Diary - Oona King

The more I see my husband, the more I see what I've been missing as a politician. Blow me down if I'

I was in south-west France without a television, and it took a while for the news to get through. And what news! Even people who had been following it from the start couldn't grasp its full meaning. Katrina revealed a sclerotic state utterly incapable of protecting its own citizens. Katrina revealed institutional racism on a galactic scale. Katrina revealed, in a nutshell, a failed state. The America-phobes and -philes are momentarily united, in that neither can believe their eyes.

Only when I got home to Mile End did I see pictures, and like everyone else I was stunned. It's not that I'm unaware of America's institutional racism - how could I be? My African American father was convicted and exiled for 40 years due to trumped-up racist charges that would never have been levelled against a white man. (How do we know? Because the white judge who convicted him finally said so, and asked Bill Clinton to give my dad a presidential pardon.) And I'm well aware of America's stomach-churning inequality and grotesque poverty - I've seen it all my life when visiting my family in the Deep South.

But what I've never seen in America is refugee camps without sanitation; the old, the sick and the poor literally left to die. And I've never seen the lie at the heart of the American dream - that small government frees people - so clearly exposed. The reality is that small government kills people. This week, small government probably killed more Americans than the 9/11 terrorists did.

How is it that being unemployed takes up more than 50 hours a week? I spend the first half of one day working on an arts and cultural foundation that I've chaired for four years - Rich Mix, for which we've raised more than £20m, and which opens next year. It's a huge building on Bethnal Green Road at the top of Brick Lane. It aims to marry "high" art with street art, and to use the arts to bring people together across boundaries of race, religion and culture. We modestly hope to give Tate Modern a run for its money. The rest of that day, I work on THANCS - Tower Hamlets Advocacy Network & Community Support - an organisation I've set up to give ordinary people a voice in government decision-making. At the moment consultation is a swear word and there's a terrible disconnection between people and politicians. This is dangerous and needs to be tackled. Politicians must change and the way people engage with politicians must change. I want to see if THANCS can do that in Tower Hamlets on a practical level. I also want to show my community that I'm not going to disappear to the first safe seat that pops up just because I lost an election. I'm staying in Tower Hamlets, even if that means not going back to the House of Commons.

I'm enraged to see, while looking for news on Britain's five TV channels, that three (BBC2, Channel 4 and Channel 5) are showing home-improvement programmes. It's a goddamn disgrace! I scent revenge, however, when I spend an afternoon with a TV production company that is making a documentary about THANCS. I'm hoping that a producer of a home-improvement show will see my programme on community empowerment, and die of boredom. Ha!

On Saturday night, only for the second time since the election, I went clubbing. A good night out is such a privilege that I spent a lot of the night telling Tiberio: "We're so lucky we're not in Louisiana, Baghdad, Gaza, Bujumbura, Khartoum, Saudi Arabia . . . or even in London sharing a three-bed flat with ten family members. Do you realise how lucky we are to have a good Saturday night?" Only problem is, I'm ruining his Saturday night. The more I see my husband and friends, the more I see what I've been missing for eight years as a politician, working virtually every evening and weekend. Now I want to tell those marriage counsellors that they're brilliant buggers . . . all that stuff about "the more you give, the more you get" - it's true! Blow me down if I'm not more in love now than I've been for the past eight years.

A documentary film has been made about the general election, called The Battle for Bethnal Green, and the Institute for Public Policy Research will screen it on Sunday night at the Labour conference. I go to a preview but I just don't know what Labour members will make of it, because it's less a traditional political documentary and more Spinal Tap Goes to Baghdad. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

On Monday my constituency office formally closed, exactly four months after the election. Bizarrely, thinking of the count always makes me smile. It was a memorable night and I love memorable nights. Even now, constituents still knock on the door and stop me in the street to ask if I'll help with their cases.

"But you've got to help me. You helped me for years."

"I'm not your MP any more. I lost the election."

"What election?"

God bless 'em all. And they can contact Mr Galloway via the House of Commons switchboard.

For details of THANCS and the documentary screening on 25 September in Brighton, contact thancs@oonaking.com

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