I made my maiden speech – my first full Parliamentary speech in the main Chamber of the House of Commons – on 13th July.
In the past, MPs weren’t allowed to take any real part in Parliamentary proceedings at all until they had made their maiden speech. But leaving so many MPs without the ability to get involved in debates and holding governments to account was far from ideal; if the intake of new MPs was large, sometimes many would need to wait several months before being able to table motions or ask questions. Thankfully these rules have been relaxed so I had already asked questions and intervened in debates in the chamber by the time I was called to make my maiden speech.
The traditional maiden speech will make reference to strengths and positive features of an MP’s new constituency, and it will also provide an opportunity to praise the work of our immediate predecessor. These were traditions I was more than happy to accede to. However, like my SNP colleagues, it would be impossible to stick closely to the traditional rule of avoiding “political controversy”. After all, this was a debate on George Osborne’s budget – and there was no way any contribution could simply ignore the attacks on public services and social security which the chancellor had escalated.
One challenge is that you can never be absolutely sure how long you’ll be able to speak for, and on this occasion speeches were limited to 7 minutes. That meant having to cut out other sections about some the communities in my constituency, and other predecessors I wanted to highlight such as Margaret Ewing and Dennis Canavan.
I also drew a bit of a short straw in that my maiden speech was called just as my colleagues were taking part in an SNP group meeting with the First Minister – so on this occasion I didn’t quite enjoy the same healthy support as others did during their first speeches! They’ve all promised to watch it back on Parliament TV though….