Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:04 pm on 26th January 2023.
It is truly an honour to make my maiden speech in the House in such an emotive and important debate. We must always remember the horrors of the holocaust, and do all we can to inform and educate ourselves and future generations about the dangers that exist when the judgment of decision makers is clouded by bigotry, hatred, racism and intolerance.
Given the matter before the House, I feel compelled to begin my comments about my constituency by first highlighting the rich diversity that we so cherish in Stretford and Urmston, and indeed in Partington, Carrington and Old Trafford. I am therefore pleased to share with colleagues that my constituency is home not just to those whose heritage can be traced back several generations locally, but, among others, to a large Irish diaspora, a considerable Muslim community, one of Greater Manchester’s largest Sikh populations, a Traveller settlement, many Jewish and Hindu residents, and a longstanding and sizeable African-Caribbean community.
In 1997, the new constituency of Stretford and Urmston elected its first MP, and we were represented until 2010 by Beverley Hughes, now Baroness Hughes of Stretford. Like me, Baroness Hughes was leader of Trafford Council before being elected to this place, and until earlier this month she also served local residents as the deputy mayor of Greater Manchester. Hers is a formidable record of public service, and she remains fondly remembered by many of my constituents to this day.
Bev’s retirement in 2010 saw my great friend and predecessor, Kate Green, elected. Kate was a much loved and admired MP, whose warmth, diligence and compassion quickly won her the support of local residents. You will know better than I do, Mr Speaker, that Kate was a respected and unusually thoughtful parliamentarian, thorough in her consideration of matters before this House, and compelling in the arguments she made to advance the many causes she supported. I am left in no doubt that I have huge shoes to fill.
It would be unforgivable for me not to refer in this speech to Stretford and Urmston’s unique status as the birthplace of what is surely the greatest social advance in the history of our country: our precious NHS. It was at Park Hospital, now Trafford General Hospital, that the late, great Nye Bevan officially opened the first NHS hospital on
“the most civilised step any country has ever taken.”
Another key element of my constituency’s history is our industrial heritage, given the economic significance of Trafford Park. As the world’s first industrial estate, Trafford Park’s place is history is assured. Yes, it is home to some of the most well-known businesses in the world—Ford, Kellogg’s, Westinghouse—but it is especially fitting in this debate that I share with colleagues that Trafford Park was also key to defeating fascism, with production almost entirely turned over to the war effort from the end of the 1930s. Indeed, it was at Trafford Park that the engines for both the Spitfire and the Lancaster bomber were manufactured—truly national service indeed.
Turning from Stretford and Urmston’s economic and industrial heritage to our cultural and sporting identity, I should note that we are also home to the Trafford Centre, one of the country’s largest indoor shopping and leisure destinations, and the provider of many jobs to our local economy. For those who seek a rather more cultured afternoon, the Imperial War Museum North offers an intellectual and educational experience that is second to none. A short walk away can be found the sporting Mecca that is Old Trafford, home to my beloved Lancashire county cricket club. It is a venue of international repute, and the site in 1993 of cricket’s ball of the century, with Mike Gatting bamboozled by Shane Warne.
On the subject of sport, and as a lifelong Manchester City fan, I have to admit to being sorely tempted today to use the protective veil of parliamentary privilege to assert that there is in fact only one sport in Old Trafford, and they play it with a cricket ball. But whatever my own footballing allegiances, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the global standing of Manchester United as a hugely successful sporting institution, even if they are still below City in the league.
A more recent addition to the constituency has been ITV, which moved production to Stretford and Urmston in 2013. With it came perhaps Manchester’s most famous global export, the cobbles of “Coronation Street”—the longest-running soap in the world. If soap opera has taught us anything, it is that from Weatherfield to Walford, Erinsborough to Emmerdale, and, yes, from Summer Bay to Stretford and Urmston, it is people and communities, not assets and institutions, who truly bind neighbourhoods together. People, that is, like notable former Stretford and Urmston residents Emmeline Pankhurst, L. S. Lowry, the philanthropists John and Enriqueta Rylands, “The One Hundred and One Dalmatians” author Dodie Smith, and the aviator John Alcock, born in Stretford, who piloted the first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919. All have helped to shape my constituency in some way, as have the friendly, hard-working and socially conscious people who are resident there now. I am humbled to be their voice in this place and hope to use my time here focusing on work to better support people out of poverty and to root out inequality.
Anybody seriously attempting to do either of those things must first recognise two simple facts: one, that a safe and secure home is the most fundamental element in unlocking anybody’s potential; and two, that while we as politicians speak the language of addressing unfairness, we are not yet routinely bold enough to challenge that most dangerous of inequalities that is so detrimental to our economy and our future, and that underpins our broken housing market—I speak of the generational inequality that is so entrenched in wealth and privilege up and down the land. I hope to say much more on that in future, Mr Speaker, but time and tradition prevent me from doing so today. I shall simply say that our housing crisis is, at its source, a crisis of basic supply and demand, the answer to which, however much we tinker at the edges, can only ever be to build, build, build. And why? Because:
“Housing is the first of the social services. It is also one of the keys to increased productivity. Work, family life, health, and education are all undermined by crowded houses.”
Those are not my words, but those of Winston Churchill’s Conservative party in its 1951 manifesto. Given that Churchill’s grandson, Winston Churchill MP, represented both Stretford and Urmston’s predecessor constituencies before 1997, those are words it feels fitting to associate myself with today.
So, that is me and that is my constituency, at least a little of it. I want to be an MP for everyone in Stretford and Urmston, but I want to be an MP fighting for a better future for Stretford and Urmston too. It is the honour of my life to serve such wonderful people in such a wonderful place that I am so privileged to call my home. I will give it my all, Mr Speaker, and I hope I will not let them down.