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We Asked The Scottish Labour Leadership Contenders To Rate Their Chances Of Winning

BuzzFeed News sat down with the two candidates to discuss their chances of replacing Nicola Sturgeon as first minister, the lowest moment of their careers, and Dr Dre.

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This week's Labour conference in Brighton is the first one during Jeremy Corbyn's time as leader when his leadership isn't really under question, but in the bars and fringes of the event another leadership election is in full flow.

The two contenders for the Scottish Labour leadership, MSPs Richard Leonard and Anas Sarwar, have spent the week schmoozing with party members in a bid to win support for their campaigns after the contest began last week.

The pair are relatively unknown outside of their parties, so BuzzFeed News sat down with each contender for five minutes in a busy hotel bar at the conference on Tuesday to find out exactly who they are and what they stand for.

We found out that one is obsessed with the works of Dr Dre, one thinks Nicola Sturgeon is "cold" but Jeremy Corbyn is "warm", and one rates his chances of becoming the first minister at a pretty confident 10 out of 10.

Why are you running to be Scottish Labour leader?

Anas Sarwar: I’m standing because I believe I’m the candidate that can lead Labour back to power in Scotland.

What policy are you most proud of in this campaign?

AS: I’m going to be most proud of our child poverty policy, which we are yet to announce.

Tantalising. When and why did you join the Labour party?

AS: I joined the Labour party when I was 16 because I believed then as I believe now that it’s the single greatest vehicle for change in our country.

Who’s your political hero?

AS: I’ve already said my mother and I’m sticking with that. She’s never been a politician or stood for office but she is a source of immense strength and she is the most value-filled and principled person I’ve ever met in my life.

On a scale of one to ten, how optimistic are you about winning the leadership election?

AS: Nine.

On the same scale, how optimistic are you about becoming first minister?

AS: Ten.

Confident. What’s your best political memory – the highlight of your political career?

AS: The highlight of my political career, that’s a good question.


AS: I suppose being elected deputy leader was a huge honour for me, having only been in parliament for 18 months. I’d probably go for that.

And the lowest moment?

AS: The lowest moment? There’ve been so… The lowest moment obviously, I’m not going to lie and say losing the election in 2015 wasn’t disappointing. But Labour losing any general election or Scottish parliament election is a low moment – 2007 was a crushing defeat, 2011 was a crushing defeat, and that’s the most disappointing.

Blair or Brown?

AS: Brown.

Miliband or Corbyn?

AS: Miliband or Corbyn? Corbyn.

When would it be okay to hold another independence referendum?

AS: It’s done, it’s dusted, it’s time to move on.

Describe Nicola Sturgeon is one word.

AS: Obsessed.

Describe Jeremy Corbyn in one word.

AS: Resolute.

If you were prime minister for a day, what law would you introduce?

AS: I would do our plan to fix our NHS and the day-one law would be to clamp down on spiralling private agency spend, which has raised to £75 million over the last government.

Can you tell me a surprising fact about you?

AS: I have a secret love for pop music and, in particular, gangster rap.

Oh yeah? Can you give me an artist you’re particularly fond of?

AS: Dr Dre.

Nice, nice. And finally, can you give me a message to your opponent?

AS: I look forward to working closely with him after the contest and he will be a very senior part of my shadow cabinet team.

In a sentence, why are you standing to be Scottish Labour leader?

Richard Leonard: Because I want to provide hope and vision at the centre of the Scottish Labour party’s outlook.

What policy are you most proud of that you’re taking forward in the leadership election?

RL: The industrial strategy and the idea that working people should have a right not only to create the wealth but to own the wealth that they create.

When and why did you join Labour?

RL: I joined the Labour party around about 1982 because of Margaret Thatcher and the need for a positive socialist alternative to that.

Who’s your political hero?

RL: Keir Hardie – the founder of the Labour party, the first Labour MP, the first leader of the Labour party. I was delighted to set up the Keir Hardie Society in 2010.

On a scale of one to ten, how optimistic are you about winning this election?

RL: The election to become Scottish Labour leader?


RL: Um…five.

On the same scale, how optimistic are you about becoming first minister?

RL: If I win the election, seven.

Not bad, not bad. What’s your best political memory?

RL: Being election agent to Anne McGuire in 1997 when we unseated Michael Forsyth, who was the secretary of state for Scotland.

And your worst?

RL: Defeat in 1992 when we thought we were going to win and we were pipped at the post.

Sad. If you had to choose, Blair or Brown?

RL: Brown.

Miliband or Corbyn?

RL: Corbyn.

When would it be okay for the Scottish government to hold another independence referendum?

RL: Not in the future that I can foresee. We held a referendum in 2014 and the people gave a decisive decision and politicians need to respect the decisions of referendums.

Can you describe Nicola Sturgeon in one word?

RL: Cold.

Can you describe Jeremy Corbyn in one word?

RL: Warm.

If you were prime minister for a day, what’s the first law you’d introduce?

RL: Equality – I want to see greater equality of outcomes, especially for women but also for other underrepresented groups from minority ethnic backgrounds and people with disabilities. Disabled people are 80% unemployed in Scotland and that’s simply unacceptable.

Give me a surprising fact about you.

RL: I write a diary.

Do you want to tell me a bit more about the diary? What’s in it?

RL: It’s a political diary, Jamie. I’ve kept it since the early 1990s. I started it because I drove Tony Benn around in 1988 when he was bidding for the leadership of the Labour party and he said you should record the things you witness. So a couple of years later I started to do it and I still do it.

What’s your message for your opponent?

RL: You’re a friend and an ally, and whatever the outcome of the election we’ll continue to work together.

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at

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