Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 4:03 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Aidan Burley Aidan Burley Ceidwadwyr, Cannock Chase 4:03, 26 Mawrth 2015

In the short time available, I want to take the opportunity to thank all the people who have made standing here, in this cockpit of the nation, possible for a humble lad from Birmingham.

First and foremost, I thank my family, without whom I would never have inherited my interest in politics, let alone the confidence to pursue it. I think that interest stems from my great grandmother, Nora Hinks, who was one of the earliest female councillors in Birmingham—admittedly for the Liberal party—in the early 1950s. My mother, Lois, and my grandmother, who we call Mrs Ward, both played a huge role in the 2010 campaign that led to us winning Cannock Chase. Mum was out pounding the streets of Cannock whatever the weather, regularly delivering leaflets in the cold and rain, even in the snow. She even let me move back into her house, aged 30, and without that base in Birmingham I would never have been able to campaign so effectively 20 miles up the road to win the seat. She was always there, no questions asked, and ready to help, as indeed she has been all my life.

Mrs Ward, despite being in her nineties, often sat up into the late hours folding leaflets and putting them into walking routes. Others here will know how important it is to have a map with the roads highlighted on it to give to the deliverers, and it is fair to say that they were placed in the neatest piles, with the maps perfectly folded, when she personally organised them.

I also thank my dad, whose donation of a week’s holiday in his villa in Bali raised the most amount of money of any of our auction prizes in my campaign, securing vital funds to put out all those leaflets and newspapers, which are so important in persuading people to vote for us.

My sister Briar and my brother-in-law Rick were also regular visitors, driving all the way up from London to, as Rick used to sing in the car, “Keep posting those letters!” My sister has always been a rock of support for me over the years, keeping me sane when the times were tough and encouraging me to have a positive outlook—a necessary requirement when fighting a seat with a 9,000 Labour majority. Her husband also wins the prize for the best letter to the editor of the local paper, saying that as the new MP for Cannock Chase I should get a Staffordshire bull terrier and name it Chevy Chase, which I promised to do, but did not—typical politician!

More than anything, I want to thank my long-suffering agent, Ian Collard, and his wife Rowena. They have worked more hours for me and my campaign than anyone else and they have never asked for a single penny in return. They were the architects of the 2010 campaign that secured the biggest swing of the election—a whopping 14%, which even the BBC called a “staggering result”. Without their meticulous planning, advice and strategy, we would never have won, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for enabling me to have the experience of being an MP. They will remain true friends for long after I leave this place.

Finally, I thank my wife Jodie, who is sitting in the Gallery and who has worked for more than four years as the manager of my constituency office, the MP help zone. Dealing with some of the most complex cases and often the rudest and most awkward constituents, she has maintained a quiet dignity and poise that few could match. Our wonderful wedding in the Crypt last August was the highlight of my time here—a truly magnificent venue and a day we will never forget.

In this House, I personally thank my hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth for his unparalleled support and kindness to me, especially during the tough times, and wish him every success for yet another term in this place. I do not know how he does it. My dear friends Chisholm Wallace and Harry Spencer Smith have also been stalwarts and will remain good friends for years to come. Indeed, besides the parliamentary seats being contested, this House does not forget those fighting for district council and other seats. From Walsingham to Walham and from Cornwell to Cadwell, we wish them well.

Being an MP has been an incredible journey—a rollercoaster, really—with some huge highs as well as a few lows, but with the good more than cancelling out the bad. It was an itch I had wanted to scratch since I was a young man, when I met John Major in the 1997 general election, and I feel very fortunate to have achieved my dream when I was just 31. I had not expected to win the seat, let alone with the biggest swing in the country, but that just goes to show what can be achieved with great campaigning, hard work and the right team.

Being an MP has been a tremendous privilege, with some unique experiences and the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of constituents. In what other job could someone save a hospital, electrify a train line or run a series of jobs fairs to help people back into work? We are rightly proud of all those achievements in Cannock.

Being an MP also comes at a great cost, including being away from home four nights a week, working very long hours, often for lower pay than before, and with constant, unwanted and unwarranted media intrusion into every aspect of ours and our families’ lives. It is a price that was once worth paying, but for me that time has now passed and I look forward to new challenges, greater freedoms and a life outside this mad House.