Four candidates included in shortlist for Burnley parliamentary selection

Katie Neame
©️ Jakub Junek/

Update, July 30th: Tameside councillor Oliver Ryan has been selected as the Labour candidate for Burnley.

Burnley has had a very changeable recent political history, having been represented at different times by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories since 2010. It is currently held by Conservative Antony Higginbotham, who won the seat in 2019 with a slim majority of 1,352. Labour held the constituency for the majority of the 20th century and throughout the New Labour years. Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle won the seat at the 2010 election, but it was regained by Labour’s Julie Cooper in 2015 and held in 2017, before being lost to the Tories two years later – the first time the Conservatives had won the seat in more than a century.

Burnley was announced as one of a second tranche of 21 seats in which the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) was allowed by the central party to get started on its selection process early. With such a slim Tory majority and such a long Labour history in the seat, it is unsurprising that it has been identified as a target gain. A shortlist for the constituency’s next parliamentary candidate has now been finalised and hustings are scheduled for July 30th – after which local members will vote for who they want to be Labour’s parliamentary candidate.

Ashley Dalton has made it on to the shortlist. Dalton has worked for many years within local government, including spending 17 years working in various roles for Southend-on-Sea council. She is a trainer with the Labour Women’s Network, delivering political and personal development training to women within the party. She has twice stood unsuccessfully as Labour’s candidate in Rochford and Southend East, in 2017 and 2019, securing more than 30% of the vote on both occasions in a traditionally safe Tory seat.

Next on the list is Lancashire County councillor Sobia Malik. She was first elected to the council in 2016 to represent Burnley Central East and has been a shadow cabinet member on the council for five years. Malik previously served for four years as a councillor on Burnley Borough Council. She has held the role of secretary of her local Labour branch for seven years. Outside of politics, she worked as a teacher and then as an education consultant for local authorities, focusing on schools in deprived areas of the North West. She is chief executive of Northern Community Network, a charity based in Burnley.

Oliver Ryan has also been shortlisted. Ryan has been a councillor on Tameside council since 2014 representing Audenshaw ward, having first been elected at the age of 19. He was previously the youngest executive member in the North West. Ryan currently serves as a national executive committee member and chief whip of Labour Local Government. He is also director of the Labour Local Government Campaign Cooperative, which offers campaigning and communications support to Labour groups. Ryan is chair of his CLP and secretary of his local Labour Party branch.

Rounding out the list in Burnley is Mark Townsend. He is a councillor on Burnley council, representing Brunshaw ward, and currently serves as executive member for economy and growth. He served as mayor of Burnley between 2021 and 2022 and prior to that held the role of leader of the council.

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