Labour’s Fighter Eyes his Prize

At a recent event held by think-tank Demos, backbench Labour MP Dan Jarvis argued that Labour needs to be “tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality”.

This allusion to Tony Blair’s New Labour mantra about being tough on crime was designed to show that Jarvis is a person who understands Labour’s past, but has plans for its future as well.

But who is Dan Jarvis, and why should we care about him?

A newcomer to the Labour benches, having been elected in the Barnsley North by-election in 2011, Jarvis is a former paratrooper who gained prominence in the run-up to Labour’s leadership election.

Despite being a young blood, he was identified as a potential successor to Ed Miliband thanks to his military experience and appealing soft left policies. He was quick to rule himself out of the contest, however, out of preference for spending more time with his young family.

Flash forward to 2016, and Jarvis’ name is once more on the lips of political pundits.

His military career (“I’ve been to 3 war zones”) and personal story sets Jarvis apart from the usual pack of wannabe-leader career politicians.

The Demos speech set out his take on Labour’s economic policy, featuring a more active role for government, more long-termism in business, and greater collaboration between government and trade unions.

He was also quick to point out that this was not a leadership challenge, but simply a contribution to the discourse around Labour’s future, which was initiated by Jeremy Corbyn.

That said, it is increasingly clear that a potential change in leadership is being contemplated – among the parliamentary party at least.

Moderate Labour MPs have reportedly claimed that they have ‘one last shot’ to bring in a new leader, before the Parliamentary Labour Party brings in rules to ensure a sitting leader is automatically included on any ballot paper after a successful challenge.

Dan Jarvis could be that man. But does he want to be?

Labour faces several challenges in coming months. In May there are local elections across the UK, as well as the London mayoral contest.

Jarvis was clear that Labour needs votes in the ballot box at this stage in the electoral cycle and that his focus will be on supporting Labour as it seeks to achieve this, thereby sidestepping the numerous questions from the floor about his intentions.

Beyond May, the EU Referendum looms large – Jarvis has affirmed his commitment to support Alan Johnson and the Remain campaign. But after this, who knows? A failure to win seats in May could weaken Corbyn’s position and present an opportunity for a challenge.

It’s far from certain that Jarvis will be the man to lead this charge. But he’s already laying out an alternative economic plan for Labour.  Jarvis is showing a determination to return the party to power that could align with his personal ambitions.