The Labour party has shaped who I am today. It has helped provide me with the opportunity to train as a doctor and has given me and my family life chances we otherwise would not have had. I want everyone to experience these opportunities. It deeply saddens me to see a lost generation for whom the door closed on their dreams and ambitions on 12 December.
Growing up poor and cold while my single mum worked three jobs to support me and my brother taught me the reality of day-to-day life for many people in the UK.
My mother always told me, even through our darkest moments, that there were people worse off than us – and I have never forgotten that. The Labour party changed my life. Despite failing my A-levels due to difficult circumstances at home, I was finally able to go to Cambridge University at the age of 24 to study medicine because of reforms the Labour party made in government.
People did not know what we stood for – the Tories had three simple words
Working on the A&E frontline has shown me the best and worst of society. A&E is a microcosm of real life. I hold parents as they say goodbye to their children who have died through senseless violence. I talk to nurses who tell me they can’t afford to feed their children and are having to use foodbanks. I treat older people who just want the dignity of accessing social care in their homes.
But I also see hope. The UK is full of people pushing through barriers to serve their communities.
Our NHS provided me with the skills to give back to society – it spurred me on to work as a humanitarian aid doctor in disaster zones across the world, something that I have been proud to continue during my time as an MP. I am proud of the internationalist views of the Labour party – we must never turn our backs on the world’s most vulnerable. On the border of Myanmar, it was shocking to listen to the stories of Rohingya refugees speaking of having to make the impossible decision of whether to save their child who was thrown alive on to a burning fire, or escape with their surviving child. We must not turn our backs on those who are living through the absolute worst of human atrocities. In Palestine, I was heartbroken to meet children who were undergoing cancer treatment utterly alone because their parents were unable to obtain permits to accompany them.
Humanity should have no borders.
Only with a Labour government can the UK have a truly outward, internationalist approach, ensuring that we are there for people in their times of greatest need.
In order to be in government, we must get our house in order, and as deputy leader this would be my priority.
We cannot look to champion equality abroad, while turning a blind eye to racism in our party. This needs to end. As deputy leader, my first major meeting would be with the Jewish Labour Movement – they are our official Jewish affiliate; we must listen. I want JLM to be at the forefront of this fight against antisemitism, especially when it comes to education at the grassroots level. I will separate the complaints process from HQ, making it independent and asking the new team to immediately review all cases, acting swiftly and expelling antisemites. There must also be a strict time limit by which cases need to be resolved. I commit to adopt every recommendation proposed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, without hesitation. Enough is enough.
Only then will we be able to start rebuilding trust. Communities across the country have turned away from Labour, thinking that we do not represent them. We must listen with humility to people across our country and across our movement to assess why we’ve lost the last four elections, and how we can win people back.
From speaking to people in seats that we lost in December, I have been told that trust in us has gone. People did not know what we stood for – there appeared to be new policies announced every day and voters did not trust that we had a plan for how to deliver them. The Tories had three simple words.
To win, we need to be able to communicate our messages, not just internally, but with the public. I will focus on grassroots campaigners being armed with the information and messaging that they need to talk to voters on the doorstep. I will equip candidates and their local Labour parties with the resources that they so desperately need. I will introduce reduced membership rates to our emergency service workers so they can have a say within Labour on the NHS at this vital time.
We need to build our movement into one people can vote for. A party people can trust.
Under this government, which has chosen to block child refugees from reunification with their families, I worry for the future of our children. I worry for the future of tolerance. I worry for the future of compassion.
We have a wonderful society, which has welcomed so many people from across the world, but the hostile environment this government is imposing on our country is restricting the ability to hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for a tolerant society.
The door may have closed on 12 December for a generation’s hopes and ambitions, but with the right leadership team in place in the Labour party, it will not be closed for good. We need to win the next general election, and we must start rebuilding trust ahead of local elections in May. As deputy leader, it will be my responsibility to rebuild trust, not just with the grassroots of our party, but with voters. Together, we can take Labour forward.
• Rosena Allin-Khan is Labour MP for Tooting