“It’s been a whirlwind”: Labour candidate for Bolton West Phil Brickell on his election campaign

Bolton West will head to the polls next week to decide their next MP, and one of those who will vie for the position is Labour candidate Phil Brickell – who hopes to gain the support of the local community on Labour’s platform of ‘change’.

But what exactly is the change he and his party offers?

MM asked the Manchester councillor what it would mean for him to represent his town.

He said: “I’m from Bolton, it is where I grew up, it is my home town.

“What motivates me to stand to be the next member of parliament is service. If I’m elected to be the next MP I’ll be a strong voice for people across the constituency where people feel like they’ve been left behind.”


There are many issues which face voters in this election and none more important than the NHS – which Brickell highlighted as something which directly impacts Bolton West.

He said: “Many people are struggling to access services, whether that’s the eight o’clock scramble for a GP appointment, whether that’s the fact that there are many people waiting on trolleys in A&E at Bolton hospital.

“We’ve had towns like Westhoughton and Horwich grow an awful lot over the last few years. But the infrastructures haven’t been there in terms of whether that’s GP surgeries in primary care.”

“If I am elected I will be banging the drum about the need for investing in our NHS services.”

And investment has been a touch point for all parties, very much including Labour.

The party launched their manifesto with the phrase ‘the NHS is not for sale’ removed, and a few months ago shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the private sector would be needed to cut waiting lists.

When asked about private sector involvement, Mr Brickell said: “Well, I want to see an NHS that’s publicly funded, free at the point of use.

“The last Labour government brought those down and achieved the highest patient satisfaction there has ever been and I am very confident that Wes Streeting as health secretary, and the new Labour government, can do that once again.”

I pressed him on if he supported increased use of the private sector.

“Well, we need to have the extra capacity to bring waiting lists down and at the party we’ll be looking at, yes, the private sector to do that in the short term.

“But I certainly want to see a publicly funded, free at the point of use health service.”

Junior doctors’ strike

Mr Brickell told the MEN that his earliest political memory was standing with his dad on the picket lines for ambulance pay rises.

With the junior doctor strikes likely to continue when a new government is formed, I questioned what how he would support the strikes if he became an MP and what his message would be to a potential Labour government.

He said: “My message is: let’s get around the table, let’s have this discussion between hopefully a Labour Government and the junior doctors, and let’s come to a resolution that works in favour of not only the doctors but also patients.

“All too often the government has kicked down the road and failed to engage and failed to have that discussion.”

He spoke about how junior doctors should know that if a Labour government came into power they would be ‘on their side’ and ensure they get treated ‘with the dignity and respect that they deserve in the workplace’.

Private school policy and inequalities

Private schools, like Bolton School, will be impacted by Labour’s VAT plans.

But Mr Brickell, who attended the school on a bursary, insisted that the issue doesn’t come up much on the doorstep: “It doesn’t get mentioned all that often, it impacts 7% of children across the country.

“I have a full and frank discussion over the matter with people – that Labour is being honest with people about the fact that the public finances are stretched about the fact that we have to make tough choices.”

The plans would be used to fund 6,500 specialist teachers in state secondary schools, and provide for mental health provision in every school.

I asked about what the Labour government would do in terms of deprivation as Bolton has 36.7% of children living in poverty and his party has ruled out lifting the two-child benefit cap.

He insisted that they want to see it scrapped as soon as possible, but said they have to make ‘tough choices’.

“The increasing reliance on food banks is on our collective conscience – it’s something that this government has allowed to get out of control, we do need to address it, we will do so as soon as we can.”

His message to those who want to criticise Labour’s record on child poverty: “The last Labour government took half a million pensioners and half a million children out of poverty – so I’ll take no lessons from anybody who wants to criticise Labour on this point.”

But, no matter the record of the last Labour government, research points out a further 250,000 children will be plunged into poverty if the cap is not lifted.

Hong Kong

Mr Brickell has been very vocal on the Hong Kong cause, with a statement of his support on the ‘Vote for Hong Kong’ campaign website.

He told me about why he will stand up for Hongkongers in his constituency and across the UK: “I’ve spoken to many people from the Hong Kong community in Westhoughton and in Horwich in particular. Their concerns are around making sure they’ve got a flight path to obtaining British citizenship in the UK, also around settling into their new communities.

“I am more than willing to stand up for them in the face of repression, either at home or abroad, because Britain has a historical responsibility to that part of the world.”

When asked if there were any policies in the Labour manifesto which directly helped the Hong Kong community, he said: “I’m afraid I don’t know off the top of my head.”

In their manifesto it says ‘we will stand with and support members of the Hong Kong community who have relocated to the UK’ – but no mention of any direct policy to help them with routes to full citizenship.

“It’s been a whirlwind”

Mr Brickell made a point to talk about his local roots, so I asked him what makes him proud to be from Bolton.

He said: “I’m really proud to come from Bolton because I know so many generous, well spirited people have contributed so much to our towns over the years.

“I think there’s a really generous, well rooted, can-do attitude in all our towns, and that’s what makes me so happy and so proud to be standing as a candidate in my hometown.”

On how he felt just a week out from the general election, he said: “It’s been a whirlwind.

“I’ve been out knocking on doors three or four times a day, every single day of this campaign, I have spoken to thousands of people and I’ve enjoyed it all the way through.

“There’s nothing more that I like than having a chat with people.”

On whether he was confident of a victory in this election – the incumbent MP is the Conservatives’ Chris Green, who was also approached by MM for an interview – he did not hedge his bets: “I’m cautiously optimistic.

“I take nothing for granted and I’m fighting for every vote, I take polls with a pinch of salt.”

There seems to be no change in the mood from the Labour camp, which maintains there is no guarantee of a straightforward win, and Mr Brickell, like most of the candidates in this election, have decided not to stray away from the the campaign’s main slogans.

A total of six candidates are standing in Bolton West: Phil Brickell for Labour, Chris Green for the Conservative Party, Vicki Helen Attenborough for the Green Party, Dylan Evans for Reform UK, Patrick Robert McGrath for the English Democrats, and Donald McIntosh for the Liberal Democrats. Read MM’s interview with Donald McIntosh here.

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