There are many strong candidates in the Labour leadership and deputy leadership races. As leader of Labour’s MEPs, I have, of course, worked very closely with Keir Starmer in his shadow cabinet Brexit role, but I have also seen first hand how effective he can be on other issues. I have nominated him for leader and wish him and his excellent campaign well.
For deputy leader, I have nominated Tooting’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan. She may be less well-known than some of the candidates, but she is an impressive and engaging woman. I hope colleagues in the Labour Party will take a few minutes to consider why I think they too should support her.
An NHS doctor, Rosena was elected as an MP on the same day that the incredible Jo Cox was brutally murdered. With the 2016 referendum coming just a week later, Dr Rosena had a tempestuous and tragic start to her parliamentary term. Within a year she was fighting for her seat again, increasing her majority by around 9,000 and holding it again in 2019.
In a climate of rising Euroscepticism and racism, this is a remarkable achievement for a BAME woman with mixed Pakistani-Polish heritage. And her commitment to her heritage and her values is strong – she speaks Polish, a fact I was delighted to discover recently. The increase in her majority is a tribute to her campaigning skills, further illustrated by her recent video based on a scene from the film Love Actually.
Most impressive, though, is her drive to give voice to the voiceless at home and abroad. As vice-chair of the European Parliament delegation to SE Asia, I worked with her to raise awareness of the plight of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh – including thousands of children who had lost their parents – ‘unaccompanied minors’. We both saw first-hand the terrible conditions in which these children suffered, and as ever, Rosena rolled up her sleeves and used her medical expertise to help where she could.
Minorities always suffer more in times of trouble – be they wars, terrorism, natural disasters or climate change. Regardless of Brexit, compassionate policies on refugees, especially child refugees, are the mark of a civilised modern democracy. Rosena has long been an advocate of former Battersea MP (now Lord) Alf Dubs’ amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill protecting the rights of child refugees. This was shamefully voted down by the Tories this week, but I know that this will not be the end of the battle as far as Rosena is concerned.
From a difficult background herself, Rosena has spent her adult life helping others in need – as a doctor, a councillor and as an MP. She is an example of all that is best in the labour movement, which is why I am proud to have nominated her. Her NHS experience will resonate across the country. I hope I can encourage you to support her in becoming Labour’s deputy leader.