ANAS Sarwar has defended the controversial selection process which last nigth saw his schoolmate and neighbour chosen as a Labour candidate for Westminster.

Dr Zubir Ahmed, a privately-educated surgeon who was a contemporary of Mr Sarwar at Hurtchesons’ Grammar, will now fight the Glasgow South West seat.

Party members in Glasgow South West and Glasgow Central chose him from a shortlist of four, from which the left-wing city councillor Matt Kerr had been excluded.

Mr Kerr fought the Glasgow South West seat for Labour in 2017 and 2019, and won re-election to the council in 2022, but failed vetting this time over his disciplinary record.

His absence from the race put Dr Ahmed in pole position to win.

It led to a backlash from some of Mr Kerr’s supporters, who told the Herald he had been the victim of a “stitch-up” against the Left, to the benefit of Dr Ahmed.

Labour insiders say Mr Kerr would not commit to abiding by group discipline if elected, which was seen as an unacceptable risk, especially if Labour were to form a minority government.

Dr Ahmed and his wife, who is also a doctor, recently bought one of the most expensive homes in Glasgow a few streets from Mr Sarwar, a £1.2million four-storey detached villa.

Speaking to the Herald hours before Dr Ahmed’s selection, Mr Sarwar insisted the selection was “a good example of democracy”, and denied personally meddling in it.

Asked about the claims of a stitch-up to block Cllr Kerr and advance Dr Ahmed, he said: “Selection processes are not a matter for the leader, quite rightly.

“It is a subgroup of the SEC [Scottish Executive Committee] that goes through the interview process, that goes through the long listing process, and then it's for the local CLP [constituency Labour party] to do the shortlisting process.

“It's right and appropriate that the leader isn’t part of that, and it's left to that long-listing committee and representatives of the SEC.”

Asked again whether it was a stitch-up, the Glasgow MSP said: “People are having a democratic free vote today about who they want their candidates to be, and I look forward to working with all our selected Labour candidates.”

Asked if what Scotland’s NHS needed was one less surgeon, Mr Sarwar, who was a dentist before entering politics, said: “Look, I believe in the merits of all of our candidates.

“I think there are four fantastic candidates standing in the Glasgow South West / Central selection. All of them are great committed labour individuals. 

“I'm not going to pick favourites and that is for the members to decide who they want the candidates to be. 

“But it is a positive that you have one of the most senior surgeons in the country wanting to put his values into practice and to argue for change in our NHS through democratically elected politics. I think that is only a strength not a weakness.”

The NHS is devolved to Holyrood, not Westminster.

Activist Roisin McKenna was chosen for the paired Glasgow Central constituency in last night’s contest, a Pyrrhic victory as the seat is being abolished by boundary changes.

Dr Ahmed, who stood for Holyrood in Glasgow Pollok against the SNP’s Humza Yousaf in 2021, now goes up against the SNP’s Chris Stephens at the general election.

Mr Stephens, a leading figure on the left of his party, has been the MP for Glasgow South West since 2015, and in 2019 had a majority of 4,900 over Labour.