A Year as Your MP

A year ago today, in the early hours of Friday 8th May, I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Ilford North.

I had arrived at the count, about half an hour before the result was announced, with the expectation that we had lost. Across the UK, Labour was taking a hammering and it had become clear that the Tories would win a majority. Ilford North was 83rd on Labour's 106-strong target list and it seemed inconceivable that we would win.

At around 350am, it was announced that we'd done it and I was elected with a majority of 589. I had only prepared a concession speech, so my acceptance speech was from the heart. You can see it on Sky News here.

It was, and remains, the biggest honour of my life to represent my home community in Parliament and I'm still so grateful to my brilliant campaign team and all those who put their faith in me. I hope I haven't let you down during my first year.

What a year it's been. We've been out on the doorstep every week this year, reassuring people that we don't just call at election time! We set up a visible constituency office on Woodford Avenue, held fortnightly advice surgeries and helped thousands of people with their problems. We haven't always got the results we wanted, but we always try our best. I want to thank my small, but dedicated, team of staff for their hard work in handling the thousands of pieces of correspondence that we receive every week!

The very first issue I raised in Parliament was the future of the Accident and Emergency Department at King George Hospital. We've launched a new community campaign, mobilised hundreds of people and exposed plans to close the A&E department overnight. Working with Mike Gapes, this will be my number one priority during this Parliament.

Since the election, I've been one of the most active MPs (according towww.theyworkforyou.com), speaking in 76 debates, which is well above average. I was elected to the Commons Treasury Select Committee, where I've been able to question people like the Chancellor and Governor of the Bank of England about our economic policy and its impact on families locally. It's also given me a platform to take up big issues - like tackling aggressive tax avoidance by multinational companies and opposing cuts to tax credits.

One of the highlights of my year, was George Osborne u-turning on cuts to tax credits, especially after I told him to "put his toys back in his pram" and go back to the drawing board. You can watch it here: http://news.sky.com/video/1576954/put-your-toys-back-in-pram.

The conversations I have with people on the doorstep, in my surgeries and via e-mail, directly inform my work in Parliament. When a student nurse visited me in tears because she was struggling to afford her course, I led the charge against government plans to abolish the NHS Bursary and charge nurses, midwives and other NHS professionals tuition fees, leading two parliamentary debates, tabling an early day motion (a bit like a petition for MPs) and working with Labour's Shadow Health Secretary to table a parliamentary motion for debate.

When a group of cabbies came to meet me at Rowans in Barkingside to talk to me about the threat to their iconic trade, I put together a Ten Minute Rule Bill (backbench Bill) that would deliver fairer competition and safety for passengers, working with the London Taxi Drivers Association, trades unions and others. I get more e-mail about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than any other international issue and so I visited the West Bank with Medical Aid for Palestinians and CAABU to see what was happening first hand. I work with Labour Friends of Israel AND Labour Friends of Palestine to support a peaceful two state solution, while speaking out against illegal expansion of settlements, West Bank demolitions and injustices within the military courts system.

I'm passionate about education and the life chances of our young people in Redbridge. I was delighted to be elected as an Honorary President of the British Youth Council and I've welcomed as many local schools to Parliament as possible, as well as going out to talk to students at primary and secondary schools across Ilford North as I can. I worked with the National Union of Students to campaign against the Government's policy to scrap student grants and have hosted meetings in Parliament on issues like young people's mental health. I've also taken part in the Speaker's Scheme for Parliamentary Internships, which aims to get people from under-represented backgrounds into politics, by taking on a brilliant paid intern in my parliamentary office.

I've represented the full diversity of our community in Parliament. I'm co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) against Islamophobia and co-chair of the APPG for British Jews. I've spoken out against Islamophobia and antisemitism wherever it has manifested itself - including, sadly, in my own Party. I spoke up against heavy handed policing at the Sikh Lives Matter protest in central London and attended events as an active member of the APPG for Hindus. I've also attended local Buddhist community festivals. As vice chair of the APPG for Tamils, I've spoken up about Tamil human rights in Sri Lanka and joined the British Tamil Forum at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where we successfully lobbied for a resolution on human rights in Sri Lanka.

I've continued to raise the importance of holding the Sri Lankan government to have international involvement in the prosecution of war crimes during the Sri Lankan civil war. I led the annual debate on Holocaust Memorial Day as vice chair of the APPG against antisemitism. I was named 'Labour Backbencher of the Year' at the Asian Voice Awards. I've also spoken up for LGBT equality as one of Parliament's record number of openly gay MPs.

I've really enjoyed attended community events and meeting with groups across Ilford North, from local charities like disability charity Uniting Friends and Hopes and Dreams to religious and cultural groups like Broadmead Baptist Church and the Redbridge Bengali Welfare Association. We've also started a programme of tours of Parliament on Thursday nights to give as many people as possible to come and visit your Parliament, launched with Barkingside 21.

There have been some difficult and challenging moments. I really agonised over my vote on extending air strikes to Syria before deciding that the case hadn't been made and voting against. I find housing, immigration and social security casework really tough, because often I can't get the right result for residents because the system is broken and I know how hard some families have been hit. I'm proud to have supported Redbridge Foodbank, but ashamed that they're needed in our community in this century.

Having gone from being Deputy Leader of Redbridge's Labour Council to being back in opposition in Parliament, I know the difference that being in power makes and the heavy price that people are paying because Labour lost the general election. If there are times that I have been critical of my party and successive leaders it's because I'm desperate to see a Labour government able to change our country for the better. I promised voters in Ilford North that I would be an independent-minded MP and stand up for Ilford North and I have honoured that promise. Labour's success in Ilford North and Sadiq Khan's success in London shows that we win when we concentrate on the issues that really matter to people and build a big and inclusive tent.

I wouldn't swap this job for any job in the world. So here's to the past year and here's to the next. I'll do my best to learn from my mistakes, as well as successes, and I'll never forget who's boss: the people of Ilford North. Here's to the year ahead.


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published this page in News 2016-08-31 13:21:04 +0100

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