She's captivated voters from Tooting to Grimsby – now, Rosena Allin-Khan should be Labour's next deputy leader

No contest should be a coronation – particularly one as consequential as this

Rosena Allin-Khan recreates Love Actually scene

The aftershocks of the general election are still being felt throughout the Labour Party; not least in those constituencies like mine which, in the post-war period, had only ever had a Labour MP.

There is a sense of unreality surrounding this defeat; a hope that we are all caught up in some collective nightmare from which we will soon wake up.

It is hard to comprehend what a long, slow, painful journey we have ahead of us to rebuild Labour – not its reputation, but also its organisation.

I have had a tough few weeks coming to terms with losing my seat, particularly given its rich Labour history. Grimsby is a town where one our party’s great thinkers, Tony Crosland, served as MP until his death in 1977; where trade unions, the Co-op movement and the Fabians have come together to build an impressively strong constituency party; where streets are named proudly after Keir Hardie (we’re still waiting for Austin Avenue or Mitchell Mews, but I’m sure they’ll come).

Yet alongside the sadness of this loss, I have been delighted to welcome new Labour leader and deputy candidates – including my friend, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is standing for deputy – to Grimsby to help them get a sense of what voters here want from Labour.

It’s a big leap from Tooting to Grimsby – I should know I’ve lived in both – but Rosena was quick to connect with the people here. She was open, honest and direct. She wasn’t trying to say things to please people – she was just saying things that she felt was right. She listened. Constituency members tell me they were really impressed with Rosena. They loved her passion for life and for Labour, her vision for the role of deputy. All left feeling they knew her personally.

None of the people in that room had known anything about Rosena’s background, but none will forget her tale of triumph over adversity, of facing racism as child, of returning to education as a mature student to become a doctor, skills she used to help refugees. And then going on to become a Member of Parliament. Her desire to make her Mum proud, to do something positive in the world, struck a chord.

It would be a crying shame if more people in the Labour Party were not given the opportunity to hear Rosena’s ideas for the role of deputy: how it can complement the leader, but also be distinct force for local members within our sometimes labyrinthine party structures. I also hope that the Parliamentary Labour Party will prove us to be the party we profess to be, championing diversity in all forms and at all levels.

No contest should be a coronation – particularly one as consequential as this. When deciding who we want to take the Labour Party forward, we cannot stick to old favourites. We must open ourselves up to new frontiers.

Melanie Onn is the former Labour MP for Grimsby.

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