Daisy Cooper’s maiden speech

As is traditional, Liberal Democrat Voice will be covering the maiden speeches of our new MPs as they happen. First up, yesterday, was Daisy Cooper in the Queen’s Speech debate, responding to Dominic Raab on the subject of Britain in the World…

It is a great honour to make my maiden speech following many other accomplished and passionate speakers. My constituency of St Albans is very proud of its contribution both to Britain’s history and to Britain’s place in the world. Alban himself is the first recorded Christian martyr and Britain’s first saint. He was executed for giving shelter to a stranger fleeing persecution, and his grave is a site of pilgrimage to this day. Then there is Magna Carta, the great charter of liberties, which has shaped democracies around the world. The very first meetings that led to the drafting of that charter were held in St Albans Abbey. Today, the abbey is surrounded by pubs—lots and lots of pubs. St Albans has more pubs per square mile than any other place in Great Britain and they are steeped in our nation’s history, too.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald

Let’s all head to St Albans.

Daisy Cooper

You are very welcome. The war of the roses started on the doorstep of The Boot, and Oliver Cromwell stayed the night at the inn now known as Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. These two pubs and many more in St Albans and around the country are under threat like never before. They have suffered a crippling rise in business rates, and the measures announced in this Queen’s Speech to help small retail businesses will not benefit those pubs whose business rates are calculated differently and which have a higher rateable value. In St Albans and around the UK, there are pockets of pubs that have had rate increases of between 100% and 2,000%. They need urgent help if they are to survive the next few months, let alone the centuries to come. It would be a cruel end indeed if these pubs, which have withstood the English civil wars, were finished off by a broken, outdated and unfair system of tax.

To keep our pubs going, the Save St Albans Pubs campaign has mapped out many pub crawls. These crawls will take you through the 100-acre Verulamium park, with its Roman walls and ruins, and to the abbey, home to medieval art hidden for 500 years, until now. Visitors and locals alike can walk through the Sopwell ruins. More alarmingly these days, we can also walk along the often dried-up riverbed of the River Ver, one of the most precious chalk streams in the world. Indeed, my predecessor, Anne Main, warned in her maiden speech in 2005 that the River Ver was in danger of drying up, and yet here we are. I would like to say, despite our many political differences, that Anne contributed 14 years of public service to St Albans and to Parliament. I would like to pay a sincere tribute to her for that.

St Albans is not just a place of history; it is a place of international innovation. St Albans is in Hertfordshire, the county of opportunity. Around the city, we have a number of beautiful villages. Bricket Wood is home to the world’s leading building-science centre, the British Research Establishment, and dotted in and around are many other villages that are home to tech and research businesses. These cutting-edge British-based businesses are harnessing technology and knowledge to produce new products, new jobs and new solutions. Technology offers great potential to tackle many of our modern global challenges, and modern technology, science and research are international. British business requires the easy movement of people and skills across borders. This country has benefited from its EU membership, and our research and development sector is just one example of that. My fellow residents in St Albans do not wish to lose the benefits of such close collaboration and alliances.

Close international collaboration and alliance between Britain and our international cousins is essential if we are to tackle the biggest threat of all: the climate crisis. My fellow constituents in St Albans want tough action to avert climate disaster, including a complete moratorium on airport expansion, including at nearby Luton airport. We want to protect our local natural environment. In St Albans, a significant chunk of our green belt is at risk from the monstrosity of a rail and lorry freight terminal. Our chalk streams, including the River Ver in St Albans, are now in crisis, from both over-extraction and the changing climate. Some 85% of the world’s chalk streams are located in England, and most of those are in Hertfordshire. They are known as England’s Amazon for a reason. These precious ecosystems are a unique global asset. Even without further harm, it will take decades for them to recover.

As hon. Members can see, St Albans is blessed with a rich cultural history, cutting-edge businesses, wonderful pubs—did I mention the pubs?—and beautiful green belt. You can see why St Albans is often described as a wealthy, leafy, commuter town 20 miles north of London, but, like many places across the UK, we only have to scratch the surface to see that some people in St Albans are really, really struggling. There is a rising use of food banks and a growing presence of homelessness. There is palpable frustration at how public services, including the NHS and schools, are chronically underfunded and alarm at the rapid increase in crime from county lines. The St Albans-to-London commute should be easy but is often an unreliable, uncomfortable and increasingly unaffordable ride.

To conclude, St Albans has a lot of history to draw upon, but our outlook is to the future. Over the centuries, our magnificent history has continued to inspire. From martyrdom to Magna Carta and the uprising of Iceni’s Boudicca, St Albans has a timeless tradition of being at the heart of our country’s fights for greater democracy, liberties and freedoms. We believe in St Albans that Britain should be open and internationalist. We believe we should work with our closest international neighbours to tackle the global climate crisis. We believe in our responsibility to take in those fleeing persecution and war, as Alban himself did and as St Albans has continued to do, taking in children and families from 1940s London to 21st-century Syria. I am honoured to represent my fellow residents of St Albans here in Parliament and fully intend to honour our traditions and values during the months and years ahead.

Here is a video excerpt of Daisy’s speech from Twitter:

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22 Comments

  • If there is a future for the Lib Dems, it surely rests with Daisy Cooper.

  • Chris Bertram 14th Jan '20 - 10:08am

    She could have mentioned that, in addition to there being many pubs, that CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale – has been based in St Albans for many years. This seems somehow extremely appropriate.

  • I lived in St Albans for six years and of the six places I have lived – it was by far the best. There was something very special about the place – although from Daisy’s speech it seems likely that this is beginning to fade.

    The pubs certainly was one of the key features – although that was before the smoking ban which allowed me to smoke my pipe – something that has mostly kept me out of pubs ever since [you cannot haver a quick pipe!].

    Daisy must be a very capable politician to unseat Anne Main who was popular and particularly given the Tory’s massive victory in 2019.

  • To echo John B – If there is a future for the Lib Dems, it surely rests with there being a lot more Lib Dems out there like Daisy Cooper.

    It’s important for our country that we support them and get them elected – whether it is to local councils, national or regional assemblies or the House of Commons.

    We got them in the past.

    We can do it again.

    Well spoken Daisy.

  • Paul Pettinger 14th Jan '20 - 12:49pm

    Class act.

  • Paul Barker 14th Jan '20 - 3:38pm

    A great speech; I particularly liked the emphasis on looking forward & treating opponents with respect. Those are both messages that we all need to listen to.

  • Good speech. I must admit Daisy hadn’t really crossed my radar much until she was elected. I mean I knew of the name and I knew she was highly-thought of and doing good things in her bit of the world, but that’s true of quite a number of LibDems and so I hadn’t really given her much thought. Now she’s an MP I’ve been doing a bit of reading of her background, and she is impressive. I think the party’s (apparent) decision to delay the leadership election could be very interesting….

  • Her margin of victory in St. Albans was way ahead of expectations and neighbouring Hitchin & Harpenden also had a huge swing to the Lib Dems. Hopefully the party can learn what went so right in these areas during the election.

  • Paul Barker 14th Jan '20 - 7:54pm

    @ Mike Read
    Mike Smithsons explanation was that so many people there commute to London that it actually behaves more like a London Constituency. We made a lot of Vote Share gains in London though few resulted in actual Seats.

  • Michael Kilpatrick Michael Kilpatrick 14th Jan '20 - 9:41pm

    I wonder how many hours of MPs’ time are wasted listening to each other gratuitously lauding their constituents and predecessors at length? Why follow these pointless, archaic rules when, presumably, there is important work to be done governing the country?

    Why is this even a thing? Tradition? What is that but Dead People’s Baggage? Lib Dems should be leading Parliament away from this sort of thing. Their praise for their constituency and thanks to the electorate and predecessor should be gracious and eloquent but no longer than necessary to introduce themselves to Parliament and then get on with the job in hand. MPs should not have to make some bizarre formulaic “Maiden Speech” before they can make other speeches, which is apparently the rule. That itself is ridiculous.

  • I agree with Michael, what is all this claptrap reverence for tradition, and why is Parliament so stuck-up in it. Maybenits to hide the fact that although 52% of people voted for a progressive and broadly remain parties we have an illegitimate right wing government with a large ‘majority’. Traditions of Parliament? A hundred bulldozers would be more useful. And as for the farce of clearing the lobbies whenever ayes and nos disagree … do us a favour and get an electronic voting system and cut out this ludicrous archaic process

  • John Roffey 15th Jan '20 - 6:57am

    John B 14th Jan ’20 – 9:23am

    “If there is a future for the Lib Dems, it surely rests with Daisy Cooper.”

    Whereas there is no doubt that Daisy is a great talent – any thoughts of considering her as a leader within this parliament surely would be unwise. Think of the plaudits that were showered on Jo Swinson prior to her election as leader. However, it was her inexperience and probably her age that quickly caused her downfall.

    The party cannot afford to promote its young talent too quickly risking an end to their political careers before it has hardly began. Surely a hardened politician is better for this role until after the next election.

    It is difficult not to wonder if those MPs that switched to the party prior to the GE do not now regret their haste. They have all lost their seats – how valuable they would now be to the party had they made the switch after retaining their seats – with a number being prospective leaders if the leadership election could be delayed for as long as possible.

    Once BJ became PM it did seem clear that he would win the GE and it is very likely that the antics of the opposition parties to prevent an election, that was clearly necessary, greatly contributed to his massive win.

    An opportunity to pick up more MPs from Labour must be on the cards after the new Labour leader has been elected in April. New Labour and Corbyn’s Labour Party are simply incompatible and should Keir Starmer or another of the Corbyn faction win – as seems likely – those who would like to see their party move closer to the centre ground are likely to feel that they have no future in the party.

    There can be little doubt that the Lib/Dems need the best leader available before the next GE if the party is to realise its potential. However, none of the potential high profile centre ground Labour MPs will consider a move if the party descends into one of hatred and bitterness which currently seems the most likely outcome.

    Members would serve the party best if they could accept the losses and recognise, however bleak its prospects may seem at the moment, a third party positioned between the two main parties is needed and at present the Lib/Dems are the outright favourites provided anger and frustration is not allowed to ruin its future.

  • John Roffey 15th Jan '20 - 7:00am

    Addendum:

    I do recognise that the behaviour of the opposition parties and the MPs who switched their allegiances was rooted in a very deep belief that leaving the EU would be a disaster. This matter has now been settled conclusively – it is time to move on.

  • Toby Keynes 15th Jan '20 - 9:39am

    Michael: “I wonder how many hours of MPs’ time are wasted listening to each other gratuitously lauding their constituents and predecessors at length? Why follow these pointless, archaic rules when, presumably, there is important work to be done governing the country?”

    I think it’s actually a very sensible tradition – not a rule – to help MPs who are new to the commons to find their feet, and make their first speech – which may be extremely unnerving – before a relatively unabusive audience. In return for opposing MPs not indulging in their usual barracking and heckling, the new member is expected not to raise issues that are likely to provoke (and of course MPs are very easily provoked).

  • Toby Keynes 15th Jan '20 - 9:41am

    I’m puzzled by Daisy’s comment that “Alban himself is the first recorded Christian martyr and Britain’s first saint.”

    Surely that was Christ?

    Not that I’m an expert on Christian history.

  • Alan StephensonIt 15th Jan '20 - 9:48am

    ”It is difficult not to wonder if those MPs that switched to the party prior to the GE do not now regret their haste. They have all lost their seats – how valuable they would now be to the party had they made the switch after retaining their seats – with a number being prospective leaders if the leadership election could be delayed for as long as possible. ”

    That would just look untrustworthy and deceitful,Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless at least had the decency to submit themselves to their electorate when they switched allegiancies.
    If any trust is to be returned to MPs they must be seen to act in a way that deserves it,certainly not by changing sides with the noise of the GE still ringing in our ears.

  • Toby, the word Christian applies to followers of Christ, so that implies people who came after Jesus. There is very much a sense in which Jesus was a martyr, but also stands out above the followers and therefore it is not appropriate to put martyrs who followed Jesus into quite the same category.

  • Toby, I wouldn’t expect any new MP to dive in with ridiculously inflammatory remarks designed to stoke up the usual bear-pit behaviour in the Commons. It’s a simple matter of courtesy and common sense not to be a fool in your first speech – but this doesn’t warrant 15 minutes of brown-nosing waffle. How many man-hours does that waste? And I’m working on the assumption that MPs have had experience talking to large crowds of people in hustings. I don’t believe they’d get elected if they couldn’t. The tradition as it is now is excessive. What’s more, it appears that MPs can’t speak properly until they have scheduled their “maiden speech”. Not all new MPs will do this during the debate on the Queen’s Speech. It’s ludicrous that in a subsequent important debate, those MPs who have not yet applied to the Speaker to schedule their maiden speech will not be equal to all other MPs in their right to speak.

  • Luke Winters 15th Jan ’20 – 7:57am

    Luke – I agree – and did so when it happened. However the party has set new rules, in these ruthless times, by not insisting those that did switch held by-elections. That being the case – why should MPs switching after a GE be treated any differently?

  • Frank – The nod to her predecessor is there, in the third paragraph. And the interruption was delivered ‘from a sedentary position,’ not a formal intervention.

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