It's been just over six months since Seema Malhotra won the Feltham and Heston by-election, and by any comparison this former management consultant has hit the ground running. One of the most pro-active Labour MPs, she can be found on the floor of the Commons almost every weekday, asking questions of ministers and contributing to debates. HuffPost caught up with her on the last full day of term for MPs, at the end of a day of back-to-back meetings.
"I actually started the day with a visit to the Hounslow Job Centre, which for all intents and purposes seems to be quite an efficient operation," she says, in quite a startling and umprompted show of support for the government's controversial Work Programme. "It felt like some of the initial teething problems with having external providers that aren't under their control, some of the governance that you have to get the case management right, feels quite positive. So for all the political disagreements over the work programme and how it's working and how it's not, I'm most interested in getting the unemployed back to work."
Isn't this quite different from the official party line on the Work Programme, which shadow ministers have only recently described as a "shambles"?
"My personal view is that all of us have an interest in it working in our area," she says. "I still think there are problems at a national level and it's one of those examples of something which doesn't have the right programme management in place at a national level. It's too early to say, but what I do know is that my local jobcentre seems to work incredibly well at joining up the staff teams across the pathway, and seems to have put in place governmance that has dealt with some of the initial concerns. Whether that's because of or despite the way it's managed at a national level, that's a different question."
There's a pragmatism to Malhotra, who had a successful career as a management consultant before entering politics. She had a tricky by-election campaign. Turnout fell, no surprise there, but there were also issues about her personal wealth and double barrelled surname, which has lost one of its barrels since coming into politics.
Her only hands-on Westminster experience before becoming an MP was working as an adviser to Harriet Harman in the turbulent months following the 2010 general election, when Harman was tasked with helping Labour lick its wounds and prepare for what turned out to be a fractious leadership election. Malhotra describes that period as "one of the greatest learning experiences I'll probably ever have."
What was it like, picking up the pieces of a fallen government? "At that time it wasn't clear how the party was going to react, there was a great sense of responsibility of keeping the party together, have a good opposition as well as move the party forward. When I look back it was amazing how we kept that office stable."
Malhotra's clearly a massive fan of Harriet Harman. "The amazing thing about her is about how she is able to re-invent herself so fast. She will have been as exhausted as anyone at the end of that election, not just because of the coalition talks. To take that on and to do it with such seeming ease and focus, and to still be thinking about the men and women coming into Parliament for the first time, to have that instinct for her, it absolutely increased my respect for her as a politician on so many fronts."
What becomes apparent from talking to Malhotra is how she obsessed she is with running things. "It's in my blood," she says, taking a dim view of the coalition less for its ideology - though she's opposed to that, too - but for its management style. "Multiple providers, different lines of accountability, my view is that it makes it harder to deliver work services. G4S is another example of that. You can't be laissez-faire about programme management."
You get the sense that this is an MP who will specialise later in her career at policy implementation, perhaps over the more wonkish side of dreaming up initiatives. I get the feeling that she admired the Number 10 of Tony Blair - micromanaging, controlling from the centre. Certainly she seems dismissive of the hands-off approach of David Cameron.
But she does have some policy obsessions, particularly unemployment for older women, feeling it's a problem being drowned out by worries about the lack of jobs for the young. "Older people do have a challenge and it's a waste when people hit their fifties and are made redundnant. They've still often got mortgages to pay off and also have caring responsibilities, they're saving for their pensions, and you don't want to seem them impoverished in their old age.
"My hypothesis is that greater numbers of women are falling into that category and there are indications that we're seeing greater numbers of people being made unemployed from the public sector coming in. Different ways of working in the private sector will inevitably lead to different challenges.
"There's something very subtle about how older women feel displaced. Work gives you an identity, often they've been in roles for a long time and not on the highest wages. There's a disproportionate feeling of being disempowered and a danger of retreating into the home. Confidence building is really important. There needs to be a much more speicalised support for routes into work. Older women don't realise their transferable skills, running a home and running its budget as well as being in work."
What's the solution? What experience does she bring to bear from the world of consulting? "Programmes should be invisible. It's easy to hide behind a new headline, a new initiative, but often it's just re-branding of something that already happened to make it look fresh. There are whole big programmes of change in places like the retail sector, but when you go into a shop, all you are noticing is whether there's a better experience for the customer. They don't tell you that they've got a transformation programme. You can sometimes get focused on talking about programmes rather than the issues facing people getting back into work.
"When we've been in debates about unemployment is felt like we've been raising individual stories, and the response has not been, 'Yes, there's a national crisis,' the response has been defence of programmes. You can be very process-led rather than outcome-led.
But I put it to her that actually, health secretary Andrew Lansley is obsessed with outcomes, and that he's at least trying to get rid of a targets-based approach which many believed was Labour's biggest failing? "I'd like to believe that, but I think when you are a bit more ideologically driven you probably say it's worth the pain of taking away targets for A&E waiting times. I have not heard anything particularly from government about there being problems."
And she ideologically driven? "I don't know if I'm ideologically driven as much as I'm values-driven. Certainly driven by ways in which people work together."
Before we finish, I have to ask her about Heathrow and the ongoing rows about whether there should be a third runway. Labour went into the last general election pledging to build one. Since then they've u-turned and at the moment seem to favour more high-speed rail. But could they u-turn back, and how would it affect Malhotra, whose constituency is right under the flight paths?
"I don't think we're anywhere near that point of saying a third runway is the answer," she says, pointing out as all west London MPs do that it would lead to more noise and pollution.
But surely if there is a long consultation which runs until after the next election, and Labour gets back in, she'll be one of the MPs who are right in the firing line from people unhappy about it? Won't she have the job of selling it to the people of Feltham?
"I don't know if it'll be an MP selling it, if you're run a process then you're in a different place," she says. "What people want locally is, they want Heathrow. There seems to be a general view that the airport has to be a good neighbour. The issues about what standards you have on noise and pollution, how you're dealing with all of those things, it has to be part of the package. The government seems to be kicking it into the long grass and I think it's a decision that has to be taken in this Parliament."