Trying to keep up with Dan Jarvis in Barnsley Central

by Dave Roberts

Labour’s second by-election victory of the year was a moment to celebrate – and not just because the Liberal Democrats were obliterated and the Tories humiliated – but because it demonstrated that Labour could still campaign – and campaign hard  – even in a heartland seat such as Barnsley Central.

The overall result in Barnsley was never really in doubt – the constituency is about as Labour as you can get.  On the doorstep, voters were determined to show the Tory-led government what they thought of the cuts, and for many the memories of the brutality of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s were very real. But the way the Labour team campaigned was impressive and the landslide victory that the voters delivered should linger in people’s memories for some time to come. People should not underestimate the significance of this result – to increase a numerical majority with a decreased turn out is a significant achievement.

The result was also a huge moment for the successful candidate, Dan Jarvis, the former paratrooper who overcame his outsider status to win the respect, and a few hearts, of the people he now represents. Dan threw himself into the campaign from the moment he was selected. His enthusiasm, dedication and sincerity were recognised by all who met him. Dan’s ability to convince the wavering voter that it was worth going to the polls to vote for the Labour party, was outstanding.

However, the lasting memory I will have of my four days in Barnsley is the sheer pace of the campaign – and here I refer to genuine speed. Being a man who has run marathons in the desert, Dan is not short on fitness – something he demonstrated every day by running between doors. Up hill or downhill, in the morning or after eight hours canvassing – Dan was still running. On polling day we started running at 10am and finished twelve hours later. And the amazing thing is that this energy infected the whole team. I am no runner, but on polling day I, and the rest of the team with Dan, was still moving at an alarming pace when the day ended.

The pain in my legs caused by all that running has now subsided but the pain suffered by the Tories and Lib Dems in Barnsley Central will continue for some time to come – and Dan Jarvis and “team Jarvis” will be there to remind both parties of their humiliation in Barnsley.

Dave Roberts is a Labour activist and director, Morgan Roberts Ltd.

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