sarwar has never been higher. ‘People are looking forward to seeing an ethnic rrrinority MP from Glasgow. That he is a Muslim is an added bomrs.
'He has becorrre rrrore popular than he ever was. The old political parties are a closed shop. it is a disgrace to them. and everybody thinks: “l have met that sort of injustice rrrysell“.'
Both Kausar atrd Sarwar believe British politics frequently fail to include those from other cultures whether directly or indirectly. Traditions such as saving the real decision-rrraking until meetings reconvene in the pub. are deeply exclusive.
It is not just Muslims who have warmed to his struggle. Sarwar believes: ‘Scottish people are fair- rnirrded people. If they feel injustice has been done they don‘t like that and people know I was cheated in December.’
As a councillor. Sarwar saved the library in his Pollokshields ward. where he lives with his wife — the
Sarwar: no such thing as bad publicity
couple have four children. He helped set up a youth counselling service atrd the area is to get a £| million multi-cultural comrrrunity centre.
Now he wants to put socialist principles to work in Govan. He insists he. and new Labour. are socialist. 'Anybody who joins the party is a socialist.’ he says. ‘Even if the party has moved to the right. we want to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. have fair distribution of wealth. fair taxation. equality and justice.
‘I was not born a millionaire. I come from the working class and I was fortutrate in that I got opportunities which are not available to millions of people in Britairr.‘
Sarwar seems ideally placed to comment on the effect Labour‘s minimum wage policy will have on
jobs and employers. During the selection campaign
some were critical of his own pay policy.
He claims that is why he backs a minimum wage. ‘At the moment bad employers want to make huge profits from workers and can undercut the prices of better employers. It will make competition fairer and I don‘t see businesses or jobs as under threat. As an employer. I would have no problem paying people £4 or £3.80 an hour.‘
Many obstacles have been placed in his way and Sarwar knows there will be rrrore to corrre. He is eager for the next challenge and proud of what has already been achieved. ‘My selection will help the progressive people in our corrrrrrurrity to say: “Yes. if we work hard and have the corrrrrritrrrerrt there is the opportunity for us to move forward".'
And ﬁnally . . . Press hoaxed as Kraiioek streaks to title
An act of faith with the people of Scotland or act of desperate electoral opportunism'? Whatever your view. the Stone Of Destiny is to be returned north of the border.
The ancient relic generated rearrrs of coverage in the Scottish press. not least the Daily Record. which treated us to a list of ‘ten other things the English nicked'.
Amid the predictable (The Elgin Marbles. North Sea Oil. Zola Budd) the Record quoted ‘tartan‘. Apparently 80s' chart-toppers Spandau Ballet were responsible for this heinous theft when they stole tartan as their trademark.
they could get away with songs such as ‘Gold' and ‘True'. they are surely beyond the reach ofjustice.
Also beyond the long arm of the law are the pranksters who fooled newspapers. councillors. the police and. sadly. The List last week.
During ﬁlming of Flux. a ‘yoof‘ programme for Yorkshire Television. three Scottish tearrrs were challenged to hoax the local media.
A clubs correspondent for The List was en route to the ‘secret. illegal rave in tunnels underneath Princes Street Gardens' when the fraud was revealed.
However. by this time the Edinburgh Evening News had run an outraged front page story. Lothian and Borders Police had appealed for the organisers
hoaxing in the media.‘
jape told us. ‘It started off as a bit of fun. There is a great tradition of
However the prank escalated. The Evening News reported that thousands
To add gruesome insult to injury the press release to Scotsman Publications was hard to ignore. ‘We sent them a dead octopus.‘ said our contact. who understandably refused to be narrred.
Meanwhile at Wimbledon. the Centre Court was witness to its ﬁrst ever streaker at the start of the men's ﬁnal.
Wearing only an apron. blonde student Missie Johnson had a devastating effect on MaIiVai Washington who crashed to defeat.
Washington felt singled out: ‘She had an apron on. she lifted it up and she srrriled at me'. he said. ‘I was still ﬁustered and the next thing I was three sets down and out. Boorrr!‘
When you open your eyes and see
And Finally. . . suggests a sirrrilar fate for the boys as befell Williarrr Wallace. in real life and in Brnvehenri. However. we are not optimistic. If
to corrre forward and the City of Edinburgh Council had closed the gardens early.
The remorseful inventor of the rave
of leaflets had been handed out. The truth. sadly. needed checking. ‘We just handed 200 out. but they were all distributed near The Scmsntun staff
two bouncing globes instead of one. it is bound to be garrre. set and rrratch. What you might call a seeing-double fault. (Stephen Naysmith)
The List 12-25 Jul 1996 5