There has been some debate about labelling our NHS workers as ‘heroes’, and I have seen a number of quotes from various members of the medical profession pointing out that they aren’t heroes, just people doing an extremely challenging job at a very difficult time. Indeed, because of the connection between the military and heroes, it has been noted in some quarters that they could be perceived as expendable, rather like in wartime.
This and similar debates will rumble on, but I want to confess my total admiration for one doctor in my locality who surely ticks all the boxes in the hero category. Of course, Rosena Allin-Khan isn’t just a medical consultant working on the front line at St. George’s, one of London’s major teaching hospitals, she also happens to be the MP for Tooting in south London and Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health.
In my view, Allin-Khan represents the very best of what this country can offer. She has a Polish mother and Pakistani father and grew up in a poor household. At 18 she would have been classified as an academic failure as she failed all her ‘A’ levels. Yet six years later she was reading medicine at Cambridge and has a Master’s degree in public health. She subsequently worked in disaster zones across the world.
She recently said: ‘The Labour party did change my life and gave me opportunities that wouldn’t have happened under the status quo. It wouldn’t have been possible for someone with a background like mine to have gone to medical school otherwise.’
Allin-Khan was elected as MP the day that Jo Cox was murdered in 2016. She was Shadow Minister for Sport under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, and in case you are wondering why, my new heroine is also an amateur boxer. I am genuinely wondering how she fits all this in – have I mentioned that she has a husband and two children under six?
Until recently few people outside south London had heard of Allin-Khan; she was one of the early candidates for deputy leader of the Labour party in the 2020 ballot, but when Covid-19 took hold she abandoned her bid to go and work with patients at St. George’s and at the new Nightingale Hospital in East London.
It all changed when last week she asked a question in Parliament of ‘Hancock the Hapless Health Secretary’. Allin-Khan noted that the government’s failures were contributing to a greater loss of life and she wanted answers on its testing strategy. Hancock’s response was straight out of The Sexist Handbook. He suggested that what she was saying was not true and that she ‘might do well to take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone’.
Here we go again. Does anyone remember David Cameron telling Angela Eagle, Shadow Treasury Secretary to ‘Calm down, dear’? What about Labour MP Tracy Brabin being trolled in the Commons for her dress slipping off her shoulder while leaning at the despatch box with a broken ankle? If the details of ‘Shouldergate’ have gone fuzzy do look back at: https://damesnet.com/?p=7198. Allin-Khan asked a perfectly respectful, factual question. Hancock added to the litany of lies he has already told and managed to be rude and sexist as well.
No need to worry; Allin-Khan, who is working 12-hour shifts with very sick patients and in my view is worth 10 Hancocks, tweeted the entire sorry exchange and in her words:
‘If Matt Hancock found my tone difficult, that’s on him…I will not ‘watch my tone’ when dozens of NHS and care staff are dying unnecessarily.’
Ain’t that a dame?