Election Interview: Olivia Blake, Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam
In the run up to December's General Election, our election correspondent Joshua Sandiford will be creating profiles of key marginal constituencies around the country, combining the key statistics with interviews with the major candidates. In this article, Joshua interviews Olivia Blake, Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam.
Olivia Blake, the Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam, moved to the city 10 years ago as a student. She soon got involved in local politics and worked her way up to become deputy leader of the local council.
On the campaign trail, Blake is likely to face questions over the controversy surrounding the previous Labour MP, Jared O’Mara.
O'Mara was suspended from the Labour party after a series of offensive comments he made surfaced online. He then took time out as he struggled with mental health problems.
The Parliamentary Review asked Blake about the lack of representation in Sheffield Hallam and what she would do if she became an MP.
How is the campaign going?
It's been going really well, we've been having loads of conversations with people and doing a huge amount of work going out and listening to what matters to people. Lots of different issues are coming up across the constituency.
Brexit is at the forefront of a lot of peoples minds and it's a predominantly Remain constituency. Lots of people are raising their experiences with the NHS, which has been quite telling about the state of the NHS, and people are very concerned about that. The other big [issues] are public transport and the climate emergency. Lots of issues are swirling around people's minds.
Brexit is at the forefront of a lot of peoples minds and it's a predominantly Remain constituency.
What have you heard from people on the doorstep?
People are definitely focused on the national picture at this election but some people do have local issues which I've been trying to help them with. Some of those can be very personal and quite difficult and challenging issues. Other issues include how services have been run down and how cuts have been made to local services. It all interlinks; people are seeing the impact of austerity on their local services and are quite concerned about that.
My top three priorities are: rebuilding our public services and getting more investment into the north and into Sheffield Hallam; really pushing on the climate agenda and making sure Labour's Green New Deal and industrial revolution come to fruition and trying to get us out of this Brexit chaos. The only way we are going to [solve Brexit] is through Labour's position of having a second vote.
It all interlinks; people are seeing the impact of austerity on their local services and are quite concerned about that.
Are people mentioning the lack of representation and Jarad O'Mara?
I do think people think have been quite disappointed and I have said previously that I was pleased when Jared announced he was going to resign. Obviously, he chose not to do that and I think that was the wrong decision of him to take.
He's not a very well man and he needs to get the support that he can. I have been helping a lot of people with casework and I've been supporting them with different issues and try and be a help to people in need.
Obviously, he [O'Mara] chose not to do that and I think that was the wrong decision of him to take.
Can you tell us about your work as a local councillor?
I'm a councillor just outside the constituency and I came here about 10 years ago as a student. I studied biomedical science and I went on and worked in that field for a little while and then decided to stand for election and got elected as a councillor. I worked in political communications for a little while and I've been a trustee of different boards.
I've kept my interest in health sciences and access to health care and I took on the finance brief at the council and was deputy leader before recently resigning the position.
I'm a councillor just outside the constituency and I came here about 10 years ago as a student.
And how do you think these positions have helped you with the skills needed to be an MP?
I think the job of an MP is a very broad one and my role as a councillor has definitely given me the experience of helping people with casework and representing people. It's also given me a huge amount of experience in policy development.
As a cabinet member, I was responsible for policy development in the finance area, developing ethical procurement policies, insourcing projects and overseeing the budget of a 1.5 billion pound organisation.
It's been quite a big job that I've taken on and I don't shy away from hard work. To be fair, I often think that I get a little bit underestimated because I do have a lot of experience and I do have a lot to give.
I think that I would be a good MP, I've got the passion to make the argument for people and as an activist, I have campaigned for change so I know what it takes to make change from the grassroots right up to the board level.
I have campaigned for change so I know what it takes to make change from the grassroots right up to the board level.
And finally, what is your message for the people of Sheffield Hallam?
My message to the people of Sheffield Hallam is whether you're a nurse, a doctor, a teacher or you work for a small business, Labour are on your side and in me, you would have an MP who would work hard for you and stand up for you.