I gave my maiden speech yesterday in the education and health day of the Queen's Speech debate.
There is a traditional structure to maiden speeches. You start by making some generous remarks about your predecessor - something some MPs find hard to do, but easy in my case - then talk about your constituency then say a few - ideally relatively uncontroversial - words about the subject matter. You have to be in the Chamber for the start of the debate and stay in there for at least two speeches after you're called then you can pop out but you need to come back for the closing speeches so I was in the Chamber from 2.30pm to about 7.45pm and then from 9.15pm till 10pm. In total, 23 MPs gave their maiden speech and some sat in the for the whole debate in the hope of doing so but were never called.
I have asked for a video of the speech, which I will post as soon as I have it, but I focused on:
- the reputation of Croydon, acknowledging that crime is too high and the town centre something of a concrete jungle but talking about what the Government and our Council are planning to do to address these concerns and trying to put them in context by talking about some of the great things about Croydon; and
- standards in our secondary schools, recognising the action the Council has taken in the last couple of years but welcoming the measures in the Queen's Speech that will give parents and pupils more choice and raise standards (giving teachers the power to impose discipline in the classroom, allowing all schools to apply to become academies and allowing teachers, parents, charities and community groups to set up new schools).
Ed Balls, the Shadow Secretary of State, gave a punchy speech setting out Labour's opposition to these measures, which gave a revealing insight into his philosophy. He argued that the Government's plans would lead to a two-tier system but the reality is that we already have that under the current system of catchment areas coupled with councils' monopoly on opening new schools - well-off parents move into the catchment areas of good schools, leaving the less well-off with little or no choice. The idea that everyone gets an equal education at the moment is laughable.
Mr Balls opposes the idea of giving the best schools the freedoms that come with being an academy because they will become even better, widening the gap between the best performing schools and the worst performing. Incredible.
I went out for a celebratory drink with my friends afterwards, got home about 2.30am and was woken about 6.30am by a text from BBC London radio wanting to interview. Feeling a little bit fragile as a result...