Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is the ultimate honour to be here today to deliver my maiden speech as the Member of Parliament for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton. To every man, woman and child living in my wonderful constituency, I promise to be your champion and stand up for you at every opportunity.
I warmly congratulate my fellow new Members for their excellent and eloquent contributions and I continue to enjoy my whistle stop tour of the UK through their speeches.
In keeping with tradition, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the input made by my predecessor Simon Reevell, and I wish him well for the future.
The suffragette movement fascinated and inspired me from a young age and visiting the cupboard where Emily Wilding Davison hid in order to be included in the census as a resident of this building reminded me of the ongoing struggle that women have both in society and in politics. It is refreshing that 65% of the new Labour intake are female but there is a lot more to do, and I look forward to contributing to that cause. As James Brown famously sang ‘it’s a man world, but it ain’t nothing without a woman or a girl…’
It is therefore a particular privilege to be the first female MP elected in the constituency since Ann Taylor, who now sits in the other place. Every corner of the constituency still holds great affection for Ann, both for her unstinting commitment and no-nonsense approach. I have big shoes to fill and I thank Ann for the generosity of her advice and support – I aspire to make her proud.
On the subject of inspirational women it would be remiss of me not to mention Betty Boothroyd, born in Dewsbury, the daughter of textile workers, who broke new ground by becoming the first woman to be elected as one of your predecessors, Mr Speaker.
The Dewsbury constituency is a wonderful place to live, work and indeed play. Dewsbury itself is often referred to as the Heavy Woollen district, a nod to the manufacture of heavyweight cloth which saw a significant population of South Asian origin relocate here in the late 1950’s, many of Kashmiri and Gujarati heritage.
Indeed, the town maintains a rich manufacturing industry and has something of a monopoly in the bed and mattress industry. In common with many other Northern market towns Dewsbury is currently struggling economically, with the town centre crying out for regeneration. It is therefore welcome that Dewsbury has been earmarked as an enterprise zone.
Dewsbury is also famous for its hospitality and warmth of welcome. It is perhaps unique in that upon visiting a constituent’s home intending to stay a short time, you are greeted with a three course banquet and an invitation to the family wedding.
Many of you may have shed a tear watching Mushy overcome his stammer on Educating Yorkshire, the fly on the wall documentary filmed at Dewsbury’s Thornhill Academy.
The town of Mirfield has strong socialist roots. The Community of the Resurrection, an Anglican religious community for men, was founded in 1898 and hosted Keir Hardie and Emeline Pankhurst in its incredible outdoor amphitheatre.
Denby Dale and Kirkburton comprise of a number of small villages and arguably boast of some of the finest scenery in Yorkshire, or is it is better known, ‘God’s own county’. I always know I’m near home when I catch sight of the splendid Emley Moor Mast, the tallest freestanding structure in the UK, at 1084 feet.
Many will know that I am a Trade Unionist, having previously acted as a shop steward and equalities officer. I will continue to seek to strengthen the bond between the Labour Party and the trade Union movement. The Trade Unions were instrumental in creating the Labour Party, to fight for working people in Parliament and in this time of insecure employment, zero hour contracts and exploitative labour, unions have never been needed more in the workplace, and the voice of working people has never been more needed in Parliament. This government’s shameful attempt to weaken that collective voice should be universally condemned throughout this House.
I must also acknowledge my parents who taught me that you don’t have to go to university to achieve your dreams and to never give up on your principles, maintaining the courage of conviction. I am proud to bring over 20 years’ experience on the front line of our public services to this Parliament.
After some time working with the victims of crime, I worked in a frontline Healthcare role for the fourteen years prior to taking my seat in this place. The last two years of this were challenging as the service I worked within was privatised. On my first day working for Virgin Care I was advised that ‘my political beliefs did not fit in with the company objectives’. As my beliefs were free healthcare at the point of need and patients before profit, this affirmed my fears that the Health Service was moving away from its fundamental principles. I shall have more to say about Virgin Care in future debates, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I will also continue to campaign tirelessly for a fully re-nationalised NHS, and on the subject of today’s debate, I will fight for the future of Dewsbury Hospital, which remains under threat of significant downgrade with an Accident and Emergency service is literally fighting for its life.
Dewsbury has many challenges ahead over the next five years, not least in the growing inequality we now see in our country. I intend to use my time diligently as Dewsbury’s Member of Parliament to redress this, and fight for the fairer, more equal society that my constituents deserve.