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The BBC's Vicky Young
reports on Parliament's first day
 real 28k

Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 06:12 GMT 07:12 UK
Lammy raises the laughs
Barry Sheerman and David Lammy
Barry Sheerman (l) and David Lammy (r)
The newly elected House of Commons has met for the first time in the wake of Labour's second landslide victory.

Having heard the Queen's Speech, MPs came together for light-hearted speeches from Labour MPs Barry Sheerman and David Lammy.

Your son is a model pupil - unfortunately he is not a working one

David Lammy recounting his school report
The two men, representing old and new blood in the house, were chosen to kick off the new parliamentary term by making what is traditionally known as the loyal address.

Mr Sheerman, who represents the Huddersfield constituency, congratulated Tony Blair for becoming only the second Labour leader to win two consecutive general elections after Harold Wilson.

Unfortunately this was not entirely accurate - he forgot Clement Attlee who twice won general elections for Labour in 1945 and 1950 and whose time as prime minister saw the creation of the health service.

Fortunately his colleagues - or comrades as Mr Sheerman addressed them - were as ignorant of Labour Party history as he was.

Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee: Gone and seemingly forgotten
The MP had a serious message about the lack of interest in Westminster politics as evidenced by the turnout at the general election, however.

He said: "If we don't look at the future of our House, the future of parliament in the 21st century, we are going to be neglecting our jobs as politicians.

"We neglect both of these at out peril and we owe it to ourselves and the future of parliamentary democracy and our constituents to meet this challenge."

After that Mr Lammy clearly saw it as his duty to inject the lighthearted bit into the occasion.

Bernie Grant
Mr Lammy paid tribute to the late Bernie Grant
The Tottenham MP, who succeeded the late Bernie Grant in a by-election after that legendary member died suddenly, said his own gateway to success was through education, although he indicated he had often been a very average pupil.

The 28-year-old barrister compared being called to the chief whips office on Tuesday to be asked to make the humble address with being called to see the headmistress as a seven-year-old pupil at a new school.

On that occasion he arrived in the head teacher's office fearing an early appointment with her slipper and was told to remove his coat and wait for 10 minutes.

In his trepidation the MP misheard her, thinking that she said 'remove your clothes'.

Admitting exposure

"To this day I recall with horror the look on both our faces [when she returned]," he said.

Mr Lammy said that his mother had recently shown him an old school report.

It read: "Your son is a model pupil - unfortunately he is not a working one."

But despite the difficulties, education had been his gateway to success, he said.

Mr Lammy also used the opportunity of his speech to raise the issue of multiculturalism.

As one of only a handful of ethnic minority MPs, he said he looked forward to the day when he no longer stood out in the Commons.

He said: "I look forward to the day when women and black people will not stand out on these benches and this House will truly be a house of representatives."

He believed that the House of Commons and a Labour government were the way forward to build a cohesive society - even if parliament did sometimes seem out of step with the rest of the country.

Slow train

To illustrate the point he told an anecdote recounted to him by a woman at a recent constituency surgery who described being on a very slow train in her native Jamaica.

An irate American tourist stormed up the carriage and asked the driver if he could go any faster.

"I can go faster but I've got to stay with the train," said the driver.

Equally the Commons was the "only vehicle" for delivering necessary change in the UK, Mr Lammy said.

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See also:

23 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Labour holds Tottenham
27 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Youngest MP takes Commons seat
23 Jun 00 | UK Politics
The great black hope
25 Nov 99 | Education
Sheerman to head education committee
01 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead spars with MPs
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