TOP Labour MP Dan Jarvis has challenged his party to embrace fundamental change – and prioritise an agenda of aspiration which revolves around the everyday needs of families – if it is to have any chance of becoming electable again.
The ex-paratrooper’s call for wholesale reform, on the fifth anniversary of his election as Barnsley Central MP, came on the day under-fire party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for more state investment to bolster Britain’s economy.
Even though Mr Jarvis chose not to stand for the Labour leadership last year, and played down his political ambitions by saying that the needs of his young family will always come first, the febrile nature of politics means that his analysis will be regarded by some as the basis of a manifesto for a potential challenge if Mr Corbyn’s fortunes do not improve in May’s local elections.
Writing exclusively in The Yorkshire Post, Mr Jarvis says: “Having suffered two devastating election defeats, it is clear that we will never form a Labour government again unless we respond to what the public think about us.
“Offering up a few new policies won’t cut it. We need fundamental change and that means rooting our politics in the things people actually care about – their family, work and community.”
This intervention – the strongest yet by Mr Jarvis who has been a regular critic of Labour’s increasingly left-wing stance and who is widely regarded as a Labour leader in waiting – comes at the end of another difficult week for the party in which its spring conference in Sheffield was overshadowed by Mr Corbyn’s early departure to attend an anti-nuclear weapons rally in London.
In many respects, this goes to the core of the Yorkshire backbencher’s critique – Mr Jarvis says many conversations with voters has taught him that many no longer trust Labour “because we stopped talking about the things that matter to them”.
As he urges Labour to devise polices which pave the way for “high quality and affordable childcare and social care systems”, Mr Jarvis challenges the party to find a way to “lead our country into an age of great reform” and exploit the technological revolution now underway.
He wants a society in which “the daughter of a cleaner in Kingstone, Barnsley, has the same life chances as the son of a barrister in Kingston-upon-Thames in London”.
“To achieve this ambition Labour must change and prove it can meet the challenges we face. We must again become a credible and effective movement and renew our proud tradition as the party of family, work and community,” he concludes.
Yet, while Mr Jarvis intends his trenchant analysis to trigger a debate about how Labour can come up with a transformative social justice agenda that is also affordable, Mr Corbyn was threatening to alienate the business community still further by warning firms that they would be expected to “put more back into the economy” if he was in power.
He accused City firms of treating ordinary workers, consumers and small firms like “cash cows” in a speech setting out his vision of a “new economics” at the British Chambers of Commerce conference.
Describing the economy as a “house built on sand”, he also attacked key elements of New Labour’s years in office - the tax credits that provide a “subsidy” for low wages and the private finance initiative (PFI) schemes which had landed the NHS with high debts – which is unlikely to improve relations within his badly fractured party.