UK Politics

Profile: Labour MP Dan Jarvis

Dan Jarvis Image copyright PA

Dan Jarvis - one of the MPs being tipped as a possible challenger to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - has the dream CV for a politician, in an era when real-world experience is so prized by voters.

A former company commander in the Parachute Regiment, he served in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sierra Leone, including a tour of duty in Helmand province and a stint as right-hand man to Gen Sir Mike Jackson.

The 43-year-old is a father of three, who recently remarried after losing his first wife to cancer. Born in Nottingham, he attended a local comprehensive school, later gaining a degree in international politics and strategic studies at Aberystwyth University. A mild-mannered character when you meet him in person, his action-man credentials were nevertheless burnished further when a story emerged about him facing down a would-be mugger who threatened to smash a bottle over his head.

This sort of stuff makes him stand out in a Parliamentary Labour Party packed with former university lecturers, journalists and other varieties of pen-pusher.

On-message

But the question hanging over him since he arrived in Parliament in 2011, after winning the Barnsley Central by-election, is whether there is more to him than an impressive back story?

He was cautiously on-message in his early media appearances.

Image copyright PA

This may, in part, be a legacy of his 20 years in the armed forces, when he was prevented by Queen's Regulations from publicly expressing political views, even though he had been a member of the Labour Party since his teens.

He confessed in one of his first interviews, that he went out of his way to avoid the media spotlight until he was selected to fight Barnsley Central, a contest caused by the jailing of MP Eric Illsley for expenses fraud.

'Dan fans'

He has been more outspoken recently, particularly on the subject of Britain's nuclear weapons, even hinting that he might have to leave the party if it ditches its commitment to renewing Trident.

And on Thursday, he made a wide-ranging speech setting out his vision for getting Labour back into power, arguing for a break with the New Labour era and a more "radical" economic policy to tackle ingrained inequality.

Mr Jarvis had been urged to stand in last year's Labour leadership contest, amid much excited chatter about him being the candidate the Conservatives would fear most.

He was pursued by "Dan fans" and dogged by reporters and film crews for a couple of days until he ruled himself out, saying he had to put his young family first.

He now says he regrets not giving more thought to a leadership bid - and is once again being touted as the standard-bearer of the "moderate", or anti-Corbyn, wing of the party, if as some expect, there is a challenge to the Labour leader in the summer.

His speech on Thursday was pored over for signs of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn - there were none - and the outlines of a distinctive policy agenda - there was talk of an end to short-termist economics and getting the unions more involved in training.

'Embittered Blairites'

The key soundbite, in a conscious echo of Tony Blair's famous crime mantra, was: "Tough on inequality, tough on the causes of inequality."

It got mixed reviews from Labour figures on social media but it did enough to earn him a blast from Ken Livingstone, Mr Corbyn's defender-in-chief, who laid into his decision to accept donations from a hedge-fund manager.

"Hedge-fund managers have been the most rapacious and damaging form of capitalists that we've had. It's absolutely bizarre. It's a bit like Jimmy Savile funding a children's group," said Mr Livingstone.

According to the Register of Members' Interests, Mr Jarvis received £16,800 from hedge-fund manager Martin Taylor in February to support his work as an MP.

Mr Livingstone went on to say that there was an "embittered group of old Blairites who are looking for someone to challenge Jeremy" and they think Dan Jarvis is "someone credible to run".

It provoked a furious reaction from Labour MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn, with one calling the Savile reference "disgusting".

Mr Jarvis has opted not to respond, although the episode will have offered him a small taste of what he can expect if he does decide to challenge Mr Corbyn for the leadership.

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