So I check my phone heading out this morning and the first message I read on my girlfriends Whatsapp group, aptly named "Rasmallayh", (an Asian dessert), reads:
"On this day 12 months ago, our Naz was selected as labour candidate for Bradford West.... What a year xxx"
The truth is that it was a year yesterday but I totally forgot!
Yes, what a year it has been indeed. It's not often I feel overwhelmed about my personal experiences, especially when I'm sat on a packed train down to London which will get in me so I have plenty of time to make it for Prime Ministers Questions.
But right now taking a trip down my last year's journey is pretty deep stuff. Only yesterday, I had the honour of speaking to Year 5 and 6 pupils at Princeville Primary School within my constituency of Bradford West. It was an inspiring experience feeling the excitement of these young minds; inquisitive, innocent and like sponges wanting to change the world and make it a better place.
One of the children asked me what inspired me to become a politician and I said "you did". I explained that each and every one of you, as you're the future, we have to change things to make it better for when you grow up. To be able to say that to a hall full of children in Bradford West is just amazing.
I left the school and went into a meeting with Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, and the local council. This was the third city the team was visiting in relation to prevent and education. Louise Casey, who has been appointed by the Prime Minister was also present as part of her brief to look at issues of integration.
To be able to have the power and influence to take part in such an important meeting which will impact upon the direction of travel when it comes to education in Bradford and represent the people of Bradford West is also amazing.
Just that one morning is reflective of where I'm at a year later... an amazing year. Not a day goes by when something doesn't remind me of why I came into politics. Whether it's me ranting in my office or with my staff about issues around local politics, playing my part through dialogue and leadership when the likes of EDL and Britain First visit Bradford, having brave conversations with the head of Bradford's Police around CSE and feeling emotionally drained knowing some of our daughters are at risk of sexual exploitation, or whether it's raising issues with the home secretary through my privileged position as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, it all comes back to simply wanting to make this world a better place, making it better for people, their families, their communities and society as a whole.
I'm blessed, privileged and honoured to be here, but it's not always empowering. There have been times when I've felt helpless. Helpless when we voted on the bombing of Syria. When we're not able to overturn votes on issues around welfare cuts which impact so much in my constituency. Having to watch this government use legislation to silence the voices of the unions, crushing workers' rights. Ripping the soul out of the NHS through strangulation in the name of efficiency. Looking at all the cuts and wanting to scream the house down and shake George Osborne because he just doesn't get it that austerity isn't working, his cuts effect jobs, jobs effect quality of life, the quality of life impacts on people's health and wellbeing. These issues then create vulnerability to issues such at turning to alcohol, mental health issues, pay day loans, in work poverty because zero contracts don't offer stability but people become desperate... I can feel my blood pressure rising already!
In last week's women and equalities debate the Minister made a point that the government hadn't made any cuts to the central budget for domestic violence services. Yet these services are closing - Blenheim Project in my own constituency closed down! That's like saying 'well, you can only have enough money for food but not for lighting and heating' - which bit of this is hard for this government to get? Of course I'm not going to be able to feed myself properly, because I need heat too!
Being an optimist I do have hope and faith. I know that my job might be harder in Opposition to deliver on the pledges we have made, but I also know that it is more important than ever to make sure not only do we hold this government to account and expose it's continuous failures which effect places like Bradford West, but also that we make sure we win 2020.
I've been on one of the most steep learning curves ever. And this will no doubt continue, I now have extra bed time reading - it's called economics. I want to be able to explain in real simple terms exactly how this government's economic policy is failing the people of Bradford West and beyond. Economic strategy is at the heart of taking our country forward. How do we redistribute what we collectively produce better, and not just for the benefit of those we work for?
Government can re-distribute wealth and power if there is a boldness and conviction and my passion fits perfectly with my most recent new role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP.
Wow, yes, what an amazing year. A local Bradford lass all the way in the corridors of Westminster and on those green benches! I can't begin my next year without thanking the people of Bradford West for putting their trust and faith in me and I promise them a year on I feel the same, privileged and honoured to be representing you in Parliament. Thank you.
Naz Shah is the Labour MP for Bradford WestSuggest a correction