I’m not a supporter of the Labour Party and, other than a brief flirtation in those heady days of optimism of the first Blair term of office, never have been. It is therefore surprising that I choose to comment on the forthcoming leadership election in the Labour Party.
I was however moved to write by the genuine sadness I felt when I heard yesterday evening that Dan Jarvis had ruled himself out of standing for the leadership of his party, making a profound statement about the issues Labour face, but also noting the pressure on the families of those in public life (see below).
I have only had the privilege of meeting Dan on a couple of occasions, both of which were at Barnsley Football Club in his constituency. On both occasions we had lengthy conversations in which we touched on a range of policy areas and political life generally. I confess to being deeply impressed with him as a person of enormous principle and a natural leader, to the extent that I even tweeted after our most recent meeting, four days before the election, that Dan was a Labour politician I could consider voting for.
Now if I, someone who is very firm in my political convictions and a member of a political party, feel that I could vote for Dan Jarvis, imagine the impact he could have on non-aligned voters. Dan isn’t a career politician. He came to politics only after he retired from a career as an army officer in 2011, elected for Barnsley Central in a by-election following the expenses scandal saw the conviction of the previous incumbent. In his four years in the House of Commons he has consistently won over hearts and minds, rising rapidly to a front bench position. His voting record is of a moderate, thoughtful parliamentarian, committed to promoting social justice and an effective well managed economy.
If, as I hope we will, we are ever to see a return to progressive government in the United Kingdom, then we will need leaders like Dan Jarvis who have broad appeal and can bring together the centre, centre left, and even centre right in a coalition that treats all people with respect.
One final point: how sad it is that Dan Jarvis feels that he cannot serve as leader of his party due to the pressure this would put on his family life. The culture of politics, where the media and others put such huge expectations and demands on our politicians and their families, is unworkable and needs to change.
Click here for Dan Jarvis MBE MP’s statement