#ELLGE19: Olga FitzRoy – from the Foo Fighters to fighting for Labour

On the campaign trail. Pic: Olga FitzRoy

Imagine working with Coldplay and Foo Fighters, or being part of the audio team for the 2012 Olympics. Then imagine being placed 11th in the BBC Women in Music Power List, alongside Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Adele, coming ahead of Annie Mac and Cardi B. 

And then imagine slogging along the pavements on cold November evenings in what is probably a hopeless fight as the Labour candidate for Croydon South, a famously Tory seat that’s been blue since its creation in 1974.

At a glance music production and politics appear worlds apart but Olga FitzRoy, 37, sees it differently. Speaking to Eastlondonlines she said: “It’s all about people — you need a basic competency in being able to work a mixing desk but the biggest part of it is dealing with people and understanding how different people work.” 

For FitzRoy, jumping onto the campaign trail is just the next step on a journey that in recent years where she has also immersed herself in the worlds of motherhood and grassroots campaigning, having been a member of the Labour party since 2015.   

On the #SelfieLeave Pic: Olga FitzRoy

Educated at a comprehensive in St Andrews, Scotland, she went on to take the Tonmeister degree at Surrey University. This included a one-year placement at the renowned AIR Studios in Hampstead, London. From here she forged a career in the notoriously male-dominated production industry, joining AIR the year she graduated, and has remained since, working alongside acts such as Guillemots and Noah and the Whale .

The music producer then became involved in politics when she began campaigning for Tracy Brabin’s #SelfieLeave Bill, which fights for self-employed parents’ access to shared pay and leave. Her efforts won her ‘campaigner of the year’ at the Women in Music Awards run by Music Week magazine.

Her involvement acted as a conduit: “It involved a lot of talking to politicians and getting them to do stuff, but I think because I’m a bit of a control freak I just thought I could just do it myself.”   

FitzRoy in the production studio. Pic: Olga FitzRoy

With a four-year-old child there’s little doubt that the infamously intense campaign trail could be exhausting for FitzRoy, but she shrugs it off: “I quite like being busy. I find It more stressful not being busy so I sort of just go with the flow.” 

With her partner a Labour party member it is clear the trail is set to be a full family affair: “My Mum is coming down to help in December, and my son was out on the picket line with me on Wednesday for the sixth-form college strike.” 

Seemingly unfazed by the prospect of being both a mother and MP, she thinks more needs to be done for both parents and women in parliament, but things are looking up: “I think proxy voting was huge, before that women off on mat[ernity] leave would get angry letters from constituents asking why they didn’t vote on things, when they physically couldn’t vote because they were giving birth.” 

Pic: Olga FitzRoy

Earlier this month, The Daily Mail brought up comments FitzRoy had tweeted last year in response to a controversial statement Jeremy Corbyn had made about some members of the Jewish Community not understanding English irony. The tweet said: “Questioning the ‘Englishness’ of Zionists is pretty offensive” and “has really nasty connotations.” 

She claims she didn’t know she would end up running to be a Labour politician when she wrote the tweets, but when asked whether she’s worried about how the tweets might impact her relationship with her potential future boss she said: “If we make comments that are offensive to a community or a group of people we can’t pretend they are not offensive just because this person might be my boss. I don’t know if Jeremy has apologised or not but I think if we phrase things badly we need to be held to account” adding: “we’ve never met. But he seems like a reasonable person and I’m sure we can have a chat about it.” 

Overall FitzRoy isn’t worried by the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party: “There has always been someone making a racist comment in every party. It happens, but it seems in Labour we haven’t dealt with the anti-Semitism ones very well – it just spiralled.” 

Instead she believes that individuals that behave “abhorrently” should be dealt with by an independent complaints board, to prevent issues such as this from becoming political in the first place.  

On the trail for Labour. Pic: Olga FitzRoy

Why Croydon South? FitzRoy is jumping into a battle the Conservatives won by a cool 18.6 per cent margin in 2017 and 29.7 per cent in 2015. But for the Streatham resident it was the perfect opportunity: “Croydon is the neighbouring borough. I’ve lived in south London ever since I moved to London. So it felt like a natural choice.”  

Recently Peter Sonnex, candidate for the Brexit Party, stepped down from Croydon South and relocated to Croydon Central. “[It] is a bit annoying. Obviously it helps my colleague Sarah Jones in Croydon Central as he will take some votes off Tories there. But for me it’s not great that he’s stood down, but it just shows that the Tories are basically the equivalent of the Brexit party” 

FitzRoy says she will be running from a platform closer to social democracy than democratic socialism: “But on the other hand I’m a lot to the left of people like Tony Blair or Chuka Umunna. I’m soft-left-ish.”  

Her campaign aims to champion a final say on Brexit, Remain, and education, adding that Labour’s policies for education in the new manifesto are “brilliant” and that the manifesto on the whole “absolutely” reflects the reasons she is a member of the Labour Party.  

“Things that have been gradually dismantled over the years have been put back in; [like] free school meals for all primary school kids and the education maintenance grant for 16-19 year olds that are disadvantaged to make sure they can stay in school and don’t need to go off and find a job.” 

In 2017 the Conservative party candidate for Croydon South, Chris Philp received 5.4 per cent of the vote. Labour received 35.8 per cent while the Liberal Democrats and UK Independence Party received 5.8 and 1.8 per cent respectively.  

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