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by Andrew Whitaker
19 July 2016
Labour big hitters staying out of leadership contest

Labour big hitters staying out of leadership contest

Dan Jarvis - credit Candy Gourlay

The ailing campaign to oust Jeremy Corbyn has culminated in the leadership bids of Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, two candidates who for many people do not exactly set the pulse racing. 

But perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the attempt to force out Corbyn is the matter of the big names that have not even attempted to get on the ballot paper for Labour's leadership election, which will run until the autumn.  


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Labour MP Dan Jarvis, a decorated war hero, and former cabinet minister Yvette Cooper, as well as former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna are among the notable absentees from the contest.  
The attempts to oust Corbyn have had a bitter and personal tone from the start, with one of the latest barbs against him coming from pro-Trident MP Jamie Reed who told the Commons that the leader was "reckless, juvenile and narcissistic" for opposing the renewal of the Clyde-based nuclear weapons system. 
It may well be that figures such as Jarvis, who is widely viewed as a decent man, do not want to be seen to be profit from fairly brazen attempts to defeat Corbyn such as the introduction of a £25 fee for registered supporters to vote in the leadership contest – something that shows an apparent contempt for those on low incomes.
Jarvis, a much touted potential party leader, has a back story that reads like something more from American politics rather than the world of Westminster.
But so far Jarvis, who served as a major in the Parachute regiment, has barely been mentioned in the dramatic travails surrounding Labour’s leadership and has not indicated any interest in standing.
For many Jarvis, who become the first serving politician in more than 60 years to be awarded a military honour when he was made an MBE, at first glance appears to be tailor made as a potential Labour leader.
Jarvis’s reluctance to stand for leader may be influenced by the fact that opinion polling of Labour Party members suggest Corbyn is on course to be re-elected.
But could there be a longer term strategy from some in Labour who hope that the leadership contest will at least soften Corbyn’s mandate, with a less convincing win than last year? 
It could be that there are those within Labour who hope that this would give Corbyn ‘enough rope to hang himself with’, based on assumptions from many MPs that he will be unable to win over floating voters and eventually be forced out.
Jarvis may be holding back and thinking that such a scenario, likely to be close to a General Election, would be much more favourable for him to mount a leadership bid than the current one playing out.     
The Barnsley Central MP received plaudits after ruling himself out in last year’s contest to succeed Ed Miliband, stating that he did not want his children to “lose their dad” as well as their mother, following his first wife’s tragic death some years ago.
Jarvis saw action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Sierra Leone during his time in the Armed forces.  
Last year he also faced down a would-be mugger on the London Underground, frightening off the man who had threatened to smash a glass bottle over his head unless the MP handed over his wallet.  
So compelling is Jarvis’s story that it sounds like he could be played by Ben Affleck in a blockbuster movie about a war hero, who having overcome great personal adversity and tragedy, enters politics and goes for the top job.
But aside from petitions online and via social media, there have been no serious public moves from anti-Corbyn-Labour MPs to make Jarvis their front man.

Why then has Jarvis remained relatively quiet in all of this and does he have any aspiration to be leader after all?

It may well be that Jarvis is playing a long game and hoping that he will emerge as ‘unifier’ when Labour’s dramas are fully played out.

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