Hero soldier tells of the family tragedy which spurred on election attempt

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THE FAVOURITE to become Barnsley Central’s new MP has told how he is being spurred on by the death of his wife.

Army officer Dan Jarvis, who has stepped down from his role as a Major in the Parachute Regiment to be Labour’s candidate in the safe seat, lost his wife Caroline, a former chef, to bowel cancer a year ago.

He is now raising their seven-year-old son and six-year-old daughter alone.

The 38-year-old said: “It’s very important for me to do something that matters and I know Caroline would be extremely proud of what I’m doing.

“When you suffer personal tragedy, you can let it affect you in two ways. You can implode and be swamped by the magnitude of your loss - but when you’ve got kids that is not an option. When I got married, I never, ever, thought I would lose my wife. She battled cancer for four years and that was a very difficult time, especially with two small children, but life throws these things at you sometimes.

“This was a massive personal tragedy but in some ways it has made me a stronger person. It made me want to make the most of my life.”

Mr Jarvis admits his commitments as a single father made him think “long and hard” before standing for Parliament.

He said: “I’ve got two kids who a year ago lost their mum and my biggest responsibility is to look after them. They’ve had a tough start in life.” Mr Jarvis added: “It was a very big decision to make. There are careers that would have been easier for me to pursue but I’ve always known that when I left the Army I wanted to do something to continue that commitment to the country. I’m a public servant, that’s what I’m about.

“But I’ve a very supportive family, so it can work. And my children are excited about it. There is a big ‘Ed Miliband yes, David Cameron boo’ thing going on at the moment.”

Mr Jarvis spent 16 years in the forces, including spells as assistant to a Nato commander in the Balkans and front-line service in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, he led 100 elite Special Forces Support Group troops, and lost many comrades.

He said: “When we got up to the 100th serviceman that had been killed in Afghanistan, there was an article on the front page of one of the newspapers with 100 photographs. I knew 10 of them personally, very well.”

Senior figures from the Labour Party have already visited the constituency to help his campaign, including leader Ed Miliband.

The by-election for Barnsley Central - being held after former MP Eric Illsley was jailed for expenses fraud - takes place next Thursday, March 3.

■ Full list of candidates: Dominic Carman, Liberal Democrats; Jane Collins, UKIP; Enis Dalton, BNP; Tony Devoy, independent; James Hockney, Conservative; Howling Laud Hope, Monster Raving Looney Party; Dan Jarvis, Labour; Kevin Riddiough, English Democrats; Michael Val Davies, independent.