Being elected as the Member of Parliament for my home constituency of Bristol North West is deeply humbling. It is humbling for me personally, as a working-class kid from a council estate in Lawrence Weston in my constituency. To be able to speak here on behalf of my friends, my family, my community and, indeed, my country is a great honour.
Let me pay tribute to my predecessor, Charlotte Leslie. The Member of Parliament for seven years and a candidate for three further years, Charlotte’s decade of local leadership was held in warm regard by my constituents and by me. We thank Charlotte for her public service.
From the earliest evidence of human habitation in these British Isles on the shores of the River Avon near Shirehampton to the eighth-century monastery of Westbury-on-Trym, granted by King Offa of Mercia, to the Roman settlements at Sea Mills and Lawrence Weston, and the Domesday reference to the parish of Henbury, and now, so I am told, to the first ever Darren elected to this House of Commons, Bristol North West is an historic and fascinating constituency.
But the successes of my home and its people, from jobs at the port and advanced manufacturing, to research and development, to the professional services, rely on our trading relationship with the European Union. That is why my first priority during this Brexit Parliament is to fight for Britain’s membership of the European single market. Because in times of peace our first priority must be prosperity for all. That is why the politics of holding on to power for power’s sake, or political positioning to win internal ideological battles, must stop. We are all here to do what is right for the country. For if that is not the case, I do not know why we are here at all.
So I stand here humbled by my election, with a sense of urgency to tackle a hard Brexit but also with a sense of sadness—sadness because the world feels more fragile than it has in the past, with Britain seen as weak and uncertain in high-risk times, and with fast-paced technological change, shifting geopolitical power, young people frustrated by the country, old people increasingly left alone and public services allowed to slowly die by a thousand cuts.
Politics is hard work, but it is the only forum through which we can provide hope. Whether I am an MP for four months or four years, and whether my actions bring success or failure to my own political career, I will always put my constituents and my country first. In this mother of Parliaments, let us do all we can to show that a modern and just Britain can rise from the ashes of our current dismay. We are merely shepherds of the nation, standing on the shoulders of giants, tasked with leaving a country to our children that we can be proud of.
This Brexit Parliament will define the future of our country. Let us not self-harm and cause pain, but let us instead unite and act with sense, as well as with patriotism in our hearts, for a national renewal after the dark years of austerity, for the birth of a new British chapter that works for the many, not just the few, and for a new dawn for a new Britain. It is for us now to seize that opportunity and to avoid the risks of failure, but we can do it only by working together in this Brexit Parliament—leavers and remainers—in the national interest.