Labour’s Dan Jarvis has been the MP for Barnsley Central since 2011, when a by-election was triggered after the resignation of the previous MP over the an expenses scandal. The seat has been held by Labour ever since its creation in 1983, consistently with large majorities.
However, it is one of many areas in this part of the world that voted heavily for leave in the EU referendum, with 68 per cent of the town backing Brexit. Whilst it is a rare seat where every major party, including UKIP, is standing, and Jarvis had a 12,435 majority in 2015, he and his team are taking nothing for granted in these topsy-turvy political times.
Why are you standing and what have you got to offer the people of Barnsley Central in Britain’s next parliament?
“Very sadly my neighbour Michael Dugher is not standing, and some colleagues have decided that they want to pursue other things. I’m standing now for the same reason that I stood in the first place – I believe in the value of public service.
“I think I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to do something that I consider to be very worthwhile – it’s not the easy option in life, being a member of parliament is a massive life commitment, but it is also a wonderful privilege.
“I’m really proud of the progress that we’re making here in Barnsley, proud of my record of standing up for the town, and I want to keep doing that. So, for those reasons, I’m standing, and I hope people will look at me as someone who’s absolutely committed to standing up and representing here locally, and I think people will judge me on that record.”
How would you describe your politics?
“I always describe my politics through the prism of wanting to ensure a level playing field. I’m a member of parliament because I believe that every child should get the same life opportunities regardless of where they grow up. I think that’s in the very best traditions of our Labour movement – we are about equality of opportunity. I would describe my politics as about making sure that the kids that grow up in often quite deprived parts of my Yorkshire constituency get the same life opportunities as those who grow up in more affluent parts of Britain.
“That is my defining mission – that is what gets me out of bed, to build the kind of country that enables that same equality of opportunity. That is not the country that we live in at the moment, and my great frustration is that Britain is a great country, but it could be greater. I’m absolutely convinced that there is only one political vehicle to achieve that fairness and that equality – and that is the Labour Party. And that is our challenge today, tomorrow, and into the future – to demonstrate to the public that if you want a fairer country, most people do, we’re the only party that can deliver it for them.”
How has Brexit affected Barnsley?
“The overwhelming majority of my constituents voted to leave the European Union, they did so in most cases not because they wanted to express a critique of the EU itself, but because they wanted to take an opportunity to kick back against a political establishment that they thought had not served them well.
“Too many people in towns like Barnsley felt like they had been left behind. Too many felt that globalisation had brought all sorts of benefits to the country, but not to them. We’re now not quite a year on from Brexit, and people expect the decision that was reached to be honoured. People don’t want to see me as their MP or the national Labour Party in anyway seeking to backtrack from the judgement that was reached. At the same time, none of my constituents voted to be poorer. None of them voted to have fewer rights that protect people in the workplace.
“What they want to see from me and from us collectively as a Labour Party is a vision for Britain beyond Brexit. I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time thinking, talking, writing about that – I wrote a paper a couple of months ago – about Britain beyond Brexit. I think that is a challenge for us as part of this election, to demonstrate as we leave the European Union that we can use that as a moment – of course, it’s much easier to do in government than ever it would be from opposition – to build the kind of country that all of us want to see.
“I think we have to be positive and upbeat about that. There’s quite a lot of people within the labour movement and within the country more generally who disagree with the decision and didn’t want to leave the EU. I speak as someone who voted for remain, but is bound by the decision, and now thinks that the most sensible way to proceed is in a kind of optimistic and upbeat fashion. To secure the best deal from the negotiations, and also to use this as a moment to build the fairer more decent society that we’re in the Labour party to achieve.”
Why does Britain need a Labour government?
“If Britain, as a country, looks back – Labour governments have been good for Britain. Labour governments have certainly been very good for Barnsley. My constituency has benefited much more under a Labour government than they ever had done under a Tory government.
“I think the manifesto is a really strong offer to the country, and it’s a much stronger offer than the Tory manifesto, what we’ve got to do is demonstrate that we understand the challenges that the country faces – and there are many, let’s be honest about it, this is a moment of profound challenge and uncertainty for the country as we leave the EU. We’ve got to demonstrate that our values, our ideas, our analysis of the challenges that we face, is the right one. I think that given the nature of the challenges, given the huge and widening levels of inequality that we have at the moment, given the huge pressures that we have on our public services, it is only a Labour government that can seek to reduce those inequalities and make sure that our public services are fit for purpose.
“And not just about the public sector, also the private – I think we’ve got a strong offer for business, to say to them that we recognise that they are wealth creators that create jobs and that we want to build the business environment that will allow them to compete and prosper as well.
“I’m pretty upbeat about the offer, I think the manifesto is full of big, bold ideas – that’s what manifestos should be about – and in the final days of the campaign we’ve got to get out there [the message] that voters should place their faith and trust in us. That we’re best placed to deliver on the big challenges the country faces.”
What have been the biggest issues on the doorstep?
“The truth of the matter locally is that more people have wanted to talk to me about their own immediate neighbourhood than they have about national issues. I spend a lot of time talking about parking, a lot of time talking about litter and fly-tipping and dog fouling.
“In politics you’ve got to be prepared to listen to what people have got to say, and make time for them. If it’s important for them, it’s important for you.
“Most people have wanted to talk about their individual circumstances, either relating specifically to where they live, or specifically relating to their own lives. Whether its a lack of employment opportunities, or whether it is about skills, training, education. Whether it’s about older people and ensuring that we have a system of care that works for them and their families.
“That has been the focus of much of the conversations. You do find people who’ve read the manifesto but more often than not people will want to have a conversation with you about their locality and what’s happening locally.
Labour faces mixed poll ratings nationally so how do you deal with that in Barnsley?
“I completely ignore the polls, to be honest, we’ve got a plan for our campaign locally and it is untouched and unmoved by the polls.
“I think every candidate must run the strongest possible campaign and that’s what we’re doing. We’re leaving nothing to chance. We’ve all of us, involved in my campaign, have committed a huge amount. We’re working literally around the clock, seven days a week, to make sure we get the best possible result. Polls come and they go.
“It’s obviously encouraging that there’s been a narrowing of the polls, but we’re not doing anything differently as a result of that. We’re just getting on with talking to as many voters, getting every opportunity to communicate our local campaign messages and we will continue to do that until 10pm on polling day. At which point we’ll have a quick cup of tea, draw breath, and then go to the count.
“There is a national campaign that is playing out, and that is very important because people look at the debates and they read the newspapers, and they hear these national messages, but here in Barnsley Central its a very local campaign.”
Do you think Labour receives a fair hearing from the media?
“I think it’s always quite unseemly for politicians to start blaming the media, but I think that there is probably more that we could do to ensure that we use the mainstream media to deliver some of our strong messages. I think social media is an important tool to use in this campaign, but it is still not as significant as the major broadcast news.
“What the 10 o’clock news on the BBC is leading with is a big deal, and as a party we need to make sure that we’ve done everything we possibly can to shape those strategic news moments. I sometimes look at the mainstream media and think that maybe they’re not with us, or sometimes think that they don’t necessarily give us the fairest of hearings, but I don’t think now is the moment to have that debate.
“I don’t think you can blame it on the media, I think we have a responsibility to ensure that we engage with them and give them every opportunity to report the messages that we want them to report. Criticising or blaming the media is unhelpful throughout the campaign.”
What was thing you did to relax, that wasn’t campaigning, and what was it?
“I can hardly remember what that was. I guess it was running the London marathon, which some people wouldn’t necessarily describe as the most relaxing of experiences, and it was certainly pretty hard work. I’m really pleased that I did it, it was 3h 45m away from my phone which was a blessed relief.
“Talking to some of my Labour colleagues, all of us find elections pretty intense experiences, not just for us but for our families, who don’t see very much of us for a period of time. They’re obviously moments of great uncertainty, but they’re also moments of great opportunity as well.
“I was in the West Midlands talking to people about this yesterday – these are the moments that we come into politics for. We come into politics because we want to deliver real and meaningful change for our communities, this is the moment when we have the opportunity to do that, by electing Labour MPs to the House to stand up for their communities.”
“We need to seize that opportunity – this has been an incredible campaign, and who knows what’s going to happen in the final few day. There can be no relaxing, no doing other stuff – we need all hands to the pump for the final period as we turn out the Labour vote around the country.”
Come along to the Kingstone Campaign campaign centretoday and be a part of political history as we fight for a Labour Government. We’ll give you a full briefing before you hit the streets so you can help get as many Labour voters to the polling booth as possible.
Make sure to wear practical shoes, comfortable clothes and be prepared to be busy!
Town Centre and St Helen’s Ward flyering, doorknocking. Further details to be advised to members nearer the date.
Last week’s US Presidential election result was a global wake-up call.
Whether in the US or the UK, people are feeling left behind – marginalised by an economic system that makes them work harder for less, while hoovering up ever greater rewards for a small elite.
People are right to be angry. Our political and economic system is delivering rising inequality and falling living standards.
Young people today find it harder to get a home of their own, harder to find good secure jobs, and are landed in lifelong debt simply for wanting an education.
Older people see their children and grandchildren struggling, their libraries and community services cut, their friends’ social care get worse.
They’ve seen politicians privatise what were once our collective assets, and they are paying the higher bills and higher fares as a result.
If we, as socialists, don’t step forward and offer solutions, then into the vacuum step the merchants of hate and blame.
They see the problem, but instead of offering solutions to make people’s lives better, they offer someone to blame.
The Tories do the same. They have opened the door to UKIP and fanned the flames of fear.
The Tories pretend to understand people’s problems, but offer nothing but someone to blame.
Meanwhile, the economy is slowing again. People’s pay still hasn’t recovered from the last recession and housing costs have soared. The Tories are cutting schools’ budgets, have slashed social care and have put the NHS into its worst crisis.
It’s time for our party – half a million strong, with more members than all the other UK parties combined – to get out there to tell people why a Labour government matters.
Labour’s Dan Jarvis meets me at Barnsley station and gives me a brief tour of the town before we settle in a local café for lunch.
He’s suited, short back and sides, polite, and incredibly enthusiastic about his constituency. He tells me that whenever he walks into the House of Commons he reminds himself that he’s there to speak up for his constituents.
“I’m a doer I like to get things done and there’s so much to do,” he says.
He wasn’t widely known beyond Westminster until he shot to fame after last May’s general election.
Labour lost; Ed Miliband resigned; and he found himself the hot favourite to win a leadership contest. Over a couple of days he was pursued by “Dan fans” and dogged by reporters and film crews as he considered whether or not he should stand.
Why you? I ask him. To his credit he doesn’t take offence.
“I don’t know. I mean there had been a bit of gossip and speculation before the election… some people were quite forceful in the way that they suggested I put myself forward.”
But in the end he decided against standing, saying “it wasn’t the right thing for my family at that moment”.
His two eldest children lost their mother, his first wife Caroline, to cancer in 2010.
He tells me: “These are just the most unspeakable, appalling times when you have young kids you don’t have the luxury of going into yourself, because you’ve got to keep the show on the road.
“For myself, if I’m being sort of brutally honest about it, I think that I’m probably at my best when my back is against the wall, when you kind of suffer a bereavement you suffer that kind of tragedy, there’s a huge pressure that comes from it, and you can either sink or you can swim… and I decided to start swimming.”
He left the army – he was a major in the Parachute Regiment – and stood for Labour in the Barnsley Central by-election, and won.
“I’m not a great one for regretting anything, but what I do regret is that I didn’t give it more thought beforehand,” he says.
More recently, speculation revved up again about his leadership ambitions and he was accused of being disloyal.
He rejected the criticism, telling me that he has never and will never criticise Jeremy Corbyn.
“It’s not my style”, he says.
I ask him about his leadership ambitions. “I don’t lie awake at night thinking about it, I think what I’ve come to know is you never know what’s around the corner, and you have to be ready for anything.
“My focus is getting on with job as the MP for Barnsley Central.”
He adds: “If people say you bottled it, it doesn’t affect you. Well it doesn’t affect me, because it’s just nonsense.”
We order our lunch, he has a full English Breakfast, he won’t need to eat again today, I say.
He grins. “I probably will though”.
He’s wary of talking about his military career, he doesn’t want it to define him and worries he might be accused of showing off.
He served in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan and lodged in his skull is a small fragment of shrapnel.
Rather than the military adventures – which I am fascinated by – what he wants to talk about is his vision for the Labour Party and how they can win the next election.
He says the party has a mountain to climb, but he’s optimistic. It comes down to two very simple things, he says: “You’ve got to have credible people and credible policies and ideas.”
‘Jeremy’s a decent guy’
I ask if Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are the credible people he is talking about.
“In the end it doesn’t matter what I think, because it’s for the public to decide.”
So, does he believe the public thinks they are credible?
“Look, I think that Jeremy is a really decent guy, many of the things that Jeremy talks about resonate with millions of people, the challenge for him and for all is, basically, now, to take it out to the country, because our membership is incredibly important.
“But it represents just a slither of the population and in the end we’ve got to convince the public that we are credible – and if we don’t we will lose again.”
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband celebrates the victory of Dan Jarvis in the Barnsley Central by-election, in 2011
I order us more tea and I ask Dan straight: Is Jeremy Corbyn a future prime minister?
“I hope so,” he says.
We have a chat about his near death experience on Snowden, being stranded in remote Nepal, with his military mate David, who is now an international male model, and how he refused to hand over his wallet to a mugger.
He glances at his watch and can’t believe the time: “My office will be fainting because they’ve lost track of me for about three weeks.”
One last question.
His best mate Dave, living the high life as an international male model. Fast cars, fancy do’s.
Does he ever think he pulled the short straw? Oh no, he is the lucky one, he answers, the one who is privileged and honoured.
When he falls silent, I tell him I think it sounds quite exciting.
And after a pause – and it might be the first time he really lets down his guard – he laughs. “Yeah it does, doesn’t it?”
The number of apprenticeship starts in more than 30 constituencies across England has fallen year-on-year, according to new figures.
While the overall number of apprenticeship starts in England rose by 14 per cent to 499,900 in 2014-15, new research published by the House of Commons Library reveals that in 34 constituencies, there was a fall in the number of people embarking on an apprenticeship compared to the previous year. In 17 more Parliamentary constituencies, there was no change in the number of starts. The figures raise questions about the chances of the government reaching its target of creating 3 million apprenticeships during the current Parliament.
The South-East region recorded the biggest fall in apprenticeship starts (980), with 440 in justice secretary Michael Gove’s constituency of Surrey Heath alone – more than in any other part of the country. The constituency which saw the biggest rise was in Richmond in North Yorkshire with 2,160 new starts; in total, there were almost 10,000 more apprenticeship starts in Yorkshire and The Humber than in the previous 12 months.
A spokesman for the Association of Employers and Learning Providers (AELP) welcomed the overall increase in starts, but said that factors such as industrial closures may explain the discrepencies between different parts of the country. “Schools or sixth-forms are persuading more young people to stay on until 18, instead of going down a work-based learning route like an apprenticeship,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the fact that the numbers are moving in the right direction bodes well as far as making sure that there are enough skilled young people.”
A spokesman from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: “More people across the country are doing an apprenticeship than ever before. We are committed to reaching 3 million high quality apprenticeship starts in England by 2020 so that we have the modern highly skilled workforce businesses need now and in the future.”
The drop in apprenticeship starts from 2013-14 to 2014-15: