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Rosena Allin-Khan: ‘I’ll continue A&E work as Labour’s deputy leader’

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Tooting MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan still works A&E shifts at her constituency hospital.

Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan has said she will continue her work as an A&E doctor even if she is elected as the party’s deputy leader.

Before becoming an MP in 2016, Dr Allin-Khan worked in the A&E department at St George’s Hospital in her Tooting constituency.

She has continued doing occasional shifts at the south London hospital ever since, and promised this will not stop if she becomes deputy leader.

In an interview with Yahoo News UK, Dr Allin-Khan said she doesn’t want to “throw away” years of medical training and that MPs benefit from serving their communities “through doing an everyday job”.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan speaking at a deputy leadership hustings in Durham last month. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

After Labour’s general election disaster, suffering its worst result since 1935, Dr Allin-Khan also compared the party’s rebuilding task to her work with patients.

She said: “When you’re a doctor and someone comes in with a problem, you spend a lot of time talking to them, taking their medical history, doing an examination and taking tests before you prescribe a medicine if you need to.

“That’s what we’ve got to do with our party and communities we lost.”

Dr Allin-Khan is up against Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler, Ian Murray and Angela Rayner in the deputy leadership contest, for which ballots opened last week.

Deputy leadership candidates Richard Burgon, Angela Rayner, Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler and Ian Murray. (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Her work as an A&E doctor is a key part of her pitch to party members, saying it was a Labour government that transformed her life and enabled her to go to medical school after failing her exams.

Speaking in her Westminster office, Dr Allin-Khan said: “I grew up under a Thatcher and Major government and was made to feel a lot of opportunities in life weren’t for someone like me: a background with a single mum, mixed-race, poor. I was made to feel there was a ceiling as to what I could achieve. The Labour Party turned that round for me.”

Reflecting on her continued work at St George’s, Dr Allin-Khan said: “My priority is my community as MP. But I do shifts on nights, weekends or in the recess. I worked over the Christmas and New Year period.” The latest register of MPs’ financial interests showed she was paid £367.50 for a shift on January 2.

Dr Allin-Khan continued: “It’s the institution I’m most proud of when I look at Labour achievements. It’s who I am. I put my scrubs on, drink my cup of tea out of a polystyrene cup. It’s just real graft and supporting the community.”

Read more: Labour deputy leadership interviews

Of continuing this as deputy leader, she added: “I don’t want to throw years of training away, and 15 years of a career. I want to stay skilled. I’d be doing it in my personal time so it wouldn’t in any way affect the job I’d be doing [as deputy leader].

“Public service comes in many forms and working on the A&E frontline is really something I love doing. It’s good for MPs to stay in touch with their communities through doing an everyday job. It makes a lot of sense – I certainly get a lot out of it.”

Asked what her last shift told her about the state of the NHS, Dr Allin-Khan said: “It reiterated much of what I see every time I do a shift, which is the chronic under-investment in our NHS.

“You also see people coming in with symptoms related to wider issues. Poor housing leads children to come in with bad lung conditions because they are breathing in mouldy fumes in their home. You see it all.”

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan with Sadiq Khan on the day of the Tooting by-election in May 2016. Dr Allin-Khan replaced Khan as MP after he was elected mayor of London. (Mary Turner/Getty Images)

Dr Allin-Khan announced she was running for deputy leader in January, in the face of advice from unnamed MPs who told her not to stand: “There were people who told me I shouldn’t do it because I’ll never make it [onto the ballot], and that for my own sake I should just withdraw.

“But I didn’t listen, did I, and here I am. I’m sure they regret it now.”

She added: “I have got more grit, determination and energy per square inch of body mass than anyone you’ll ever meet, let alone the other candidates.”

One of the candidates, Butler, said in a recent interview with Yahoo News UK that she wouldn’t try and change the minds of Tory voters because this would mean “playing to some kind of Conservative narrative to try and win them over”.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan holds up her 'grassroots revival' plan for the Labour Party at a hustings in Glasgow last month. (Robert Perry/Getty Images)

Dr Allin-Khan said she strongly disagreed with this. “That’s [a strategy] destined for failure. It further creates divide in our communities that doesn’t need to be there. We should be uniting our communities, particularly in this post-Brexit climate.

“We do that by enshrining our messages in common values. If we decide to not speak to an entire portion of the electorate, we will never ever be able to rebuild and deliver a Labour government.”

She added: “Everyone wants to put a roof over their family’s heads, to provide for their family, opportunities for their children, streets that are safe, an NHS that works. Tell me where the divide is there between Labour and Tory [voters]? There is none.

“We need to have a leadership team that acknowledges this and make sure our messages are delivered in a way that appeals to every voter, because we really can.”

Rosena Allin-Khan: Quick-fire questions

Sum up the Corbyn leadership in one word.

Energising.

What was your last conversation with Corbyn?

It was about football. I’m a Liverpool supporter, he’s an Arsenal supporter. I said we’re doing really well!

Who is your favourite Labour leader of your lifetime?

I like different leaders for different reasons. I was a big fan of Gordon Brown but the Blair government got me out of poverty and put me into medical school. Jeremy brought a debate we hadn’t seen for a long time in this country. So I don’t really have one.

What was your first thought when you saw the exit poll on election night?

I can’t swear. When I realised that so many of my fantastic colleagues who worked tirelessly for their communities were losing their seats, I felt sickened.

Would you like Corbyn to be in the shadow cabinet?

That’s for the leader to decide.

If you don’t become deputy leader, which of the other four candidates would you like to win?

The only candidate I’m picturing is me.

How many Tory MPs are you friendly with?

Quite a few. I play on the parliamentary women’s football team. It’s cross-party, so on the football pitch we put politics aside and focus on winning.

Out of all the Tory MPs, who do you respect the most?

Tracey Crouch. She is a football buddy but also she resigned on a real point of principle about gambling. She loved her job as minister for sport and had promises made as to what would be achieved on gambling. When it was clear Theresa May had absolutely no plans to deliver on that, she resigned, which I respect.

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