I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. I enjoyed all the previous maiden speeches, especially the one by my hon. Friend Philip Davies, which was amusing as well as thoughtful. I shall have great difficulty following him.
It is a great honour to me to stand here as the new Member of Parliament for Wellingborough. It has been a very long political journey. In 1992, I stood in my first parliamentary election for the constituency of Islwyn. There I met Sheila Organ, who became my agent and a good friend and who has encouraged me throughout what has been, at times, a difficult journey. During the campaign, we knocked on doors in Islwyn day and night; we must have called on hundreds, if not thousands of homes. Things looked good—we were well received—and come polling day, they still looked good. Only when I went to the count did I get an inkling that things were going slightly wrong. Before me were 40 or so trestle tables, but the returning officer took me to one side and said, "Mr. Bone, that table is for you. All the rest are for Mr. Kinnock." When the result was declared, it was a close-run thing. I lost to Mr. Kinnock by a mere 25,000 votes.
In 1997, I was selected as the candidate for Pudsey in west Yorkshire, where the retiring Member for the seat was the excellent Sir Giles Shaw. Despite the hard work of my team, we were swept away by the Labour landslide. On to Wellingborough, which in 2001 was the most marginal Labour seat in the country, with a majority of 187 votes. My campaign team, ably led by Lady Helen Fry, worked hard to achieve a Conservative victory and I thought that I must win this time. Not only did I lose, however, but I turned Wellingborough into a relatively safe Labour seat.
After 2001, I was beginning to wonder whether someone was trying to tell me something—