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Tributes to the Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:56 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Paula Sherriff Paula Sherriff Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Mental Health) 12:56 pm, 31st October 2019

What can I say, Mr Speaker? I hope we have moved on since that Wednesday a few years ago when you threatened me with an antisocial behaviour order here in this Chamber. I will keep my remarks brief today but, as Tracey Crouch just suggested, we are nothing without a good team, and I want to thank Jim, Peter, Ian, Rose, of course, and all the others in your private office who have served you and all of us so well. They are simply the best of us. As an example of their humanity, when I was working on the period poverty campaign, one of those gentlemen to whom I just referred approached me in the corridor one day with a carrier bag. He had gone out and bought loads of women’s sanitary products, and he said, “Will you donate these to somebody in need? I have never done this before. I have never gone into a supermarket or a chemist and bought these items.” I just thought that was really touching.

Mr Speaker, your humanity and personal touch will never be forgotten. They have been in evidence on some specific occasions, but none more so than when we lost Jo. The next day, you came to Birstall, which is next door to my Dewsbury constituency, and you did not just turn up and lay flowers, but you stayed and talked and empathised with local residents and then went on to the local church and spent time there. It was so appreciated—not just the gesture of being there, but your authenticity and just spending time with local people who were feeling that loss so much. Equally, after the dreadful terrorist incident here a couple of years ago, when we lost such a wonderful police officer and it was such a traumatic time for so many of us, you were not only typically stoic, but very supportive as well. The same has been true in the past few months, which at times has been a difficult period for me, particularly with some of the abuse that I have received, as have other Members, particularly female Members. You called me at home one Sunday morning to ask whether I was okay, because I had received a particularly unpleasant death threat—all death threats are unpleasant but I had received something that was particularly unkind. I was very grateful for your support at that time.

You are an extraordinary man, Mr Speaker. I will miss you hugely. I wish you and your family every happiness. I had the pleasure of chatting to them last week, and your delightful young daughter Jemima is an absolute credit to you and Sally. I look forward to reading your memoirs, and I particularly look forward to seeing you in sequins in a future episode of “Strictly Come Dancing”. Thank you, above all, for your kindness, Mr Speaker.