Edward Leigh – 2024 First Speech as Father of the House

The speech made by Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough and the new Father of the House, in the House of Commons on 9 July 2024.

As the first Back Bencher to speak in this Parliament, let me say that I seem to remember that almost the very first thing you said in your distinguished career as our Speaker, Mr Speaker-Elect—you said it almost before you arrived in the Chair—was that your primary job was to defend us Back Benchers, and I know that you will do that with enormous spirit and diligence. This place is primarily about great events and the Opposition holding the Government to account, but it is also about the right and duty of all us Back Benchers to have our views and our say, even if some of our views are a bit idiosyncratic. We all welcome the fact that we are such a diverse Parliament in every single way, but above all, we are a Parliament of a diversity of views. We are all equal. To be fair, some are more equal than others, but you, Mr Speaker-Elect, will defend our right to speak our mind and to hold the Government to account.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Peter Bottomley, who gave such wonderful service to this House. He sent me a lovely little note today. He said, “Have fun, do some good, and make people happy.” You, Mr Speaker-Elect, cannot make all of us happy all the time, but every single day, you try to make most of us happy for most of the time.