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Mr Speaker-Elect, I know that you will want to join me in thanking, first of all, the Father of the House for the way that he has conducted today’s proceedings. Where is he? [Interruption.] There he is! I pay renewed tributes to my right hon. and learned Friend who outranks just about every Member not just in length of service, but in distinction. He has held six Cabinet posts, including two great offices of state. His Hush Puppies have been found propped up on the desk of ministerial offices in four separate decades. His continuing physical and intellectual robustness are a tribute to the benefits of a lifetime’s diet of beer, curry and Castella cigars, all of which I hope he will continue to enjoy in a long and happy retirement at Trent Bridge, or touring the famous jazz clubs in West Bridgford.
Mr Speaker-Elect, in congratulating you on your election, I observe that you have prevailed over an extremely strong field, and that every other candidate earlier on spoke forcefully and well. I will not presume to identify exactly what characteristics other Members of this House saw in you when they elected you just now, but speaking for myself, after long and happy years of dealing with you, I think I know what it is. Let me say that, whenever any of us are preparing to speak in this Chamber, we all know that there is a moment between standing up and when the Speaker calls us when our heart is in our mouth and in that moment of anxiety about whether we are going to make a fool of ourselves and, indeed, at the moment when we sit down amid deafening silence, the kindliness of the Speaker is absolutely critical to our confidence and the way that we behave.
Mr Speaker-Elect, over the years, I have observed that you have many good qualities. I am sure that you will stick up for Back Benchers in the way that you have proposed, and I am sure you will adhere to a strict Newtonian concept of time in PMQs. I believe that you will also bring your signature kindness and reasonableness to our proceedings, thereby helping to bring us together as a Parliament and as a democracy. No matter how fiercely we may disagree, we know that every Member comes to this place with the best of motives, determined to serve the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world and to achieve our goals by the peaceable arts of reason and debate invigilated by an impartial Speaker, which was, and remains, one of our greatest gifts to the world. Thank you, Mr Speaker-Elect, and congratulations.