Baroness Smith, whose full title is the Right Honourable the Baroness Smith of Basildon, was introduced into the Lords two weeks ago after she was nominated for a peerage by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Making her first speech in the House of Lords, Baroness Smith paid tribute to her parents Pat and Emily Evans, of Piercys, Pitsea, for ensuring she received the education that has helped secure her prestigious new role.
She said: “As a child from a very ordinary working-class family, I could not have expected to have the honour of serving your Lordships’ House and the other place (House of Commons).
“My parents – my mother being from a Scottish mining family and my father from the east end of London, saw, like too many of their generation, their education ended too soon. They were therefore determined both my sister and I would have the educational opportunities they never had, for which I remain enormously grateful, although I did not perhaps appreciate them at the time. It has also made me a great believer in the value of education and of access to education for all.”
Giving her speech, the 51-year-old who lives in Langdon Hills, told peers the first Lady Basildon was a fictional character in Oscar Wilde’s novel An Ideal Husband.
She told the House: “When I was introduced to your Lordships’ House, I did so as the first Baroness of Basildon – possibly the first time that a modern new town has been recognised in this way.
“But I have to confess to your Lordships that I am not the first Lady Basildon.
“The first was created in 1895 by the great Irish writer Oscar Wilde in his play ‘An Ideal Husband’, which was performed first at the Haymarket Theatre.
“Lady Basildon was described as being of ‘exquisite fragility’ – an attribute which I doubt has ever been used to describe me – but she showed an interest in politics, of a kind.”
Baroness Smith, was Basildon’s MP for 13 years until she lost to Tory Stephen Metcalfe in May’s general election.