Reflections 2017: Karen Lee – A whirlwind year

This story is over

2017 has been a whirlwind year for me; starting it as a nurse and local councillor, and ending it as Lincoln’s MP.

As one of 2017’s many new, working class Labour MPs I have enjoyed my first six months in Westminster immensely, and have been appointed to the Labour Treasury team, as Private Parliamentary Secretary to Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. I gave my maiden speech to parliament in July, and have spoken up several times from the benches on issues of national importance, which impact the constituents of Lincoln.

Since becoming MP, I’ve met and worked with the local police, healthcare providers, local schools, both of Lincoln’s universities, and been honoured to receive an award from Lincoln College.

One of my favourite outings has been going to watch the Imps at Sincil Bank; Lincoln has so many wonderful things to boast about, and our football team continue to make us proud. I still love returning to Lincoln’s hospital, and working the occasional shift amongst a group of hard-working and dedicated colleagues.

I have made donations to a range of local charities including the Green Synergy project, my local junior school, Lincoln Drill Hall, the Santa Sack Project, and donations towards goodie bags for school children watching Lincoln’s panto.

Since June, I have set up both my Lincoln and London offices, and regularly hold constituency surgeries right across Lincoln. Closely following my election, consultations over plans to close Lincoln’s Walk-In Centre began. I quickly began meeting with representatives from the CCG to raise concerns over these plans, fearing that replacement services would not be adequate if the Walk-In Centre was lost. Given the current situation in A&E departments across Britain, I believe that this closure would have a significant impact here in Lincoln.

As an opposition MP, I have little power to reverse these changes, but I remain appalled that in the recent budget the Chancellor committed more money to tax breaks for bankers than he did to our NHS.

Only a few days after my election, the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower happened. Last week I attended an event at which survivors spoke about their experiences, and of the awful manner in which they have been treated since the disaster. Many of these victims remain in hotel accommodation, awaiting re-housing; this must be acted on by the government soon. Locally, I meet with FBU representatives to discuss our fire service and ensure that I am aware of what is happening on the ground in my constituency.

Getting into the festive spirit, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a whole host of festive events, including the switching on of Lincoln’s Christmas lights, the panto at the Theatre Royal, the Police Christmas Carol Concert in the cathedral, and watching children at my local junior school perform their Christmas play.

Most of us take it for granted that at Christmas we will be in the warmth of our homes, opening our presents, eating festive food, and spending time with our loved ones. Those Lincoln people waiting for their Universal Credit payments to arrive though, will have a very different kind of Christmas and will face a stark choice of taking out a loan to buy food or seeking help from a food bank to get by.

For these people and those who are sleeping rough on Lincoln’s streets, it must surely feel like Dickensian times are not behind us. During my election campaign, I visited Lincoln’s food banks and I find the fact that in this country in 2017 we need food banks to ensure people don’t starve utterly obscene.

I am not spending my personal money on cards and stamps this year, but instead donating to charities which support the homeless, the hungry, and the Lincolnshire Rape Crisis team.

I’m having a few days break over the Christmas period. Having had just one week’s holiday in the past six months I am very ready for this, but during the Christmas recess period in parliament, I will keep working hard across the Lincoln constituency.

You can contact me via my office on 01522 420067, or email [email protected]

I will finish by wishing you all a peaceful and happy Christmas.