A strong experienced voice for North Wiltshire
I offer long-standing experience and a track record as a successful, hard-working and caring representative of North Wiltshire in Parliament.
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Thursday 2 December 2021 Weekly Column

I absolutely sympathise with the outrage felt by so many over the constant stream of illegal immigrants in small boats crossing the Channel – 25,000 this year; and I share the compassion felt over the 27 who so tragically lost their lives last week. “Something must be done about it” – of that there is no question. But what? It’s not just a physical matter- of turning the boats back, or even as two of my local correspondents advised this week, using marksmen to shoot holes in the rubber dinghies; or even preventing the sale of rubber boats across the Continent!! You can imagine that both got pretty short shrift from me. It is certainly true that we must declare war on the vicious thugs of people smugglers- who make a wicked fortune out of these unfortunate people; and we must do what we can to secure our borders and to deter would-be migrants.

But let’s try to get these tragic ‘Boat people’ into perspective. There were 18 million passenger arrivals in the UK this year; 700,000 visas were granted (38% for study, 26% for tourists; 18% to work.) So totemically ghastly as it may be, the number of people arriving by small boat is actually comparatively very small. What’s more, it is estimated that about 400 million displaced people of one sort or another are on the move in the world; and no amount of local patrols would halt that tide of humanity. We have a long and honourable history of giving safe haven to genuine political asylum seekers- those who would be persecuted for their political beliefs in their home territories. But we simply do not have the resources nor any moral obligation to match the famous words on New York’s Statue of Liberty; “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” If we did, we could expect tens of millions of people on our doorstep in no time. Those who are advocating some kind of safe passage to avoid more English Channel tragedies ignore that harsh reality.

The root of the problem is not local, not tactical. It’s not about turning away rubber boats in Dover. It must be about curing the malaise in the world which makes these people give up everything and risk their children’s lives in a desperate effort to escape their homelands. It’s about warfare, starvation, poverty, risks from Climate Change; and it’s about the internet which allows people everywhere to witness our prosperity. A Billion people go to bed every night starving; and another billion of us go to be obese. That cannot go on. The problem in the English Channel has Global causes and so must the solutions. We must staunch the flow at source, not at the destination.

The World is a very threatening place right now- with Russian armies massing on the borders of Ukraine, with Bosnia looking worryingly unstable- a matter I raised with the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday; we cannot risk a return to the genocide we saw only 25 years ago right here on the Continent of Europe; Covid variants threaten the unvaccinated far more than we in the West.

“Jaw Jaw Jaw is better than War War War.” So we must talk to people with whom we feel uneasy. I was glad to host my second Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly this week on Wednesday, and to welcome China and Russia as well as the UK and USA and 20 other nations, around one table, and to reach a consensus about working to preserve the ‘Great White Continent’. If we can do it on a subject like that, let us work towards doing it to combat the awful prospect of half a billion migrants; and let us work together against the causes which lie behind mass migrations- war, poverty, starvation and the consequences of Climate Change (as we did so recently at COP 26). There is no point in trying to build a wall round Fortress Britain. We must instead be an ever-greater force for good in the wider world.

Thursday 25 November 2021 Weekly Column

When I was bold enough to admit in a Column a couple of weeks back that, while I do not necessarily support what he did, I stood by Owen Paterson as an old friend, my admission was greeted by shrieks of condemnation by a few tooth-suckingly self-righteous, holier-than-thou correspondents. They would rather jump on the passing bandwagon of disapproval and condemn Owen as if he were a mass murderer than give him the safeguards of natural law. It is my experience that friendship is more

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Friday 19 November 2021 Weekly Column

Like most men, my multi-tasking skills are a bit limited. I do manage to keep a fair number of balls in the air: Parliamentary and constituency, military and Polar interests; writing; home life. I have no paid outside interests bar a few fees for speaking, completing Ipsos Mori questionnaires and similar minutiae (all declared in the Register of Members’ Interests). And I do maintain a reasonable number of unpaid interests- Trinity House, the Honourable Artillery Company, Royal Geographical

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Friday 12 November 2021 Weekly Column

In the turmoil of the last couple of weeks we could all take a lesson from Her Majesty the Queen for whom ‘Duty’ has been a guiding light through all the years of her reign. As Wordsworth has it “Duty, the stern daughter of the Voice of God….” Those of us who choose to be in public life; but also all who provide a public service - in the NHS, as a clergyman, teacher, public sector worker of any kind -may well do our job it because we happen to enjoy it, get a degree of personal satisfaction

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Thursday 4 November 2021 Weekly Column

There’s something eerie – spooky - unsettling about this time of the year between Halloween and Remembrance Sunday. Halloween of course is associated with witchcraft, ghosts and ghoulies; followed by All Saints Day and All Souls Day when we remember our dead. The clocks change and the days get shorter; leaves fall from the trees; the harvest is over (largely) and the nights are drawing in. I have always felt that the Equinox also heralds all kinds of momentous - or tragic - events. There

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My latest book 'Wiltshire to Westminster' is now available here.

My latest book 'Full English Brexit' is now available online at jamesgray.org/full-english-brexit

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james@jamesgray.org
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