Chris Kelly – 2010 Maiden Speech

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Chris Kelly in the House of Commons on 29th June 2010.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech, and I congratulate you on your new position. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal) on his excellent maiden speech earlier.

Today is an Opposition day, so there are even more Labour Members than usual on the Opposition Benches. I am therefore more grateful than colleagues who made their maiden speeches in earlier debates that it is a tradition of the House to listen to a maiden speech without interruption or intervention. I am also pleased to see several fellow black country Members. I am incredibly proud to be black country born and bred. In fact, I could not be more proud of the area I have always called home.

As the new Member for Dudley South, I thank my predecessor, Ian Pearson, for his service to my constituency and its residents. From the moment that I was selected in September 2007, Mr Pearson was always courteous towards me-so courteous that in February this year he announced he would not contest the general election against me. Mr Pearson was elected in a by-election in December 1994 in Dudley West, and went on to hold several ministerial posts between 2002 and 2010. If I may say so, Graham Postles fought a valiant campaign for the Conservatives in 1994, but so much in politics is down to timing, and Dudley West was Tony Blair’s first by-election as leader of the Labour party. It was therefore the first significant victory of the new Labour era, when Labour Members declared that they were the political wing of the British people. As they left the country on the verge of bankruptcy, that claim now has a hollow ring.

I also wish to pay tribute to the former Conservative Member for Dudley West, Dr John Blackburn, who sadly died following a heart attack in the Palace of Westminster in October 1994. I never had the pleasure of meeting John, but I know that he was widely admired by his constituents and even by his political foes. He was a hard-working local MP, and I intend to conduct myself during my time in this Chamber very much in the same manner. John’s widow, Marjorie, is a supporter to this day and has been extremely kind to me during my time as the candidate in her late husband’s old constituency.

If I may, I wish to pay tribute to the late former Member for Coventry South-West, John Butcher, or Butch as I knew him. If I won my seat, Butch and I were due to have dinner to celebrate and to discuss what he called the pitfalls of being an MP. Sadly, we never had the opportunity to dine together in this place.

Dudley South lies between Birmingham and Wolverhampton on the western fringe of the west midlands conurbation. We local people are fiercely proud of Dudley’s own distinctive identity and heritage. The constituency is situated to the west of Dudley town centre and largely consists of residential suburbs and some rural fringes on the border of glorious south Staffordshire countryside. Wards include Brierley Hill; Brockmoor and Pensnett; Kingswinford North and Wall Heath; Kingswinford South; Netherton, Woodside and St Andrews; and Wordsley. Within my constituency, we have the Merry Hill shopping centre, now managed by Westfield, as well as the largest secure trading estate in Europe in the Pensnett estate, along with dozens of smaller trading estates employing many thousands of people in small and medium-sized businesses.

The businesses of Dudley South are the backbone of the British economy and typically employ no more than a dozen people each. It is the creativity and ingenuity of so many of my constituents-making, designing, building and fabricating myriad goods-that is so important to the viability of the British economy. I come from a business background and can see all around my constituency that the entrepreneurial spirit of local people is undimmed by 13 years of red tape, bureaucracy and increased taxation.

Many families in Dudley South are football households. The vast majority of my residents support either the Baggies-West Bromwich Albion, for those who do not know-or Wolves, as I do. In fact, I went to my first game at Molineux when we were in the old fourth division, and three of the four stands were then crumbling wrecks. Many of my constituents know me as a businessman from a well-known local company, headquartered literally in the shadows of the Hawthorns. However, for those constituents who are not Albion fans, I should add that the business also employs people in Kingswinford.

Not only am I proud of my constituency and my area, I am proud of my country. I am fortunate to have travelled extensively, but no matter how exotic or cosmopolitan the destination, I have always yearned for England. Part of that is the people. The people of my borough are decent people who strive to do the right thing by society and, most importantly, by their families. As they told me during the general election, they get frustrated when they see others ahead of them who have not “done the right thing”. Their sense of fairness was seriously challenged by the last Government. I am pleased to see this coalition Government restoring that sense of fairness and balance while addressing the scale of the deficit and debts bequeathed to us. That sense of fairness has been severely tested over the last 13 years as we have seen neighbouring Sandwell metropolitan borough council receiving far more per head from Whitehall than Dudley metropolitan borough council. That massive disparity cannot be fair, and my constituents have also expressed their unhappiness in large numbers about many of the local government funded quangos with questionable track records of productivity and efficiency, and a democratic deficit, when my constituents struggle to make ends meet and pay their council and personal tax bills.

I was born in 1978 under James Callaghan, but I am a child of Thatcher. I was honoured to receive letters from the former Prime Minister both during and after the election, and they now hang proudly on my wall. Baroness Thatcher truly is a guiding inspiration. She comprehensively proved that one person can make a positive difference. My political interest began at the age of 14, when I wrote to the Express and Star, still the largest circulation local paper in the country, about the increase in the entry fee at the local swimming baths. I then joined the Conservative party in 1996 at the age of 18 when I arrived at university in Headington in Oxford, to be greeted by the beaming faces of my hon. Friends the Members for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly) and for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson). The former was at that time the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Oxford East, and the latter was the chairman of the university Conservative society. In 1996, who would have believed that, come 2010, Justin Tomlinson and I would join Jon Djanogly, who has been an MP for nine years already, on the Government Benches?

It is a huge honour to represent Dudley South in this Chamber, and I will work tirelessly to get a fair deal for my residents.