9 Jul 2024

New MPs reflect on their first day in parliament

Europe Editor and Presenter

Keir Starmer hailed what he called the most diverse parliament by race and gender which the country has ever seen. It includes 335 newly elected MPs, all starting work in the Commons for the very first time. The Commons was so crowded today, it was standing room only at the back.

We’re joined by Joshua Reynolds, the new Liberal Democrat MP for Maidenhead. He took the seat from the Conservative Party after the former prime minister Theresa May stood down.

And, Marie Tidball – Labour’s new MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge. A red wall seat which the Tories won in 2019 but failed to hold this time.

Matt Frei: Josh, I’m only going to mention your age once, and I’m only doing that – you’re 25 – because I’m insanely jealous. However, you’ve actually been in politics in your constituency since 2019, haven’t you?

Joshua Reynolds: Yes, I was elected as a councillor within the local council in 2019, in May, and then I stood again in the Maidenhead constituency for parliament in December.

Matt Frei: Ever since you’ve been alive, you’ve only ever known Theresa May as your MP and now you’ve replaced her, and she was incredibly popular when she was MP. This must be both exhilarating and daunting for you.

Joshua Reynolds: It is. Honestly, I’m humbled that the people of Maidenhead have put their trust in me, having put their trust in Theresa for so long. I think it’s a real change from what people were saying they wanted a change, and Theresa standing down, it really was that opportunity for something new, someone that knew the area and knew what people wanted.

Matt Frei: Has she congratulated you?

Joshua Reynolds: I haven’t spoken to her yet. I’m going to reach out to her in the next few days.

Matt Frei: So Marie, what did it feel like arriving here today in the House of Commons? Have you got a desk yet?

Marie Tidball: I haven’t got a desk yet, we’ve got a hot desk. But it felt amazing. It’s an incredible privilege. I won my seat with a nearly 9,000 majority.

Matt Frei: Overturning a 7,000 Tory majority?

Marie Tidball: Absolutely and a 17.2 per cent swing in an area that I grew up, the first person in over 100 years to grow up in our constituency and go on to become its member of parliament. So it feels a really great honour and privilege to be here.

Matt Frei:  As you were campaigning, when did it dawn on you that you might win that seat? Apart from all the national polls which were, of course, heading in one direction.

Marie Tidball: We worked hard for every single vote, and there was this real sense of positivity. I think just towards the end of the short campaign, particularly going to community events and really feeling that sense of positivity and local people getting behind me and lovely messages from friends and local people too.

Matt Frei: So what’s the best thing about this place and, so far, what’s the worst thing?

Marie Tidball: The best thing about this place is the opportunity to make change happen here. That’s just so exciting on behalf of our communities. The worst thing, I think, is the amount of marching around an old building. But it’s a really special experience.

Matt Frei: What about you Josh, what do you think?

Joshua Reynolds: I’ve got lost in lots of corridors so far, so I think lots to get lost in. But the honour of being in this place, standing for the people of Maidenhead, it’s just fantastic. The opportunity that presents itself here for us, I think it’s amazing.

Matt Frei: There’s a lot of cynicism about politics, with every generation. But especially young people, young voters, or non-voters, are particularly disgruntled with what previous governments and parliaments have done for them. Do you think you can make any difference there?

Joshua Reynolds:  I think we’ve got to. We’ve got to be able to relate to the people that are voting for us and being able to relate to young people, which I think is really important. There’s not a lot of politicians that young people relate to.

Matt Frei: How would you do that?

Joshua Reynolds: Oh, I don’t know. I think we need to really connect to young people and say what they want to hear, listen to them and listen to their voice. We need to make change based off their views.

Matt Frei: What are the areas of policy that you’re going to be homing in on?

Joshua Reynolds: For me, key things in my constituency. I’ve got the local hospital which needs the walk-in centre reopened. It’s those kinds of local issues that people really care about.

Matt Frei: Marie, you’re going to do local surgeries, right? Your weekly surgery in your constituency, presumably. Will that be daunting? Coming across voters who expect something in return from their local MP, or are you relishing that prospect?

Marie Tidball: I’m relishing it. I’ve been out on the doorstep in our constituency, in every part of our constituency for two years now, finding out what the issues are that are affecting local people. For me, this is about service and knowing that I can now do something as their constituency MP. Whether that is making sure we bring buses back into public control, whether that’s making sure we get a steel strategy in our constituency, it’s just really exciting to see the impact that we’ll be able to have.

Matt Frei: You’ve been a disability campaigner for years now – and I know this is an issue that Keir Starmer has referred to as well, but obviously you’re hoping to make a real difference in that area. How do you think you’ll go about doing that?

Marie Tidball: I feel so proud to be here and hopefully we’ll smash that glass ceiling in terms of disability representation in parliament. I’ve got 14 years of listening to disabled people up and down the country and it will be things like making sure I’m championing SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] issues. That’s something that very much comes up in our constituency. I’d love to do a piece of work around inclusive maternity care pathways for disabled women, but also for our retired construction and industrial workers in our constituency about how we can improve health care for them. So there’s loads to get our teeth stuck into and I can’t wait to crack on and get going.

Matt Frei: It seems the beginning of a very long journey. This is just your first few days in parliament, and yet we know from this election that there are quite a few MPs who only survived one term, including the one you replaced. Do you think, as you walk through these halls of power, that this could be quite a short-lived experience, or is this going to be a long one for you?

Marie Tidball: I think every single day you’ve got to work out what’s the most change that you can make for your communities. I carry that with me and will make sure that I do all I can to represent them well here.

Matt Frei: Josh, you seem to be getting along perfectly well at the moment, but you could be at loggerheads with each other. When is this going to turn into a shark pool here?

Joshua Reynolds: I think we’ve got to build a parliament where people work together.

Matt Frei: That’s what everyone says at the beginning.

Joshua Reynolds: Lots of people were talking to me over the last few weeks, knocking on doors, saying that politics had become too nasty, become too divisive, and they want politics that works for them, that fairer deal for people. So we’ve got to be able to work together. And if we disagree with each other, we’ve got to do it in an honourable way.

Matt Frei: In a civilised way, which I’m sure you will.