Maiden Speech

Peter Dowd MP, Maiden Speech in the House of Commons...

Mr Speaker, thank you for calling me to make my maiden speech, and congratulations on your re-election.

At the outset I want to thank four of my predecessors, because I knew them all. The first is Simon Mahon, who often visited my house—particularly during election time, when he came with leaflets—given that he was a first cousin of my late mother. I even remember, albeit a little vaguely, leafleting in the 1964 general election; a punishment inflicted on my children in many subsequent elections—I am pleased to say that they have forgiven me.

The second is Allan Roberts, who was well liked and respected by the people of Bootle constituency, even though he was from Manchester, and who died far too young, but to this day he is remembered with fondness. The third is Mike Carr, who, having taken up the cudgel from Allan, also died prematurely just months after his election in 1990, but in that short time he made a lasting and deep impression. Finally, Joe Benton, who many in this House will have known, unerringly served the people of Bootle for a quarter of a century as its MP and for many years before as a councillor.

Another of my predecessors, but one I did not know, was Andrew Bonar Law, the shortest serving Tory Prime Minister of the 20th century; he resided in Downing Street for just 211 days, I understand. Alas, the same cannot be said of subsequent Tory Prime Ministers, but in Bootle constituency we have played our part in trying to keep their tenure to a minimum. I would be happy next time around, if this is permissible, to lend to other Labour candidates some of the 28,700 majority I received in the election, if that would be of help. I am sure that many of the people in my home town would approve of that generous and unselfish offer.

I was born in Bootle constituency, and all my primary, secondary and further education was undertaken there. Regrettably, we did not have a university, so I had to make my way to Liverpool and other universities instead—none of them was a bogus college, I add. I have worked in the constituency, lived there for most of my life and represented a council ward there. That has been not life limiting, but life affirming. It is therefore the greatest of privileges to have been elected to Parliament by the people of Bootle constituency. Colleagues, neighbours, possibly family and friends and perhaps even a few enemies have voted for me. Labour has a huge mandate from the people of Bootle constituency, and it is one that I intend to use to further the needs of my constituents.

Bootle constituency is not just the town of Bootle; it comprises other communities and towns—Crosby, Ford, Litherland, Old Roan, Orrell, Seaforth and Waterloo. Waterloo is a very topical place to talk about this year, the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. I am pleased to say that, unlike the original Waterloo, it is an area of peace and harmony.

My constituency, of which I am very proud, is a place of contrasts. It has huge docklands and hinterland within it. The entrance sign to the dock estate says, “The Port of Liverpool”, but I am pleased to clarify for the benefit of my Liverpool parliamentary colleagues that the port is actually in Seaforth, which is part of the Bootle constituency—but I will not split hairs. The port is expanding, and with that will come many challenges for our local communities. I hope that I will be able to play a constructive part in the economic regeneration and renewal that we all hope the expansion will bring. I am sure that good faith on all sides during the period of expansion can be of mutual benefit to both community and business. Ultimately, however, if need be, I will not shirk from being a protagonist for the needs of my constituents and the communities in which they live.

I said earlier that Bootle constituency is an area of contrasts. Yes, there are the industrial areas and the retail parks, but we also have a beautiful coastline, which earlier this week witnessed the magnificent sight of the three queens—Victoria, Mary and Elizabeth—sailing by, and they, too, were gracious. It has fantastic schools, great leisure facilities, marvellous health services and things to envy. However, it is the resilience, generosity and fortitude of our people that others should most envy.

As a coastal town, the sea has beguiled, entranced and been cruel in equal measures to our people. Nowhere in Bootle constituency is more than a few minutes away from the fantastic and iconic river and estuary that is the Mersey. The estuary and river have been the lifeblood not just of our local communities but, particularly in the dark days of world war two, of our country. As we commemorate and, yes, celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I want people to know that Bootle constituency and its people played their part—a significant part—in the longest battle of the war, the battle of the Atlantic. Our port and town were some of the most badly bombed of the last war. Over three quarters of dwellings were destroyed or damaged in some way by bombing. Hundreds of civilians—men, women and children—lost their lives at home, while their fathers, husbands, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters lost their lives across the globe. They lost their lives in defence of freedom from tyranny and prejudice and in defence of that noble cause, the rule of law.

The rule of law is the very structure that underpins the human rights of all, regardless of their race, creed, sexuality, political colour or country of origin, however inconvenient that might be for some. You cannot pick and mix with human rights laws. Over the centuries, this House has been a living, breathing monument to the rule of law and the cause of human rights. In that regard, it must stay its hand or for ever regret a retreat into a moral lacuna that gives succour to the very regimes we seek to influence for the better, as we did after the last war.

With this history behind me, I was elected to this House to ensure that the needs and rights of all those who live in Bootle, Crosby, Ford, Litherland, Orrell, Old Roan, Seaforth and Waterloo are my first and only priority. I intend to fulfil that responsibility to the best of my ability. I trust and hope, Mr Speaker, that you will, on occasion, grace me with the opportunity and, at times, indulgence and forbearance in this Chamber to do just that. Thank you.

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