“Devolution presents an opportunity to improve the lives of people living here in South Yorkshire” says Dan Jarvis MP

Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central, announced this month that he intends to stand as a Labour candidate for the Sheffield Region Mayor.

Stating “I’m putting myself forward in this election because devolution presents an opportunity to improve the lives of people living here in South Yorkshire, we’ve got many challenges at the moment -austerity, Brexit, automation, widening inequality – that we’re going to need bold and ambitious solutions to. Although not without risk, devolution gives us a chance to take greater control of our economy an infrastructure and put in place policies that grow our economy, expand opportunities for our young people, and improve our environment.Continuing, he added “I believe I’m the best person to deliver for people in South Yorkshire. Having been one of the leading figures in the devolution debate, I’m well-placed to work with local council leaders and central government to deliver the investment and public services that Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, and Doncaster need. And I want to push for a bigger devolution deal in the future, which encompasses the whole of Yorkshire because that really would give us the collective clout to cooperate with and compete with other devolution areas”.

Many people in the area voted against having a Mayor, with many not understanding what the mayor would actually be responsible for. but Jarvis says “I believe that we need a Mayor who can, in the first instance, do four things. They are:
· Negotiate the devolution of powers and funding to the Sheffield City Region – without this agreement there will be now new money or powers.
· Deliver stronger public services in South Yorkshire.
· Represent the Sheffield City Region on the national stage.
– Be a leading figure in the ongoing debate about a wider Yorkshire devolution deal”.

Jarvis says his first priority is going to be making sure we actually devolve the power and funding to the Sheffield City Region. Saying “This election is unlike any other mayoral election because the new mayor isn’t going to necessarily have any powers or money after the election. These are going to have to be negotiated and without consensus among the four council leaders, there won’t be any powers or money. So, the first item on my agenda will be building a consensus with the four local council leaders and securing that money and those powers”, he told me.

Jarvis says he intends to continue serving as MP for Barnsley, even if elected Sheffield city Region Mayor, he explains “This election isn’t like the other mayoral elections. The new mayor is going to have to leverage as much influence as possible with national government to get the powers and money that South Yorkshire needs. I am best placed to do this. If my first act as mayor were to stand down from Parliament, I’d be needlessly squandering my ability to put pressure on the Government in those important negotiations. I’ve been clear that this is not a long-term arrangement but one which is necessary to get the Sheffield City Region deal over the line and continue the negotiations into the possibility of creating a much wider Yorkshire deal.

It’s also important to remember that lots of MPs have additional responsibilities – Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, and Chairs of Select Committees. All of them put in place very clear dividing lines between their roles and I would do the same if I become the mayor. The major difference is that I won’t be taking a mayoral salary and will instead use the money to set up a community fund to tackle important local issues like tackling child poverty, helping the homeless, and improving our environment”.

There has been widespread criticism of the lack of diversity in the party, with an all white male shortlist; Dan Jarvis, Sheffield councillor Ben Curran and former Sports minister Richard Caborn. I asked Mr Jarvis why he thought no women or people from ethnic minority groups had decided to stand in the election. Jarvis told me that he completely agreed with the concerns that have been raised adding, “I tried to convince prominent potential female candidates in South Yorkshire to stand and if they had I would have stepped aside. For very understandable reasons, they decided against standing.

I want to use the position of Mayor to develop future female candidates so that we don’t see this kind of situation repeated. We also need to ask ourselves some tough questions as members of the Labour Party about the wider culture in our Party and our society which means that not enough women are coming forward for these important roles”.

Jarvis said his experience in the region and the devolution negotiations made him the ideal man to lift it out of the mire that extensive cuts from the Conservative government have left it in. Jarvis added “I’ve spent a lot of time during the devolution negotiations developing strong working relationships with local council leaders, MPs, and government ministers. Those contacts are going to be incredibly useful when it comes to building consensus among the local councils and getting the powers and money for the Sheffield City Region. And I’ve got a lot of experience of delivering projects in very difficult circumstances – both during my time in the Armed Forces and as an MP”.

Jarvis was a remain campaigner before the referendum and I asked if he had changed his mind since the vote, or if he still believes that the UK would be better in the EU.

“I’m with Jeremy Corbyn on this one” he stated “ I campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU and I think we would be better off if we were staying in. But we do have to respect the verdict of the referendum and it’s now about making sure that jobs, workers’ rights, and environmental protections are protected. I think staying in the customs union is important to doing that and I will argue in favour of that if I’m elected mayor. I believe that devolution should be viewed through the prism of Brexit. By improving economic opportunities here in South Yorkshire through smart implementation of a devolved settlement, we will be more resilient and best placed to deal with the challenges of life outside the EU”.

As an elected member of parliament for Barnsley, I asked Jarvis if he Will look at the individual cities and areas in the region separately or will do you see it as one region?

“That is an interesting question. South Yorkshire is of course a very diverse area and you only have to travel between Sheffield Hallam constituency and Barnsley Central to see that the challenges can be very different” he says, “But devolution is also about drawing together our collective energy to tackle those challenges that we all face: improving our transport system; creating more opportunities for our young people and tackling child poverty; and improving the environment and preserving our green spaces. So, I think the policies the mayor puts in place, has to take account of both of those things”.

Richard Caborn, who has since not been selected as a candidate is a Sheffield United supporter and Ben Curran a Wednesday fan, I asked Dan which of our local teams he thinks will finish highest this season, he said “Well, I can give a cast-iron guarantee that as Mayor I will be scrupulously impartial in not favouring any part of the Sheffield City Region over any other. Except in one respect; and that is that I’ll always support Barnsley FC”

Hard Brexit is a dramatic threat to worker’s rights says Labour’s leader in European Parliament

In my first interview with Richard Corbett MEP before the referendum, the then deputy leader of the European parliamentary Labour party, stated the European parliament was no gentleman’s club, nor a burden on British taxpayer. Now we are heading for the door Corbett warns that each family may be £3000 worse of per month, and our workers’ rights are under threat.

Mr Corbett is now Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, a role that sees him representing the collective views of Labour MEPS, and also allows him a seat in the Shadow Cabinet and on the Labour party’s NEC.
I asked him this week, on the potential impact of a No deal Brexit, and whether it was better than a bad deal. He warned that “If we leave without a deal there will be legal limbo for all kinds of things, ranging from aircraft landing rights to the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and Brits living in the EU. It would mean World Trade Organisation tariffs on goods traded and a loss of access to EU markets for services. Concluding “A no deal Brexit must be avoided”.

Corbett sees Brexit as a threat to hard won workers’ rights. He agrees with former Tory Chancellor Kenneth Clarke that some Conservative ministers are not overly keen on worker’s rights and believes the right wing leavers in the Conservative party are very keen to diminish worker’s rights in the UK and see Brexit as a method to achieve this.
There has been much talk of hard Brexit (and soft Brexit), and Mr Corbett gave clear definitions for both terms. Describing Hard Brexit as leaving not just the EU but also the European single market and the customs union.
A soft Brexit would probably entail leaving the EU, but staying in the single market and the customs union. Corbett stated the single market is core to protecting workers right saying “the Eurpopean single market has rules to protect consumers, workers and the environment. They could be better, but their very existence is why the neo-liberal right dislike the EU”.

Corbett said the debate before the referendum lacked honesty. Going on to say the leave campaigners themselves say they would not have won without the £350 million a week for the NHS on the infamous bus, amongst other lies.
He says already the loss to the economy, due to the fall in the economic growth rate since the referendum, will amount to £65 billion by 2021. The UK government will also have to fund new bodies such as agencies to regulate medicines and chemicals, and fund customs checks, should we leave the customs union.

The prime minister and the foreign secretary seem to have differing opinions on when freedom of movement (FOM) will end. However Mr Corbett insists that those who think that immigration levels are too high are wrong to attribute this to freedom of movement. “Most migrants to Britain come from outside the EU, entirely under our national rules, not EU rules.” He says, “As to EU freedom of movement, it is two-way, with nearly 1.2 million Brits in other EU countries. It is also not an unconditional right: you have to move for work or be self-sufficient. Britain has never fully enforced these conditions. In any case, EU migrants in Britain pay their way: they pay over one-third more in taxes than they receive in benefits and services, so they help pay for the NHS, schools etc.”.

On enshrining a Brexit date in law, as was recently suggested he said ” Why bind your hands in advance when you don’t know what the state of play will be at the end of the negotiations? Why make it illegal to have any flexibility on the date?”