Rosena Allin-Khan: Is this Britain's most accomplished MP?

Rosena Allin-Khan: The boxing Labour MP who also works as a doctor

Rosena Allin-Khan is the Labour MP for Tooting

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Parliament's attracted some truly extraordinary individuals over the years, from the prodigious sagacity of Pitt the Younger to the remarkable eloquence of Winston Churchill.

Today's edition of the legislative chamber might be said to lack some of that elan. Critics routinely tell us our Parliamentarians can't hold a candle to their predecessors when it comes to brainpower.

But one of Jeremy Corbyn's rising stars stands comparison to the best and brightest of any era.

Rosena Allin-Khan, who leapt to prominence with a question on homelessness today, has been the MP for Tooting since 2016, and is also a shadow minister for sport within the digital, culture, media and sport department.

Incredibly, she juggles this hugely demanding role with working shifts as a junior A&E doctor at St George’s Hospital, one of London's biggest medical hubs. Being a politician is demanding enough, but Allin-Khan manages to combine her day job with one of the most gruelling part-time gigs imaginable.

Her backstory is equally impressive: she's risen from working-class origins to study medicine at Cambridge, then risked her life to provide humanitarian aid - even having a gun put to her head on one occasion. It's a humbling and inspirational story.

Allin-Khan'sfather was a TV repair man and her mother was a singer before having three jobs in order to provide for the family, working in a petrol station, as a cleaner and childminder. When running for election in Tooting in 2016, she revealed that her mother is a Catholic but her father is a Muslim and said "I’m completely mixed, half-Polish, half-Pakistani, I married a Welshman, I went to a Church of England school. I am about uniting communities."

Whilst at secondary school Allin-Khan was told by her careers advisors that it was unrealistic for a child like her to study medicine, however she defied them and won a place at Cambridge. She says her inspiration for becoming a doctor was that her grandmother lost her sight when she was three years old and she wanted to help her see again.

At first she couldn't afford to go to medical school so studied medical biochemistry at Brunel, financing her education with several jobs, before funding policies changed. Then she was able to study medicine at Cambridge at the age of 24, with the help of funds from her mother's friends.

Before becoming an MP she worked at the Royal London and the Homerton and later worked with Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps as well as victims of flooding in Pakistan. It was during this period that parents held a gun to her head, as they tried to get resources for their ill child, and she also witnessed bombings.

Allin-Khan's desire to help the world's oppressed Muslims remains undiminished, despite her almost incessant workload. In November she went to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border where there are many Rohingya refugees. She recorded a video diary for the BBC where she said she found the situation "overwhelming" and worked in a clinic treating the refugees.

When she was elected as an MP, rather than making a speech on her own success as is custom, she decided instead to pay tribute to murdered MP Jo Cox, who had recently died.

Allin-Khan said: “My thoughts and prayers are with Jo's husband and her children. She was a proud and passionate campaigner who will be desperately missed. Jo's death reminds us that our democracy is precious but fragile. We must never forget to cherish it."

A mother of two young children, Allin-Khan revealed in the run-up to the election that she is rent, as she can't afford to purchase a home whilst paying for childcare. Many would look for homes elsewhere, but Allin-Khan wants to stay in Tooting, close to her constituents.

Indeed, it's clear she loves the area, one of London's most prosperous residential communities. She even boxes at Balham Boxing Club, as well as being the team doctor. She started this after being a part of a campaign to keep the club open during her work as a councillor, although she doesn't compete. Given her success in other walks of life, it's probably a good job.