Health and Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Conservative, Watford 3:33 pm, 16th January 2020

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is wonderful to see you in the Chair. I am incredibly humbled to be here. As a working-class lad, to be sitting on these Benches is an enormous honour, but to be sat among so many other working-class Conservatives is just as fabulous. I must thank the people of Watford for putting me in this wonderful place and for giving me the honour and the opportunity to hopefully make a change in this country.

First, however, I want to pay tribute to my predecessor. Everyone who knows him will know that he works tirelessly and is a true gentleman: Mr Richard Harrington. When I first became a candidate, people would say to me, “Dean, you’ve got big shoes to fill.” At first I thought it was a dig at my height, but I soon found it was because of Richard’s amazing legacy and the work he has done for the people of Watford. Today’s debate focuses on health, and there are so many things I could talk about—from his jobs fairs to the work he has done on social housing and tenancies—but I will specifically pay tribute to his work to ensure that Watford General Hospital and the local NHS got additional funding. I am proud that Watford will get one of the six new hospitals in the coming months and years, as was alluded to in a previous speech. Richard was a true champion for Watford, and I hope I can fill his shoes in the coming years. I will work tirelessly to do so, although my height may not change.

As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Watford General is on Vicarage Road, right next to the legendary, most fabulous Watford football club, which famously once had Elton John as its chairman. I would like to steal one of his song titles and say that I would like to be the first rocket man of Watford as we soar to the stars.

Sadly, to be totally honest, Elton John was not actually born in Watford—I cannot do anything about that—but we do have an incredible wealth of world-famous Watfordians. We have our very own Spice Girl in Geri Halliwell. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] You have to give a whoop for that. We have our own boxing heavyweight champion of the world in Anthony Joshua. We have our own political heavyweight, too, in the dearly departed Mo Mowlam. And we have the England football manager with the best waistcoats in the world, Mr Gareth Southgate.

As a science fiction fan myself, it is particularly exciting that we have our very own member of Doctor Who’s time-travelling Tardis team in Mr Bradley Walsh. Many Members will know that Bradley Walsh hosts a famous game show called “The Chase”, in which he battles with “The BeastMark Labbett. As a Conservative, I feel that in this election we battled our own “Chase” and our own beast—the beast of socialism—and we won. We defeated that beast.

One of the most world-famous parts of Watford is a magical place, and it was mentioned earlier in a brilliant maiden speech: Warner Brothers studio and the Harry Potter tour. Given his love of buses, I would like to invite the Prime Minister to visit the studio, because we have neither a boring single-decker bus nor a boring double-decker bus; we have the world-famous Harry Potter triple-decker “Knight Bus.” Who can beat that?

Watford is not just a hub for entertainment. We are also a massive magnet for investment and business. We have several UK headquarters. We have Hilton hotels, so people have somewhere to sleep. We have TJX, the home of TK Maxx—looking around the Chamber, I am sure everyone has recently bought their clothes from there. We have a place to drink in JD Wetherspoon, and we have a place to win millions and to help millions more in Camelot and the lottery. We also have our very own pharmacy, a fabulous business called Sigma Pharma. Of course, every Member will want to visit our incredible market, our high street and the Intu centre for a most delectable day out.

Madam Speaker—sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker; I promoted you—at heart I am really just a family man, and it is my family who inspire me. My working-class roots may have defined who I am, but my family are the ones who drive me forward. I give credit to my parents and my sister for all the work they have done over the years and for the support they have given me. I am sure it is the same for many Members. Our families make such a difference to our lives and keep us grounded. In that sense, my wife and my daughter truly are my beating heart and soul.

However, not everyone in society has a family or even friends to support them, and, through no fault of their own, they may feel that they are on their own. That is where community comes into play. Let us all be role models to support people who feel as though they have no one. That is the role of a Member of Parliament: not just to make laws, but to help those around us. We must let everyone know that opportunity has no gender. Opportunity should have no race and it should have no age. Whoever someone is, wherever they are, they should be able to be the best version of themselves. I believe that my party is helping to represent that.

Community is very important to me, which is why I worry about modern times. Mental health has been a big issue today, but so, too, is loneliness. We used to talk about being lonely in a crowd, but today there are so many who are lonely in the cloud. The digital world, modern life and social media mean that probably more people are aware of the names of the Kardashian family than they are of those of the neighbours on their own street.

For many years, I have felt that we need to bring the world back together, to be less divisive and to try to tie those threads together. I have had a daily philosophy for many years, and it goes like this: HOPE is an acronym and it stands for Help One Person Everyday. If we all do that in our own lives, in a way that changes people’s lives, we will have a better world. I feel honoured to be in this place as a Conservative, to enable that on a much bigger scale. We may be able to effect laws and change legislation, but changing people’s lives is surely why we are here.

In the past few years, we have seen lots of divisiveness, but let us have an age of decisiveness. Let’s not just get Brexit done—let’s get stuff done, to make people’s lives better. I believe that our manifesto and the Queen’s Speech have shown that that is our goal. As we enter 2020, let us lead the world in relentless positivity, optimism and can-do-ism, and turn this into the soaring 20s. As I complete my speech—I may be going over time; I apologise—I just want to thank people for electing me to be on this Bench and tell them that I will work tirelessly for the people of Watford, and with all Members here, to make the world a better place.