Labour's Dan Jarvis to step down as mayor of South Yorkshire after first term

Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Dan Jarvis, who has spent the last three years as a Labour MP and the mayor of South Yorkshire, will not seek another term in the latter job, he has announced, saying he had never planned to carry out the dual role in the long term.

The Barnsley Central MP had to battle initial Labour party opposition to his staying on in parliament when he was selected in 2018 to fight for the mayoralty, which at the time had no powers or funding due to a dispute about devolution arrangements.

But in a video statement on Monday, Jarvis said he would not seek re-election as mayor in May next year, and that he wanted to give enough time for Labour to select a new candidate. He will remain as an MP.

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Once Jarvis’s mayoral term ends next year, he will also be free, if chosen, to return to shadow frontbench duties. In 2019, Jarvis considered entering the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, and has not ruled out standing in the future.

In the statement, Jarvis said that achieving the local devolution deal, which took until 2020 to be formally approved by parliament, was “the most important thing that I could achieve from opposition”.

“When I first stepped forward to take on the role, I took the decision to remain as a member of parliament,” Jarvis said. “Some people didn’t agree with that, but I said from the beginning that it wasn’t a long-term arrangement. And I meant it. I honestly don’t believe we would have made the progress we have, and we certainly wouldn’t have got the devolution deal over the line, if I had not stayed in parliament.

“But, having led South Yorkshire for the past few years, and having put in place a devolved arrangement that has taken us through the worst of the pandemic and is really starting to deliver for people in South Yorkshire, I think that now is the right time to think about who’s best placed to build on these achievements … Someone who can drive us forward over the next four years.

“But that person won’t be me. I wanted to let people know that I won’t be standing again as mayor next May. But in the meantime I will, of course, continue to give 110% to the role.”

It is understood that Jarvis felt some frustration in the South Yorkshire role, with a sense that the government did not assist Labour mayors with the same enthusiasm as the likes of Andy Street in Birmingham and Ben Houchen in Tees Valley, both Conservatives.

The decision to choose to remain an MP rather than mayor is also connected to the emotional ties Jarvis feels for Barnsley, where he was first elected in a 2011 byelection, entering politics a year after the death of his wife.

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