Reshuffles bring far more excitement, gossip, curiosity, passion, disappointment than almost any other Parliamentary event. Far more than they justify. People come and people go. The old guard, or those performing sub-optimally depart (commiserations locally to Robert Buckland who had to make way as Lord Chancellor for a demoted Dom Raab; well done to Justin Tomlinson who is well placed as Deputy Chairman of the Party with responsibility for campaigning; and to Michelle Donelan who keeps her job, but also gets to attend Cabinet); and the keen young thrusters get their first grip on the Ministerial greasy pole. Any team needs refreshing from time to time, some people need rewarding, others put out to grass. Yet we old stagers - and I have probably lived through 20 or 30 major reshuffles - know that ‘what goes around comes around’.
These little Westminster excitements pale into reality by comparison with the truly great people and events alongside them. Emma Raducanu inspired us all - not only for being the first British woman to win a major tennis tournament in 45 years; not only by the quiet efficiency with which she did so dropping not a single set in all ten Championship matches; but also for her sheer normalness. I loved the fact that she was waiting for her A-Level results and that her Mum and Dad had not managed to get a plane ticket to see her great victory. She must keep her feet on the ground despite this magnificent performance.
Then I remembered my Regimental friend Simon Turner who was killed with 3000 others on 9/11. Can it really be twenty years ago? I spent much of the week on allied military matters - planning a Parliamentary Welcome Home for the Paras and RAF people involved in the Afghanistan evacuation; taking 25 MPs and peers to the Defence Academy at Shrivenham to learn more about our armed services (I am Chairman of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust); and ending the week at a magnificent Sunset Ceremony and dinner given by the Chief of the Air Staff at RAF Northolt to commemorate the Battle of Britain.
Northolt was one of the main Battle of Britain bases, commemorated by a split-second accurate Spitfire fly past just as the Colour was lowered. The dinner was in the very room where those brave young men would lounge around waiting to be scrambled and dash out to their aircraft.
The others at the ceremony included the Chief of the Air Staff and his deputy, two Air Marshals, an Admiral, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Sedwill, the Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport and a whole panoply of the very great and the very good. But noticeably what they all had in common - alongside their great brains and capabilities - was their cheerful, modest, down to earth, common sense approach. There was no grandness, no pomposity, no self-regard. These were truly great people; people at the top of their professions; people who have achieved things which few of us can imagine. Yet as we stood together watching the flag being lowered after the Last Post, remembering the brave young men who ran through those very doors very often to their deaths; and whose efforts and bravery secured our freedom and the peace of the World; we were all truly humbled.
There is an old countryside saying “’Andsome is as ‘andsome does.” That was epitomised not by the shuffling around at Westminster; not by the greatness of my dining colleagues; not by the medals and uniforms; but by memory of those young men - ‘the few’ to whom we owe so much. “Never in the field of human conflict…..”
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, has welcomed the return to normal business in Parliament and the chance to resume his usual advice surgeries after a long-enforced break due to the Covid pandemic.
Mr Gray said:
“Over the past months I have managed to keep in touch with constituents via telephone and email but there is really no substitute to face to face meetings to try and help people deal with problems and concerns.
I have always held surgeries around the...
James Gray MP hosted a Parliamentary event thanking St John Ambulance volunteers and frontline staff for their extraordinary efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday September 8th.
50 St John people, including volunteer and employed ambulance crews from the South West, attended the event.
Since March 2020, tens of thousands of St John people have given more than a million hours of their time to care for people in hospitals, on ambulances, at events,...
My (increasingly vast) postbag gives a pretty good sample of views at least here in North Wiltshire. There has been a very broad spectrum with regard to this week’s big story- the 1.25% increase in National Insurance which will be used first to allow the NHS to recover from the Pandemic and catch up on the backlog; and thereafter to reform the way in which long term care is paid for.
There are some purists who point out that this is a breach of the Tory Party Manifesto, to which I...
Parliament will be back on Monday, and I am very glad of it as there is a great deal to be done - Afghanistan, Covid, Brexit aftermath, economy, Planning Bill, Cop26 and so much more.
Quite apart from the main effort- scrutinising legislation and Government action by debates and questions in the main Chamber, in Westminster Hall, and in the 30 or 40 Committee Rooms which are full morning, noon and night, I hope (and expect) that the House will otherwise be pretty much getting back...
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