Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:39 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities & Local Government) (Planning) 5:39 pm, 5th November 2019

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for those lovely comments. He, too, was a great Minister, especially in education, where I worked closely with him.

Most importantly, I want to thank my constituents. Those at my constituency Labour party, like the rest of Durham residents, are wonderful and have been hugely supportive over the years. I hope they all know that I have fought hard to try to improve and protect our public services, to improve access to education and employment and to enhance Durham’s amazing architectural and cultural heritage. I will of course continue to champion the incredible cathedral, our world-class Durham University and the Durham Miners Association. But I want to give a note of warning to my successor: Durham is a very busy constituency, with lots of issues emerging from the city centre as well as the surrounding ex-mining villages, and my successor will need plenty of stamina.

In 2005, in my maiden speech, I quoted the writer Bill Bryson, who wrote of Durham:

“Why, it’s wonderful—a perfect little city… If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It’s wonderful.”

The major issue of our time, which I hope the next Parliament will address—in addition to sorting out the small issue of Brexit—is that of climate change and the climate emergency we face, so in 2019 I say, “Go to Durham, go there at once, but please don’t take a car. Get the train.”

I will of course hugely miss being the elected representative of all the wonderful communities that make up Durham. It really is a special place and deserves to be extremely well advocated for and cherished.

In winding up, I wish to pay tribute to Sir David Lidington, who gave an amazing speech. He was right that in this Chamber we need to celebrate the diversity of this country, and we also need to respect those who have a view different from ours and to treat each other with courtesy. My experience of parliamentarians, regardless of their party, is that they work really hard—relentlessly—on behalf of their constituents. It is a pity that that is not better known in the country and not better represented in the media, because our democracy would be stronger for it.

I am really pleased that I have been able to give this speech today, and I look forward to the new opportunities that lie ahead.