James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James at The Springfields Academy
Honours and prizes; distinctions and awards – don't we justlove them. And what a potent force they are in motivating people to give oftheir best.
It was great to seemy old friend Stephanie Millward fromBox, who has helped me with MS mattersover the years, winning Silver in the Paralympic backstroke; and LauraBechtolsheimer, who lives in Oaksey, albeit has her yard in Gloucestershirewinning team Gold in the dressage. But why do they do it? Because they lovetheir sport, which fills their entire lives – most certainly. For their country– without doubt, as evidenced for example by Andy Murray's tennis gold on thesame Centre court and against the same opponent to whom he lost so convincinglyin the Mens' Finals at Wimbledon. (What was different? He was playing for hiscountry not himself.) For the medal and the glory – very probably, and why nottoo? For an OBE – I think not, and I am not at all sure that the honours systemis designed for that anyhow.
I was pondering these matters on Sunday at the excellent'Family Frolic' in Malmesbury, where people as young as two or three werecompeting fiercely in the running races, the welly wanging, the dog show and ofcourse the splat the rat. The prizes were a few sweets, the glory prettypassing, but my goodness the competition friendly but pretty fierce. Is healthycompetition with our peers such a very bad thing? Is the concept of winners andlosers in life really so damaging? I don't think so.
From there I went on to the Civic Service and tea party inthe Neeld Hall at Chippenham. It was good to be back and to see so many oldfriends. I was there not as the MP, but to support my friend Elizabeth Sextonwho was to be honoured with a Civic Award together with five others who havedone great work for the town over the years. Elizabeth has served ChippenhamHospital with commitment and steely resolve (don't be fooled by her charmingexterior - she fights for what she believes in) for thirty years. She has alsobeen a sidesman in St Andrews Church, a Parish Councillor; she helped clean thebooks at Bowood and looked after her First World War veteran father ColonelSexton at home until the age of 104. Alongside all of that she has carried outa host of other often un-noticed services to the Community, including managingthe waiting room for my advice surgeries for 15 years, and at least 10 yearsbefore that for my predecessor Richard Needham. And she does it with a charmyet firmness which keeps the waiting constituents under control yet relaxed andhappy as well.
But why do Elizabeth Sexton and the other 5 recipients ofthe civic awards do it all? Most certainly not in order to get an award –pleasing as it is to be honoured in that way. Did the people of Wootton Bassettdo what they did in order to achieve the singular honour of the change to theirname? Of course they did not. People dowhat they believe to be the right thing to help, to serve, and to enjoy whatthey are doing at the same time, whether they be community stalwarts or Olympicand Paralympic sports people. It's great to get the gold, receive the award orthe honour. But they would do what they do even if there were no pot of gold atthe end of the rainbow. Truly the Big Society.
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