Friday 27 December 2019

The Tedium of Dan Jarvis

"We need to make a clean break with Corbynism!", said Dan Jarvis on Christmas Eve. His comments made during an interview on Radio 4 made two claims for Labour's general election loss: a) Jeremy Corbyn presented a problem and the party lacked a top team that "understands the challenges people face", and b) "people felt they didn’t think the Labour party spoke for them any more." And to keep everyone guessing and inject some (much needed) interest into his person, Dan refused to rule out a leadership bid. 

Let's have a look at these arguments. The first doesn't bear much repeating. Only the most blinkered believes Corbyn wasn't a problem on the doorstep, and that has been the case from the beginning. Though if Dan was interested in an honest appraisal of why this was the case, he might have reflected on how his friends encouraged the image of Corbyn activists found fed back to them time after time. To use a military metaphor, it's like having your US Air Force allies crater your position and then holding the commanding infantry officer solely responsible for not holding it against the enemy. As for leading figures not being aware of the "challenges", one can only surmise Dan hasn't attended constituency surgeries recently. Universal credit, the work capability assessment, crumbling local government services, housing, it damns the Tories that nothing has changed since I did them over six years ago. Perhaps Dan might like to tell us how Labour's manifesto, whatever you might think of it, ignored these issues? And how about the bigger problems, like the climate emergency or the significant structural problems the British economy has? If "challenges" means Labour refused to scapegoat powerless groups as was custom and practice between 1997 and 2010, then we should be very proud to cop for that.

Which brings us to the second point, that Labour "didn't speak for them" any more. You can interpret this in a couple of ways, either as going too remainy (not that the party had much of a choice) or insufficiently Blue Laboury. Though to be truthful, in all my years of campaigning in Stoke never have I encountered someone who was voting Labour because of immigration controls. When you listen to the vox pops or, indeed, the tens of thousands who went canvassing the answers we have to this, more often than not, are lines straight out of editorials or broadcast talking points. What it shows is a failure of Labour messaging to cut through, which is always an issue when the media is institutionally corrupt. But here again, Dan is refusing to ask the right questions. The simple truth of the matter is Boris Johnson was able to navigate the class dynamics of the election better than Labour. The Tories know what their base in working class communities is, while Dan and his friends cling to the delusion that the white working class as a whole has rejected Labour. For politicians who like to parade their northern qualities, they're as happy to label millions of people nationalistic and a little bit racist as much as the liberal metropolitan types they affect to disagree with. Older people are the issue, and it's ridiculous to pretend otherwise. In a would-be leadership contender, it's doubly so.

In sum, Dan's intervention was a cynical profile-raising exercise, a reminder to everyone that he existed. Because, let's be honest here, we had to be reminded. When was the last time you head anything about Dan Jarvis? These last few years he's been virtually invisible as far as national politics are concerned. Unlike other centrists and Labour right figures, such as Jess Phillips and her media ubiquity, and Yvette Cooper and her select committee appearances, what's he done? For goodness sake, he's not even done Question Time. He's the metro mayor for the Sheffield city region which, to his credit, he draws no salary (I wonder if the usual suspects will condemn him for gesture politics, as per Nadia Whittome), but hasn't said anything in terms of policy debates since, um, advocating the sort of industrial strategy we find embodied in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos. Guess he wasn't taking the "people's challenges" seriously then, either.

When push comes to shove, there's not a lot Dan can offer the leadership contest, let alone the party. He's not saying anything the likes of Lisa Nandy isn't already saying, and the soldiery backstory is not enough to make up for a substantial deficit as a politician. He can mull his leadership prospects, but I suspect he already knows there's nothing to help him stand out from the crowd, nor preventing a humiliating descent into Liz Kendall-style irrelevance. So remember that the next time Dan has a well-publicised interview, and take his regurgitated musings with a pinch of salt.

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Anonymous said...

We need mandatory reselection. We also need to find a way to get those platform-seeking Blair cultists off the select committees too. Not going for these things after GE 2017 was Corbyn's biggest error.

Jimbo said...

We need to win an election. The electorate doesn't give a fig about petty factional infighting, all they want is someone who can lead the country.

Blissex said...

«Only the most blinkered believes Corbyn wasn't a problem on the doorstep, and that has been the case from the beginning.»

Sure but he was a problem with *tories* on the doorstep, by all accounts. Like "Sierra man" encountered by Tony Blair on the doorstep in 1996. That is there are quite a few voters who are by their profile tories, but continue to vote Labour out of tradition, or resentment against Thatcher, but are otherwise tories, both as to class and as to mindset.

The political issue is what to do with them: many are not economically tories, just culturally tories, even if sometimes they think that they are economically tories too. They could vote for Labour. The Mandelsonian Tendency entrysts then argue that to achieve that, in a coalition of 90% Labour voters and 10% "wet" tory voters, the economic programme must be 90% tory and 10% Labour, and I think that's very wrong, because in effect it leaves the 90% Labour voter component unrepresented.

The "leftoids" instead ignore completely the issue and keeping singing the "Red Flag" as if mass rentierism and "southern discomfort" were not real electoral issues.
I think that there are real arguments that can persuade a block of "wet" tory voters to vote for a 90% Labour, 10% tory political offer, but neither Purple New Labour nor Blue Labour and obviously not the "leftoids" are making them.

Kdus232425 said...

Excellent post, particularly the military metaphor holding the infantry officer responsible for not holding the high ground against the destruction caused by Air Force ineptly targeted bombing. Every variation of that kabuki phenomenon is practiced across the Navy and most often with "evidence" years or decades old. The gift that keeps on giving.

Anonymous said...


And what evidence is there that Jarvis is that person? Hint - having a decent "back story" doesn't, by itself, cut it.

Anonymous said...

I know the breakdown of voting was much more about age and educational level (which correlates closely with age due to the vastly higher percentage attending HE and Uni in recent times) than about actual social class. But has any poll published more detailed breakdown by age+class or age+location? In other words, what were the percentage Tory votes among 20-something non graduates in the North and Midlands?