Scottish Labour's new leader faced accusations of hypocrisy as he launched his party's Holyrood manifesto on Thursday. In traditional socialist fashion, the 114-page manifesto contains criticism of private schools, stating: "Scottish Labour will end all public sector support for fee-paying private schools, implementing the recommendations made by the Barclay Review to end their charitable status for rates relief as a contribution towards achieving a more socially just and inclusive society".
It will of course come as no surprise that Anas Sarwar sends his own children to a private school. Like many Labour politicians before him, he is guilty of the rank hypocrisy of 'do as I say, not as I do'.
At the manifesto launch he was asked when he'd first realised that private schools were a threat to a 'more socially just and inclusive society'. He replied: "I have supported this policy ever since Kez Dugdale was leader and it was first proposed in our manifesto, and I proudly support it now. I’m open about the fair question and the fair criticism that people make around the decision that my wife and I made for our children. Every parent wants to do what’s best for their children, but I want every child to have opportunity".
Sarwar was then probed further on the matter several times, one reporter asking if he accepted accusations that he was 'a humbug and a hypocrite'. "You can call me whatever you like, I've been called worse than that" was his response. "Is it an accurate criticism?" he was pushed again. Sarwar: "As I’ve made clear before, I accept it’s a fair criticism. I’ve been open and honest about this. There are different forms of inequality and prejudice that my children will face that other children won’t face. That still means I accept the criticism around the choice that I’ve made for my children’s own education".
Sarwar didn't elaborate on what inequalities and prejudice his children would face, but there are plenty of fellow Asian pupils at their school - Hutchesons' Grammar School in Glasgow. There is even a Muslim assembly once a month. According to The Herald, school fees there currently range from £9,812 to £12,649 per pupil per year. That's peanuts for the Sarwar family, whose political dynasty began in Scotland with his father Mohammad Sarwar.
Mohammad moved to the UK from Pakistan in 1976 and later founded a cash and carry chain, United Wholesale Grocers. By 2017 the firm had a turnover of £234 million. He became a Glasgow city councillor in 1992 and in 1997 was elected MP for Glasgow Govan. In 2010 he stood down and was replaced by his son Anas. Anas was kicked out of Westminster in the 2015 SNP surge, but was elected to Holyrood a year later.
Meanwhile, his father returned to his native Pakistan, renounced his British citizenship and is currently the governor of Punjab province. This followed his failure to obtain a peerage in 2010. A life peerage had been recommended by outgoing Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but was reportedly blocked by HMRC due to concerns about his financial dealings. At that time Mohammad's other son Athif was awaiting an appeal against a conviction for fraud, relating to money laundering. He was cleared in 2011.