Getting to Know You - Anas Sarwar

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 5 February 2019 in Inside Politics

Anas Sarwar talks Liam Kirkaldy through his deepest fears

Image credit: Holyrood

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

These may not be people you’d think I’d want to socialise with, in fact, they are people I would perhaps not want to socialise with, but I’d invite Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Donald Trump and my mum.

What’s your reasoning there?

For one, I’d like to see how Mandela and Trump [interacted]. One real political heavyweight and visionary and genius – I am clearly talking about Mandela here, and not Donald Trump – against the idiocy and lunacy of Donald Trump. I’d love to see that. Then I think Barack Obama is a very interesting and inspiring character as well, so I would like to see that dynamic.

There are two reasons I added my mum – it’s important to have a strong-minded, inspiring woman at the table, and secondly, knowing my mum, my goodness, Donald Trump would get it. Some of the things she would say you probably couldn’t print.

Your mum would give Trump a telling off?

I think it’s safe to say Mr Trump would find the experience unforgettable.

Do you imagine this would be a long dinner party?

I think he’d still enjoy it.

You’d have to serve McDonald’s

We’d have lots of American fast food to keep him happy. Maybe get a Pizza Hut in, some McDonald’s.

Hopefully Mandela would be OK with that

Yeah, I think Mandela would be fine with that. Obviously, Nelson Mandela is a hero to so many individuals, so I’ve got my greatest hero in Mandela, and as I’ve said before, the person who has inspired me most is my mother.

What’s your greatest fear?

I don’t really have any phobias, but my greatest fear is my kids growing up and thinking I didn’t love them.


I know that’s quite a strange thing to say.

It’s just very specific

It’s probably a combination of growing up in a political household – and the challenges that brought – but also because I can often see what impact me being in public life has, negatively, on my kids [Sarwar has three children, aged ten, eight and two]. That’s why I make a point of telling them, every single day, whether it’s on the phone or in person, that I love them. At the end of the day, that’s really what life is all about. Anyone who knows me will know it is something I always say. In politics you often hear the word legacy, but actually, the only legacy that matters is what your children think of you. I got a bit deep there, sorry.

It’s good to talk about this stuff

It got heavy very quickly. But I’ll tell you what I mean. Growing up in a political household, and all the abuse and torment that came with that, in terms of my old man’s politics, made me very conscious of it, and actually made me question whether I wanted to do it, because of the impact on my family. One of the things that I promised myself was that the feelings I had as a young kid in a political household were feelings I wouldn’t want my kids to have. I know the impact on my family. Particularly my older son, who is aware of the things I care about, the things I campaign about.

Well, I’ve been in situations where I’ve been sworn at, shouted at, when my kids are with me. I’ve been in circumstances where I have had to request extra security at their nursery, because of threats made against my kids. I’ve been in circumstances where my kids have seen I am visibly distressed, or stressed out, and I always worry that negatively impacts on them.

I’m sorry to hear that

It’s not something to be sorry about, but I’m self-aware about it. It’s fine, I know they love me, but it’s something I’m conscious about.

What’s the greatest pain you’ve ever experienced?

You told me these questions were going to be light and fun.

These are the questions, Anas

My most painful experience would probably be within a 24-hour space, probably five years ago. My father had a heart attack on a plane, landed in Manchester and then had to be rushed to hospital. While [I was] travelling down and tending to him, my grandfather passed away in Glasgow. So dealing with my father in Manchester and missing my grandfather’s funeral was probably the most painful experience I’ve been through.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My son Adam was asked to write something in school about who was his favourite guy – luckily, he chose his dad, and then had to describe why, and said I was loving and funny.

That’s very nice

He was also asked to describe me in one word. He wrote, ‘he is a clown’. I’ve got that stuck on my fridge. In fact, I think it’s safe to say he has built some cross-party consensus with that opinion. Perhaps even with some members of the Labour benches as well.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Probably my obsession with what was once called Championship Manager, but is now called Football Manager, on my phone. As my staff can attest, one of their greatest frustrations is that, at what they regard as the most inappropriate moments, I am perhaps concentrating on my Football Manager on my phone, rather than what they want me to concentrate on.

I’m surprised you can function as an MSP with Football Manager on your phone

I’m obsessed with it. During the Christmas recess, I was on it for hours on end. It’s the greatest game that’s ever been created.

Which team do you manage?

I mix it about but my most successful period was when I started off as Chelsea manager, got sacked from the job, ended up as Stoke City manager and after two years, I went on to win 18 straight Premier League titles and eight straight Champions Leagues.

You are one of the most successful managers of all time

I am! I am Mourinho-plus. But you know I’m not alone – one Dave Stewart, MSP, is also obsessed.

Who would you choose to play you in a film of your life?

Well, someone I know well is Riz Ahmed, of Star Wars fame, as well as lots of other things. He would be a fair shout.

Then the other one is that I have been told by friends that I have a similar personality, away from public life, to Will Smith. I am not for a moment suggesting a similarity in terms of appearance but in terms of personality, or my humour.

How do you think Will Smith would get on with your accent?

I would love to see him try! The looks I get from people abroad, particularly Americans, when they see this Asian guy rock up and speak in a Scottish accent are phenomenal. I remember travelling back from the US once and the guy at immigration’s jaw nearly hit the ground when he heard this accent coming out of me.

Which part of your body do you most dislike?

My dad went bald when he was 28, and I suppose I always worry about my hairline and my thinning hair. I’ve managed to outdo him by seven years, and long may that continue. But I’m maybe lucky because I am a bit taller so I can get away with it.

It’s not noticeable

I’m sure those sitting behind me in parliament notice…


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