After nearly 28 years as the MP for Lewisham Deptford it’s almost time to say goodbye as I prepare to stand down at the May 7th general election.
Being a Member of Parliament is a very special privilege but also a very odd way of life. There is no job description, our only obligation being to make the laws of the land by voting for or against the legislation proposed by government.
When I was selected to fight the seat in 1986 I was the first woman (having been preceded by 6 Labour men in Deptford). In 1987 I was one of only 41 women (21 Labour) out of 650. Even today there are more men sitting in the Commons than all the women ever elected.
All my parliamentary life I have championed the cause of women and campaigned for more women to be selected, which is why I was delighted my constituency party opted for an all women shortlist and selected Vicky Foxcroft.
Over the years I have seen enormous changes in the constituency, much of it for the better. Schools have improved, hospitals and health services have improved and most of the major council housing estates have been rebuilt. The biggest improvements came under the last Labour government when for 13 years we made huge investment locally. Much of what we did has been rapidly undermined by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition, and only a change of government will save society from further fracture and impoverishment.
For myself it’s been a roller coaster of a journey. I’ve seen five Prime Ministers come and four depart – only one to go! I’ve held 3 ministerial posts and spent active years as a backbencher both in government and opposition. I am most proud of introducing laws on fly tipping and on doorstep recycling through private members bills; for being minister for climate change; for providing direct help to thousands of constituents with a myriad of issues and for being part of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.
I am saddened by our failure to bring anyone to justice for the deaths of 14 young people in the New Cross fire of 1981, despite achieving a new police investigation and a new inquest.
I despair of the housing crisis in London that has blunted so many aspirations and bought misery to thousands of my constituents.
And I will never understand how governments find it acceptable to threaten to kill millions of people with nuclear weapons when all other weapons of mass destruction have been outlawed by international agreement.
But as I leave my greatest hope is to see Vicky Foxcroft elected to the Commons, Ed Miliband in Downing Street and a better life for people in Lewisham.