Labour MPs are not 'delegates' beholden to party members, Dan Jarvis warns

The Labour MP, widely touted as a replacement for Jeremy Corbyn, has sketched out his economic policy

Labour MPs should ensure that they are representing their constituents in Parliament – and not just members of their own party, Dan Jarvis has said.

Mr Jarvis, a backbencher widely seen in Westminster as a potential candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader, said he was not a “delegate” sent to Parliament by Labour members. 

On Thursday morning Mr Jarvis sketched out his views on the economy in a speech – arguing that his party should champion “a government that is more active, businesses that look to the long term, and trade unions that stand up for our workers”.

He called for a Government that was “more radical” than Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and Ed Miliband – but warned that he would not be beholden to the party’s membership, which polls show overwhelmingly supports Mr Corbyn.

“As a Labour MP I’m not a delegate for my local party, I’ve been elected to Parliament by my constituents to stand up for them and make sure their voice is heard in Parliament,” he said.

“In the end I don’t think we should ever lose sight that the public get to decide and I think we that need to make sure that having lost two general elections, our policies are rooted in the things that people care about.

“Yes, we must listen to a range of different voices, yes it’s incredibly important that we have that internal debate within the party, but we should never lose sight of the fact that what we need is a Labour government and that in the end it will be the public, the people of this country, who get to decide whether that’s what we have or not.”

Labour’s membership has doubled in size since Mr Corbyn was elected leader in September and polls suggest the leader would be comfortably returned with increased support in a leadership contest in which he featured.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, with the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, at the party's conference last September

Mr Jarvis dodged directly answering a question about whether he thought Mr Corbyn would automatically be allowed to stand in the event of a leadership contest – or whether he would have to secure nominations from Labour MPs, with whom he has struggled to find support. 

He also warned that the series of local and regional elections in May would be “a major test” for the party.

The party’s rules do not explicitly spell out whether Mr Corbyn would automatically be able to stand in a challenge, but the leader’s office has said it believes this would be the case. 

In what appeared to be a coded criticism of the shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Mr Jarvis began his speech by warning that the people who Labour was founded to help “do not attend economic seminars”.

Mr McDonnell, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, has championed a free series of seminars in an attempt to dispel myths about the economy.

Mr Jarvis later said he welcomed the fact that Mr Corbyn had prompted an open debate about the party’s future.

Elsewhere in the body of his speech Mr Jarvis suggested a number of policies including allowing a non-political national infrastructure commission to decide major infrastructure investments, repealing the Government’s trade union bill, and involving trade unions in the retraining of workers.

He argued that New Labour had had successes and also made mistakes, telling his audience: “We should defend our achievements and learn from our mistakes. To anyone else outside Westminster that is common sense.”