Video: Mr Allen says one of his proudest moments was organising a vote against Iraq war
Outgoing Labour MP for Nottingham North Graham Allen has spoken to Notts TV about his 30 ‘fantastic’ years, his replacement and voting against the Iraq war.
Mr Allen announced is stepping down as an MP on Saturday (April 22) ahead of the upcoming general election which takes plane on June 8.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention for a general election on Tuesday last week (April 18) which turned into a reality after the vote received a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons the following day.
However 64-year-old Mr Allen has recently suffered extended periods of ill health and did not feel he could serve for another five years.
Speaking to Notts TV’s Hugh Casswell, he said it was the ‘hardest decision’ of his life to step down.
“It has been a fantastic 30 years and it has gone in a flash; throughout that time I have always been known for being relentless and the fact I persevere and get stuff done.
Last week, Mrs May called an election and while I was ready to go until 2020, I knew I could maintain my standards until then.
However, looking at doing five more years, I would not have wanted to lose the reputation of being at my very best for people in Nottingham North.
It’s a low income area, low educational attainment and is one of the lowest scoring in terms of deprivation so they need an active and capable MP.
I have been that but I did not want to get to the end of my time feeling as though I did not do enough.
In a funny way, I’m going out at the top but it is the hardest decision I have ever made in my life.
I love my job, I think I’m good at it but I also think I’ve done my shift and can look back on it with pride without feeling like I’ve let anyone down.
It’s not a retirement, I’m just going for a change of scene as there are issues there I still care about – like children and young people and their education.
Last Tuesday morning, I was sailing along, recovering from getting a new ankle along with some other health issues I’ve had, thinking great, I’m ready for the next two and a half years or so.
Then Wednesday afternoon, British politics was turned upside down with the confirmation of a snap general election.
My reflex was to say to people right, this is our chance, especially to people of Nottingham that we have a Labour party that cares about them with active MPs.
I was in warrior mode at that point when I Tweeted saying I would be fighting.
But then my wife sat me down and said that this is a moment where we can take stock and decide if I would still be doing this to the same level in five years time.
The honest answer is that I could not guarantee that.
I will help the new Labour candidate as much as I humanly can; they will have an almost superhuman job to do.
I process about 500 cases a week but I have the most fantastic staff – no MP can do their job without brilliant staff both in their constituency office and in the Westminster office.
It’s hard work but I love it because it’s so rewarding – you’re helping people individually in a way that no other human being can do on such a range of issues – whether it be the garden fence needing repairing through to marital and immigration issues.
It’s a great honour to be a MP for the constituency where you were born and bred – I’m not saying people can’t do it if they are not born where they represent, but it means I talk in the accent, I know the streets, I have an affinity with the people I work with.
I will help whoever takes over from me if they want it.
I had to learn the ropes aged 34 as one of the youngest members of the House of Commons at the time but now I hope to pass my experience onto some of the great young people we have in the Labour party locally.
There are several suitable candidates to replace me all with different qualities – they are people who have that level of commitment to their constituency as well as doing the national stuff.
The bread and butter of a modern day constituency MP is to do the case work, the day-to-day work, to break down the barriers and be the spokesperson for people.
No matter what you’re doing nationally, if you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job.
There’s no such thing as a safe seat – this constituency was a Conservative seat which I won narrowly in 1987 but you build that on hard work.
I think people would resent someone coming in because they knew someone, because they are famous, because they are on TV or whatever.
We want someone who will roll their sleeves up and do the hard miles because that’s what this constituency needs.
If you are in a slightly wealthier place in Nottingham that’s fine but here there is, rightly, an expectation you will be fighting for an elderly person who is not getting the right pension entitlement, someone who has been dismissed unfairly.
The priority must always be to get that base and resolve that base so people respect you.
It has been my pleasure serving the people of Nottingham North but there is a lot more to do.”
Video: Hugh Casswell’s full interview with Graham Allen