Will it be First Minister Humza Yousaf?
There is less to the SNP's 'continuity candidate' than meets the eye
“First Minister Humza Yousaf”. As with “Prime Minister Liz Truss”, these are four words I never expected to write in the same sentence, in that order, and with no other words in between them.
Yet nine days on from Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to quit frontline politics — a move which, by the hour, seems more and more bizarre — it is possible we may have to get used to them.
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The first few tumultuous days of the Nationalists’ leadership race have witnessed ‘progressive’ supporters of Finance Secretary Kate Forbes disown their support because of her religious views on same-sex marriage. Almost by accident, Yousaf has become the odds-on favourite to succeed Sturgeon as SNP leader and take over the top position in Scottish politics.
It will be a moment of history if he does, breaking a new glass ceiling for Britain’s Muslim population. But the question hanging over this 37-year-old Glaswegian who has never had a job outside of politics is whether, like Truss before him, he has the political skills and the basic competence to survive.
If he does win the contest, Yousaf will become Scotland’s first truly post-devolution First Minister. He was only 14 when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999. After studying politics at Glasgow University, he then went immediately to the Parliament to work as an SNP aide. He has been there ever since, elected as an MSP in 2011. He is a creature of the new Scottish polity.
Without doubt, he is a capable media performer. I first came across him as a political journalist a few years ago when I was investigating a group called the Scottish Islamic Foundation. It had received hundreds of thousands of pounds from Alex Salmond’s then-government. Yousaf was just one member who had close links to Salmond’s SNP. It looked like a straight-up case of cronyism to me, but my lasting impression was of his unflustered charm and confidence when answering my questions. He is seen as a nice guy by opponents and supporters alike.
But there are much more serious questions over his record as a Minister and he has not been quite so good at responding to these. Yousaf has had three big cabinet jobs: in transport, justice, and health.
As Transport Minister, he presided over a rail system that constantly under-performed (he also suffered the acute embarrassment of being fined by police after he was stopped driving a friend’s car without insurance). At Justice, tasked with taking forward the SNP’s deeply controversial Hate Crime Bill, he failed to foresee the huge flaws within it. More recently, his sub-par ministerial reputation has been cemented at Health. Yousaf’s mantra, as the NHS has gone into meltdown this winter, is essentially: hey, at least it’s not as bad as England. Surprisingly, this has not gone down well with the near half a million Scots currently on a waiting list.
Given this record, there is a sense that over the course of the 4-week campaign to come, something might pop up to derail his candidacy. Yesterday he was facing his first major hiccup. Unlike Forbes, Yousaf has claimed this week that he supports same-sex marriage. However, back in 2014, when the bill legalising it was being passed, Yousaf didn’t take part in the final vote. He says that he was attending to urgent ministerial business. But another former SNP Health Secretary, Alex Neil, told the Scottish Daily Mail yesterday that Yousaf had asked to be excused from the vote because “he was under so much pressure from the Mosque”. It looks as if he is trying to have his cake and eat it.
He may ride it out. He has the backing of the party’s establishment. He is the “continuity Sturgeon” candidate. Yet even by his own admission — he said at his campaign launch on Monday that Sturgeon was “by any objective measure the best politician on these islands” — he appears to accept he is a downgrade on what’s gone before. The question facing SNP members is, if Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t persuade Scots to back independence, what chance Yousaf? At a time when the SNP is facing immense challenges on the home front and is totally divided on its strategy for independence, it will require a lot more than confidence and charm to succeed.
I for one am absolutely rooting for him.
Its a shameful state of affairs, but I can’t help but think the best chance we have against progressive lunacy (and in this case the SNP aswell) is for the movement to collapse through zealous overreach.
Mumza is the exactly the right man for this task. He certainly isn’t going to let public opinion, common sense or even reality itself get in the way of his plans.
Wholeheartedly agree. One thing the article didn’t mention is his shamefully blatant bigotry (against white people of course, so that’s okay), of which I believe there are several instances readily available to view online.
Also, if I recall correctly, he toed an embarrassingly predictable line on the grooming gangs scandal (in short: ‘I know it’s terrible and all that, but our first priority is not to upset the Muslim community’) and I have no doubt that women’s rights would suffer any number of blows if he ascended to the Holyrood throne given his previous track record.
Fingers crossed he torpedoes his career and his party’s credibility as thoroughly as Liz Truss did.
Quite. The ‘too many white people’ rant and trivialisation of child rape are both things sure to feature on his greatest hits reel.
Yeah! Dump that zealot Forbes and get someone without any (apparent) religious bias … thanks to taqiyya – lying under special circumstances.
The Labour leader at Holyrood Anas Sarwar, like Humza Yousaf, is also Moslem and both attended the well-established private school in Glasgow Hutchesons’ Grammar. It will be interesting to see these two debate each other if Yousaf wins the vote.
It’s brilliant to think that SNP politicians would reject an honest, smart candidate with a great track record for a lying, hypocritical chancer to maintain their moral high ground. If there was anything that sums up the current zeitgeist this is it!
Humza for first minister.
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