I was so utterly convinced that I wouldn’t win that I didn’t even have a speech prepared. We had been up all night and were surrounded by the closest members of our team. The atmosphere in Plymouth Guildhall was absolutely electric and as the results came through, my total unpreparedness started to give way to a realisation of what we had achieved.
It’s fair to say that the next few days were a bit of a blur. The phone was ringing constantly: press, friends, family, new colleagues, fellow MPs, more press. On many an occasion, I felt lost. Whilst I knew what I wanted to do, which is to serve Plymouth, I didn’t know how I was supposed to begin to go about it. The campaign fight had been relentless and one that I, Felicity (my wife) and the rest of the team had been striving to win for 18 months. Then it stopped. Done. Gone. Move on. This meant we all had to refocus our efforts, learn where our attentions needed to now be and for me, transition from being a candidate into a Member of Parliament. And that needed to be done fairly quickly, thank you very much.
The first thing new MPs do in the Chamber is their maiden speech. I wrote mine as an exercise in honesty about why I had run for election and the things I wanted to achieve as an MP. To me, that seemed like the obvious thing to do. When I watch it back, I am aware of how quickly I spoke. Partly this was down to nerves, a sense of occasion did prevail, but I came to parliament with a duty to discharge and I feel a real sense of responsibility towards that. Regardless of the speed of my words, the response from all corners was overwhelming and something I did not foresee in any way, shape, or form.
While many people think first of the Westminster side of things when becoming an MP, I knew one of my biggest and most important tasks was setting up a constituency office in Plymouth Moor View. Casework was flooding in, my opinion was required on a wide range of subjects, I was needed for interviews, people wanted me to attend functions; in short, I had to go about setting up an office in order to start delivering for my constituents – again, the sooner the better.
It is true to say that it’s taken a few months to really find my feet. Yet, now that I have, and I’m serving my country (in a new way) and standing in Westminster representing my city, I have the reassurance that I get to try and do something great to improve things for Plymouth, for mental health provision and for the care of veterans across the country.