James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
James at The Springfields Academy
James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
There is indeed such a thing as ‘Society’ – of course there is. It’s about human beings doing things for each other. Mutual help, community enterprise. I was chickening out of the Tories’ sponsored walk round Bowood on Sunday just at that hideous bridge over the A-4 at Black Dog Halt. Slithered down the bank to thumb a lift; third car along stopped – a very nice young man who took me all the way back to the Golf Club. (He’s a freelance computer mechanic – let me know if you’ve got any jobs that want doing.) It’s a tiny example of the kind of thing which happens every day around here – people helping one another out in small, medium or large ways.
But Society’s about more than mutual human help. It’s about respect – respect for our great institutions; respect for people less fortunate than ourselves; respect for our elders; respect for our leaders. I’m a bit of a free-thinking rebel, and am more than ready to vote against the Coalition when I see the need. But I would no more plot against our duly elected Leader, David Cameron than I would against the Queen. (And as for the despicable French paparazzi – they are just beyond the pale. Why shouldn’t Wills and Kate have a bit of a holiday together without that disgraceful intrusiveness?) These are our leaders, and support them we must. They are our Commanding Officer, and - grumble as we might, secretly believe that we could do the job better than they, nurse our frustrated ambition from time to time- we must nonetheless support and respect those put in authority over us.
We need leadership and authority in Afghanistan after a terrible weekend. We have to find a way of training local Afghans up until we can reasonably leave them in charge of their own country with a fair degree of peace and security. Cutting and running now would be to abandon them in their moment of need. And it would be to admit that the 430 British lives which have been lost were in effect wasted. We must finish the job we went there to do – and see it through to the end.
I have an old poster on my study wall declaring the results of the Chippenham Election in 1841. Of the total electorate of 246 (mine is 75,000), Joseph Neeld, a Tory scored 165, his brother in law Captain Boldero 128, and the Whig William Lysley, 96. “The Two glorious majorities of 69 and 32!” it goes on to declare. “Unity and Loyalty. God Save the Queen.” Stirring stuff indeed. The Lysley Arms at Pewsham commemorates the loser, and of course ‘Unity and Loyalty’ is to this day the motto of Chippenham (a town which also boasts Unity Street and Loyalty Street.)
Society is about hanging together as a group of human beings. It’s about mutual support and help; it’s about communal activities of all sorts, and it’s about respect for the structures which we ourselves have put in place. It’s what the famous Malmesbury philosopher called the ‘Social Contract’. And the glue which holds that contract together can be well summed up by that grand old motto ‘Unity and Loyalty.’
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