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James Gray MP

James visiting RAF Brize Norton and inspecting the A400M.

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James Gray MP

James with the Prime Minister visiting the UK Aid Disaster Response Centre at Kemble Airport

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James Gray MP

James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation

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James Gray MP

James at The Springfields Academy

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Who takes Britain to War?

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chamberWhich of the following is most important to you: Ebola, ISIS, or UKIP? Does it matter more that some experts predict a worldwide epidemic claiming perhaps 1 million lives, that at this moment innocent women and children are being murdered in their thousands because of their ethnicity or beliefs; or that a maverick Tory MP won a by-election in Clacton?

I think I know what your answer would be. It is right that we have sent 750 military personnel to West Africa, including a Royal Naval ship and helicopters to fight what could so easily become a global catastrophe; and it is right that we have sent warplanes to help protect the innocent and prevent genocide in Iraq. Yet historians in years to come will wonder that those two great and grave matters; together with others such as the warnings from the International Monetary Fund that the EU economy may be stalling, were forced off our front pages by a by-election?

So it is only right that we consider very carefully the messages which the electorate sent us in Clacton, Heywood and Middleton and elsewhere. The fact is that voters are not happy. They are worried above all about ‘immigration’ (although probably slightly unclear about exactly what they mean by it); they are unhappy about the EU’s interference in our everyday lives; they are concerned about crime and the general erosion of our traditional values and way of life. Those and so many other less-defined annoyances and concerns merge in a by-election to ‘giving the traditional parties a good kicking.’

The Conservatives in particular must listen very carefully to that message and seek to redefine their central core message and beliefs. The Labour Party are in just as much a difficulty, especially in the aftermath of the Scottish Referendum and the collapse of their support north of the border. And our poor old partners in coalition, the Lib Dems, are just such a hopeless case as to be in need of terminal care. All three traditional parties must wake up to the message from Clacton and re-think their approach to their electorate.

However there is one message which has been too often parroted on our screens over the last few days with which I fundamentally disagree. And that is that the Clacton result demonstrates a generalised dissatisfaction with our political systems and with Westminster in general. There is absolutely no evidence that that is the case. My own experience locally - in my regular school visits, in talks with businesses and public bodies, in my surgeries, in meetings with constituents of all kinds, and at the excellent Any Questions broadcast last Friday from John Bentley School in Calne - is that people feel just as strongly about politics today as ever they did. It’s just that their party political allegiances may be more fickle than they traditionally were. People are much more concerned about individual issues than about the generality of party politics.

It’s not the by-election which matters. It’s the messages which lie behind that maverick result. And we traditional politicians from thee parties must now listen very carefully to them.

2014-10-09-calneOne of the things I like best about North Wiltshire is its very diversity. Cricklade and Malmesbury, Luckington and Yatesbury; Royal Wootton Bassett and Marston Meysey; Box and Lydiard Millicent. Diversity and geographic spread, yet so much in common as well. We all want to live in more-or-less preserved Wiltshire market towns, surrounded by countryside and villages; with a distinct military flavour; a bit West country (NOT South West); dairy farming and woodland. You get the general picture, I am sure.

I have by chance had a particular focus on Calne in recent weeks, and what a wonderful little community it is. It went through some tough times after the closure of the Harris Bacon factory in 1983, and had suffered from the closure (soon to be reversed) of RAF Lyneham. But it is without doubt coming through the bad times and re-emerging from its chrysalis as a thriving Wiltshire Community.

In recent weeks, I have held my regular surgeries in the Town Hall; I gave a lecture (on the Scottish Referendum) at St Mary’s School, which was attended by a great many local people. I visited and toured the lovely new buildings at the outstandingly good Springfields Academy and offered the Acting Head and Governors my wholehearted support for the vital work they do for pupils from across Wiltshire with Special Educational needs and a diversity of behavioural difficulties. I was especially impressed by the School Council and other students who showed me around. What a bright and well-motivated bunch they are.

The Repair Academy on the Porte Marsh Industrial estate is a brilliant new initiative – recycling perfectly good stuff from landfill sites, training youngsters to refurbish it, and either selling it, or passing it to people who may be in special need of furniture or other equipment such as cookers. It kills three birds - environmental, social and educational with one stone.

My Calne educational quartet was rounded off by a meeting with Year 6 at St Dunstan’s Primary School. They bombarded me with some of the sharpest and best informed questions about Parliament and politics I have ever come across. Bright and able, they have a great future ahead of them.

So to those who bleat about the younger generation, who claim that they are ill-motivated and lacking in interest in the world around them or in politics, I would just say: take a look at these four hugely diverse educational and training establishments in Calne. My four visits gave me enormous confidence in the future of the town as a whole.

Latest from the Chamber

Energy and Climate Change: Energy Efficiency - 27/02/2014
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): One of the groups most deserving of benefit, from the warm home scheme in particular, are those who live in park homes, of which we have many in North W...
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Food Adulteration - 07/03/2013
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): Cross-contamination by horsemeat in every part of the United Kingdom could be stopped if we prevented the killing of horses in multi-species abattoirs. ...
Statement: Army Basing Plan - 05/03/2013
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): I very much welcome the extra stability that the announcement will make in the lives of service personnel and their families. The people of Wiltshire wi...

More news

06 October 2014, 21.01
James Gray MP visits St Dunstan’s Primary School
North Wiltshire MP James Gray visited St Dunstan CE VC Primary School in Calne on Friday to talk with Year 6 pupils about Parliament and politics. Speaking from Wiltshire this evening, Mr Gray said:  “I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Year 6 pupils and their teachers at St Dunstan’s and to hear what they had to say about the state of the nation and the world and what we politicians can do to alleviate some of the grave pro...
02 October 2014, 07.30
Exciting times indeed
What a week it’s been. The aftermath of the Scottish referendum rumbles on, with the focus firmly on the English Question. I for one will not support any further devolution to Scotland unless and until the rights and interests of my English constituents are safeguarded. That can only be done by removing the ability of Scottish MPs to vote on English matters, including the Budget and the Queen’s Speech. Labour of course will never agree to that...
25 September 2014, 10.47
Statesmanship and leadership, not populism
There can be no doubt that the heart-wrenching scenes emerging from Iraq and Syria demand urgent western action. How can we stand by as children are beheaded by ISIL because they refuse to renounce Jesus? What civilised nation would not act - and act with urgency - to stop this humanitarian catastrophe? Yet we in Britain risk being left behind. America and France are engaged in military action in Iraq. They are at this moment saving civilians’ ...
25 September 2014, 08.30
Statesmanship and leadership, not populism
There can be no doubt that the heart-wrenching scenes emerging from Iraq and Syria demand urgent western action. How can we stand by as children are beheaded by ISIL because they refuse to renounce Jesus? What civilised nation would not act - and act with urgency - to stop this humanitarian catastrophe? Yet we in Britain risk being left behind. America and France are engaged in military action in Iraq. They are at this moment saving civilians’ ...

Constituency Surgeries

Meet your local MP in person at one of his local surgeries. No appointment is necessary - just turn up.

Saturday
6
th September
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ
 
Saturday
20
th September
10:00am-11:30am Corn Exchange, Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN
12noon-1pm Civic Centre, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7DZ
 
Saturday
4
th October
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ
 
Saturday
18
th October
10:00am-11:30am Corn Exchange, Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN
12noon-1pm Civic Centre, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7DZ
 
Saturday
15
th November
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ
 
Saturday
29
th November
10:00am-11:30am Corn Exchange, Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN
12noon-1pm Civic Centre, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7DZ
 
Saturday
6
th December
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ
 
Saturday
10
th January
10:00am-11:30am Corn Exchange, Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN
12noon-1pm Civic Centre, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7DZ
 
Saturday
17
th January
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ
 
Saturday
7
th February
10:00am-11:30am Corn Exchange, Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN
12noon-1pm Civic Centre, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7DZ
 
Saturday
21
st February
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ
 
Saturday
14
th March
10:00am-11:30am Corn Exchange, Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN
12noon-1pm Civic Centre, Station Road, Royal Wootton Bassett, SN4 7DZ
 
Saturday
21
st March
10am-11:30am Jenner Hall, Bath Road, Cricklade, SN6 6AT
12pm-1pm Hobbes Parlour, Town Hall, Cross Hayes, Malmesbury, SN16 9BZ

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