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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 at The Springfields Academy

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James Gray MP

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

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Who takes Britain to War?

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houses-of-parliament-2394There is still a couple of months to go until the General Election, and more than a month before the campaign even starts. Yet my colleagues are getting restless already.

It was good to see the Green candidate out and about both in Royal Wootton Bassett recently, and in Malmesbury on Saturday before my surgeries. They were handing out green cakes, singing green songs and boldly advocating greenery of all kinds. I gently upbraided the candidate for his letter in the Gazette last week, accusing me of ‘misleading’ Parliament and my constituents over renewable energy targets. We can disagree on the subject - he is very pro-solar and windfarms, I tend towards nuclear as the most sustainable long-term answer. But he must not accuse me of ‘misleading’ people - a crime which would apart from anything else lead to a suspension from the House of Commons.

The Malmesbury Independent was up and down the High Street at the same time – we had an amusing cross-party photograph taken. Some other local people, who he recently accused of being ‘like terrorists’ because of some entries on Facebook were dodging backwards and forwards to avoid him.

The Liberal candidate has been cropping up too - variously posing in a day-glo jacket to highlight his stance on railway bridges, and separately being upbraided by Wiltshire Council for actually having made no representations at all on an issue for which he claimed responsibility- namely a change in Council policy with regard to military housing.

Labour have been doing their bit; the only absence so far being UKIP, who seem to be in the process of changing their candidate. It is all good stuff, and a healthy and welcome part of democracy. Over the next few weeks, doors will be knocked on, leaflets stuffed through letterboxes, hustings meetings pored over, posters erected. It’s all in the long and healthy tradition of political debate in North Wiltshire. And I hope that all of my colleagues and challengers will maintain their current good-humoured focus on issues rather than personalities.

Yet it’s more than a bit of fun. It’s more than stunts and leaflets and process. It’s about who will form the Government, who will run the country and what it will be like. It’s a deadly serious matter. Will it be Ed Miliband and Ed Balls or will it be David Cameron and George Osborne? No other outcome is possible – even if either Party may need the support of others to achieve an overall majority. It’s about the economy and jobs; about long-term care for the elderly, about defence and foreign policy, about health and education. These issues are too important to allow us to ‘have a bit of fun.’ It’s too crucial to waste our votes on ‘sending messages’ or ‘giving them a bit of a cuffing.’ It’s essential that we all vote (especially women who fought so long and hard to get the vote in the first place) and when people around the world today are fighting so desperately to achieve fair democracy in their countries. This election is no laughing matter.

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The World seems teetering on the edge of a number of pretty massive precipices. Three of them are immediate and urgent.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Eurosceptic, I kind of hope that Greece will default on her payments and as a result will leave the Euro and the EU. But the consequences for the UK economy and banking system could be grave; and the geo-politics of the Eastern Mediterranean potentially unbalanced. An expansionist Russia would love a deep sea port, and Greece could well provide it. So let’s be careful what we wish for and pray that the EU negotiations are successful.

Similarly, the ceasefire in Ukraine is of course welcome, and we all hope that it holds and that a fair and peaceful settlement can be found. But can we really contemplate turning a blind eye to Russia’s aggressive invasion of Crimea and its stealthy invasion of Eastern Ukraine? Is that not appeasement of a kind not seen since Munich? And might it not have the same long-term effects, for example in Poland and the Baltic States? I visited the Royal Marines on cold-weather exercise in Arctic Norway last week. Could war really be possible under such circumstances?

The atrocities of Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria continue, yet the UK’s contribution to the coalition is woefully small. I went on from Norway to Cyprus to see our troops (many of them from Wiltshire), and enjoyed sitting in the cockpit of a Tornado just back from a bombing mission in Iraq. But is it enough? Are we really making a useful contribution to destroying the evil which is Daesh?

Do we have a long-term moral strategic role to play in the world? If so, are we doing enough at this time of grave crisis? If not, then why are we doing anything at all? I was pondering all of this when on Friday I finished my visits to all of the war graves in North Wiltshire, many of them accompanied by local primary school children. It is a total of 203 graves, in 55 churchyards across the area. Most of those young men - whose real lives were so ably illustrated by local historian and author Richard Broadhead who arranged it all for me - were 21 years of age or less. And of course they are but a fraction of those killed in the two World Wars who are buried overseas.

Did they lose their lives in vain? Did those whose bodies more recently were carried down Royal Wootton Bassett High Street? I personally think not. I am a strong believer that ‘arms are the balance of peace’ in the words of the motto of my own regiment, the Honourable Artillery Company. We need to be strong to stand up to evil. Mr Putin and the murderers behind Daesh do not understand diplomacy or trimming or appeasement. Wicked people take advantage of that. They only understand strength and we need deterrence - not appeasement.

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...

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“I was delighted to receive a letter from Andrew Sells, Chairman of Natural England, in response to my call for action in which he states that DEFRA are going to survey the North Wiltshire area to establish wild boar numbers,” said North Wiltshire MP James Gray this morning. “I was pleased to see that Natural England are providing a member of staff especially for this work, and I very much hope that, once the monitoring work is completed, D...
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Debates and Hustings
“Civilised debate.” What does that really mean? The Pope is of the view that no-one should be allowed to insult someone else’s religion, or else fear for the consequences. That is certainly true. We abhor cartoons, slogans, or writing attacking Christianity; the same applies to Islam. It is wrong, and it should not be allowed. But it does not justify the kind of violence we have seen in recent weeks. No civilised person - Christian or Muslim...

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