Burnley Labour parliamentary candidate Oliver Ryan gives in-depth interview on fight to become town's next MP
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Oliver Ryan, now 28-years-old, would be one of Burnley’s youngest MPs if he was to be elected at the next General Election, but a sit-down chat with the Burnley Express has unveiled a man with plenty of political experience in his young life so far, cutting his teeth as a local councillor in Thameside when he was elected at just 19.
And, not surprisingly, the current hot topics of the NHS, GP appointments, policing and putting money back into local people’s pockets were at the forefront of his mind during his first in-depth interview with local media.
A self-confessed “political nerd” who enjoys reading, cooking and listening to music, Oliver, who hails from Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, was selected last year to be Labour’s candidate in the fight to unseat the borough’s current Conservative MP Antony Higginbotham.
Now living in Cliviger, Oliver said he has used his local base to venture out onto the streets of Burnley to listen to people’s views. He has friends and relatives living in Gannow who have also told him what issues residents of the town are facing.
“I was so proud to be selected to stand in Burnley at the next general election,” he said. “I first joined the Labour party when I was 15. I know this may sound a little nerdy but it was during the 2010 election TV debates and I wrote down the manifestos of each of the main parties.
“My school at the time was built under the Building Schools for the Future programme, as were all the Burnley schools coincidentally, and we were so lucky to have these brand new schools. This has obviously come to the forefront just this week with the concrete issue in old schools.”
Brought up in a large Irish Catholic family, Oliver was raised by single mum Laura, a teacher and council worker.
He added: “I think the real reason I joined the Labour Party was my family’s interaction with the NHS. My mum Laura suffers from MS and I have other close relatives with health problems. I think the NHS should be protected at all costs, and chatting to Burnley residents, I can also see the frustration they experience in even getting a GP appointment when they need it.
“I’m pleased that Labour have said they will scrap the 8am morning rush and work to recruit more GPs.”
I pressed Oliver on what went wrong for Labour at the last general election, when the borough voted in its forst Conservative MP for around a century, tearing down another brick in the party’s previously, long-standing, sturdy ‘red wall’.
Not surprisngly, Brexit and what Oliver described as Jeremy Corbyn’s “electroral kryptonite” are two reasons previous Labour MP Julie Cooper was kicked out by the electorate and what he needs to do to convince the Burnley public to again back the red rosette.
“Burnley voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and we now have to deliver on it. I visited Brussels as a student and didn’t like what I saw in terms of the waste and MEPs’ expenses.
“I understand the desire for sovereignty but we now have to have a conversation about the so-called Brexit dividend, which frankly hasn’t happened. Labour want the UK to be the fastest growing economy and that must be outside of the EU, but in a position that allows our businesses to tap into the huge EU market more easily.”
On the issue of immigration, another key element in the Brexit vote, Oliver said the decision to pull out of the Dublin Agreement, which saw immigration claims on the continent, must be renewed, alongside the remote processing of claims.
He added: “We have got to manage the economy more competently. Britain is now seen as a riskier choice for investors than it was previously. We need to see supply side reforms to combat the ever-increasing price of food, which will help us put more money back into people’s pockets.
“Inflation is not being exacerbated by salary increases. We need to better regulate the utility companies, particularly the petro-chemical companies, who are making billions of pounds of profits while ordinary people are struggling.”
Another repetitive talking point on people’s doorsteps, Oliver reveals, was local policing and how anti-social behaviour, drugs and petty crime were blighting people’s lives.
He went on to attack the Tory government for cutting the number of police officers over recent years and said Labour would recruit more officers if elected.
I could not let Oliver go without quizzing him about Burnley’s biggest ‘export’ and perhaps most important economic asset – the Clarets.
“I’m not a huge football fan,” he admitted, “but I have been on the Turf a couple of times and for drinks in the pubs around the ground after the game. I really enjoyed the experience and it’s plain to see just how important Burnley Football Club is to the town’s residents and the strong role it plays in the community. Economically, the biggest thing Burnley has is the football club.”
He ended by saying his final key aim was to keep more young people in Burnley by creating more skilled jobs and opportunities to give the borough’s youngsters a good future.
“UCLan setting up base in Burnley has been such a positive thing and a relationship I want to build on.”