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28 February 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:25pm

“We’re still paying for 1980s policies”: Dan Jarvis on his plan to save Yorkshire from Brexit

The Labour MP for Barnsley Central and aspiring Sheffield mayoral candidate on what threatens his region.

By Ben Gartside

“I’ve got to say, I’m a workaholic.” Dan Jarvis is sitting at his desk in a primped Barnsley office, with an earnest look on his face.

Behind him is an extraordinarily clean desk, a whiteboard donning a bullet-point list of union endorsements, and a bookshelf of largely untouched books. The books are inadvertently ordered by chronology of release – on the left Ed Balls’ autobiography, on the right Brendan Cox’s biography of the late Labour MP Jo Cox, and sandwiched in between the somewhat incongruous addition of Arron Banks’ book The Bad Boys of Brexit

Reading into the opposition? “No, I just got sent it,” Jarvis replies, picking up the book. “I can’t confess to having opened it before.” He flicks through its pages, looking thoroughly unimpressed.

His distaste for Banks is somewhat expected. It makes up the first chapter of his proposal for being Labour’s Sheffield City Region mayoral election candidate.

“With Brexit happening, we’ve got to be prepared,” he says. “Yorkshire and the Humber is set to be one of the hardest areas hit according to the impact reports, and we’ve got to recognise that everything is bound in Brexit.”

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In Jarvis, the europhile movement has found itself a politician unlike many of the stereotypical pro-European politicians. With the image of a patriot, as a former soldier, and a focus on the practical detriment his region will face when we leave, rather than an emotional attachment to the EU, he’s a little different from the usual suspects opposing Brexit.

“In Yorkshire, we’re still paying for the policies of the 1980s. We can’t let that happen again, and Brexit will be our biggest challenge.” Jarvis seems relieved at Corbyn’s decision for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU, but is still apprehensive. “If you look at the leaked impact assessments, Yorkshire and Humber will be one of the worst hit by leaving,” he reiterates.

Jarvis is flicking through his proposal for Labour’s South Yorkshire mayoral selection. When I mentioned the proposal (which he is keen not to call a manifesto), his eyes light up.

“I shouldn’t be telling you this, but we did it all in one weekend,” Jarvis grins (his wife Rachel is a graphic designer).

In his proposal, Jarvis discusses bringing the bus network back into public ownership, supporting credit unions and the establishment of a mayoral community fund.

“These are ideas I’ve had in my head for a while,” he says. Most are inspired by the Co-operative Party. “I believe I was the only parachutist in the Co-operative Party when I was serving!” he laughs.

But he wasn’t the first choice to stand for the mayoralty, claiming he “tried to encourage a number of women candidates to stand”, when discussing the male dominance of local government. “I said I wouldn’t stand if they decided to, though sadly none of them felt it was for them.”

In the end, three men applied to be candidates. Jarvis describes himself as “ruthless” in his pursuit of equality, and supports all-women’s shortlists for mayoral elections.

He also highlights the gendered nature of violent threats to politicians, saying the death threats he has faced pale in comparison to those sent to female MPs.

Jarvis is hopeful after talks this week with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid on devolution, namely the One Yorkshire deal – a plan to devolve power from central government to Yorkshire, in the hope of creating a powerful, combined authority of 5.3 million people in the region.

“We have 18 out of 20 council leaders signed on to the One Yorkshire deal, if all goes to plan we can get it done,” he says, pinning his hopes on a deal for a region he may yet have a greater role in running.

Results of Labour’s Sheffield City Region mayoral selection will be announced on 23 March. The election will be on 3 May.