Dan Jarvis MP is flying through his 9 days, 9 regions Labour doorstep marathon. The member of parliament for Barnsley Central is seeking to cover over 900 miles during his expedition, making the case for why people should vote Labour in all corners of England.
Catching up with Jarvis on the campaign trail I asked what he is trying to achieve, as many contacts as possible with voters or is there a broader point he is trying to make about the way our politics is done? ‘Perhaps quite ambitiously, I’m trying to do all of those things’ he replies. While Jarvis is seeking to make as many doorstep contacts as possible, helping key seat candidates in any way he can, he go on ‘it speaks about the way I think we should do our politics. You’ve got to get out there, meet the public, go to where they are and talk to them about the issues they are interested in.’ We are now at the business end of the parliament and if ‘we want a labour government, we’ve got to fight for it’. From spending a day on the doorstep with Jarvis, there is no doubting his energy and commitment.
‘I’ve met a number of people who have told me that they are not going to vote, and we have had some good debates’, he recalls, giving a passionate defence of the importance of voting and why people need to get involved. Voting he says, is ‘a hard won democratic right and people should miss not out on the opportunity’. While there is the responsibility of the public to participate, Jarvis also argues later in our conversation that the political establishment needs to up its game and ‘demonstrate that there is no place at all in modern day politics for complacency’. ‘I think it is the case’ he continues, ‘in days gone by that there were members of parliament who sat on massive majorities who were not energetic and dynamic champions for their constituencies and that is just not acceptable and the public rightly won’t put up with it now’. On his campaigning marathon he has seen we have some great candidates who will do that in the future but, ‘the old ways of business where people pottered along, we need to make sure they are long gone.’
Can we take from that that Jarvis, a shadow justice minister, supports a mechanism for the recall of MPs by their constituents? After some consideration he replies; ‘I think there are some complications and concerns we have with the current mechanisms that have been brought forward … there are concerns with the recall bill in its current form that it could be used to seek to remove MPs who express particular views about particular issues”, rather than those guilty of wrongdoing. But if the right mechanism could be found or the right balance struck? ‘Yeah of course … the public need to have a way of ensuring that where MPs do not live up to the standards that could be reasonably expected that they can be removed. But we are not quite at the point yet where we have got that mechanism yet where we could support it.’
Before entering parliament in the 2011 Jarvis was a major in the parachute regiment. He became the first person since world war two to resign his commission in order to contest a parliamentary by-election. Are there any lessons which he carries over from his military experience into campaigning on the doorstep? ‘Politics is partly about ideas … but politics is also, less interestingly perhaps, about process. Fifteen years in the army tells me that you have got to be exceptionally organised, you have got be be very well prepared and, you know, its the same in politics.’ With an almost apologetic smile he cites the well known British Army adage that, ‘prior preparation and planning prevents piss poor performance, it’s the same in the army, it’s the same in politics. You have got get yourself organised and you have got to plan your campaign’.
None of us want to wake up on 8 May with David Cameron still in Downing Street. Jarvis says he will do ‘everything that I possibly can to make sure we have a Labour government in 2015’. Without hesitation he goes on, ‘I will be giving 100 per cent between now and then to make sure [a Labour government victory] happens and then 100 per cent post-May to deliver upon the promises’. The Observer at the turn of the year named Jarvis as a ‘rising star of 2015’, whether that is true is yet to be seen but what is clear is Jarvis’ marathon a sterling attempt to get the Tories on the run.
Stuart Macnaughtan is events officer at Progress. He is a former vice-chair of Aberystwyth University Labour club. He tweets @smacnaughtan
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