Dawn made her Maiden Speech on June 2 2015 as the new Member of Parliament for Brent Central.
It is a privilege to speak on a day when we have heard so many great maiden speeches. I want to thank God and thank the people of Brent Central for returning me to this place, and not only as a Labour gain, but with a majority that makes me blush. I know that a Member of this place can be a maiden only once, but I would like to follow in the tradition of maiden speeches by thanking my predecessor for her congratulatory card and her warm words. She worked very hard for Brent Central and said that it was a privilege to serve.
Brent Central was created in 2010, from the leafy Mapesbury to the lovely Harlesden, but in 2015 it sent a clear message: having suffered under a Lib Dem-Tory coalition, it wanted no more. Unfortunately, Labour failed to win the general election, and lessons will need to be learnt, but as we listen to the Conservatives we could almost be forgiven for thinking that they were not responsible for the bedroom tax, which saw hundreds of people move out of my constituency; or for the young people who decided not to go to university because of the increase in tuition fees; or for the people who do not have enough money to pay for the expensive pre-pay meters installed in their homes; or for the people who cannot afford legal representation; or for the closure of our A&E at Central Middlesex hospital, which means the poorest people of Brent Central have to travel the furthest for emergency care—£25 in a taxi or an hour on a couple of buses—at the A&E at Northwick Park hospital, where last week 575 patients waited more than four hours to be seen.
It has been a tough five years, and I fear for the next five. As one of the founding members of People Against Austerity, I know that I am going to be really busy, because unlike the previous MP, I am not a member of the Government, so I will stand up to them and hold them to account. Just imagine that in the year Magna Carta celebrates its 800th birthday, it falls to the Labour party to stand up for those important freedoms. As a former trustee of Citizens Advice and a magistrate, I see the devastation when rights are taken away. We in the Labour party need to be an effective Opposition. Rev. Oliver of St Mark’s, Kensal Rise, talks about three R’s: reserve, regrets and retreat. We must hold nothing in reserve, have no regrets and not retreat from our founding principle of a country fair for all.
The people of Brent Central have given me this chance to serve them as their Labour MP. They were so sad on 8 May when Labour did not win the election, and they wonder what lies ahead. Of course, we have tax cuts for millionaires while poor people and the elderly are freezing in their homes. We have the bedroom tax for the poor and disabled, zero-hours contracts, food banks, tax avoidance by the richest corporations, and charities are restrained by gagging laws while professional lobbyists roam free and unfettered around the lobbies of Westminster. While all that is going on, the Government are painting the trade unions as organisations in need of reform. In reality, trade unions defend and protect people who are on zero-hours contracts or who cannot afford legal representation. At that point, Brent Central is going to become the reggae capital of Europe. As a woman with locks, I feel compelled to quote Robert Neston Marley to the Government:
“You can fool some people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”
I will hold true to the promises I made on the doorsteps of Brent Central. I will fight for all of you, not just the few. For those in Tokyngton, Stonebridge, Harlesden, Kensal Green, Willesden Green, Dollis Hill, Dudden Hill, Welsh Harp and Mapesbury, I pledge to work on the issues that are important to you, from pre-pay meters to the NHS and legal aid, to name just a few. I will be unstinting in my efforts to represent Brent Central.
Under a Labour Government, my mother’s breast cancer was caught early, and for that I am grateful to the NHS. Three years ago my father died from an infection in hospital. I hope that we can work together with the Government to make the NHS a place that is fair and free for all, but be assured that I will work to hold them to account and ensure that we save the NHS. There may be more Members on the Government side of the House than on the Opposition side—almost, and not today—but on the Opposition side we aim to help the many, not the few.