The Labour MP for Barnsley Central Dan Jarvis has called on the party to offer a more radical vision for the 2020 election campaign. Jarvis, is widely seen as a potential future leader of the party, has come out swinging in favour of tackling social inequality, distancing himself from New Labour in the process. This is significant moment as it marks that Corbyn’s desire to shift the internal discourse of the party to the Left, despite the Blairite resistance, has been successful. The ramifications of the speech are important as it reinforces Corbyn’s position as Labour leader and puts the party on a different trajectory, especially is Jarvis does go on to become Labour leader himself one day.
Jarvis’ speech was delivered to an audience at the think-tank Demos in London and, whilst couching his language in more politically palatable language, essentially endorsed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s focus on economic inequality. Even if it could be argued that I am reading too much into Jarvis’ comments by saying that he’s endorsing Corbyn, it cannot be argued that he didn’t distance himself from New Labour. The Labour Party is back from the neo-liberal grip of the Blairites and Corbyn’s ideological legacy of moving the conversation back to the Left will be secured if Jarvis becomes the next leader.
Now some of you may be thinking that it was just a standard political speech, but I disagree. I think that is important because of the person who was saying it. When Jeremy Corbyn was calling on greater taxes on corporations and other similarly left-wing policies, he was castigated as being unpatriotic and radical. However at the time of the last Labour leadership contest the right-wing press were touting Jarvis as a good pick for leader because he was sufficiently left-wing to achieve party unity and, due to his record as a soldier, his perceived patriotism couldn’t be challenged by the tabloid press.
The Blairtes in the party have lost the discussion if someone many had hoped had become leader are siding with the Corbyn leadership. But this is also important in another way. By setting out a more radical Labour vision than that of the Blair-Brown years, more left-wing economic polices become more politically acceptable as Jarvis is not seen by the press as a ‘crazy Marxist’. When less radical Labour MPs are calling on a more radical message, Labour MPs take notice. In the Parliamentary Labour Party Jarvis is an influential backbencher and his public statements carry water. Moderate MPs thought that he could be a potentially challenger to Jeremy Corbyn if he were forced out in a primary, but it appears that Jarvis is getting line behind Corbyn. My advice to other Labour MPs is to do the same.
The speech itself was light on detail, such as what constitutes ‘radical’ in his mind, but I would be surprised if he meant something more centrist than Tony Blair. Economic issues is definitely an area where an overwhelming number of Labour MPs can unite to promote an unapologetically socialist message. Foreign policy is still a more contentious topic, indeed Jarvis was one of the 66 MPs that backed military action in Syria, but if the focus of the party moves away from military interventions and Trident, Labour will be united.
Europe should be the new focus on the party, and Labour should put a political crowbar into the split in the Tory Party and make into a chasm. If Labour’s official position to campaign to remain in the EU then it should bare down on Eurosceptic Tories like there is no tomorrow whilst putting an uplifting message of EU reform on the table. Once the European issue is dealt with the segway into economic issues should be seamless and a united Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership will emerge to beat the Tories in 2020.