James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

General Election - 8 June 2017

This site was established while I was a Member of Parliament. As Parliament has been dissolved there are no Members of Parliament until after the Election on Thursday 8 June 2017.

You can visit my General Election campaign website at http://www.jamesgray.org/general-election/

Weekly Column

General Election

Britain is at a crossroads. The people voted last June to leave the EU, and Parliament has now triggered Article 50 to carry out their will. The complex two-year-long negotiations will start shortly, and the Prime Minister quite rightly is seeking a strong mandate to secure the best deal she can for Britain. Labour, having voted for Article 50, has nonetheless made it plain that they intend to use assorted Parliamentary shenanigans to stop Brexit happening. They are supported in that by a rag-bag of LibDems, Greens and Scottish Nationalists. However, Brexit cannot and will not be reversed.  We have had that referendum and now the only questions are about the deal itself.

So Theresa May is offering a very clear and stark choice. A Conservative Government elected on June 8th with a powerful mandate will continue the strong, clear, statesmanlike Government which she has already demonstrated is her way. She will take a strong negotiating stance with the EU backed by that mandate, and we can look forward to a strong and independent Britain in 2 years’ time. The only possible alternative would be some kind of Coalition, led no doubt by Jeremy Corbyn, and presumably made up of a variety of MPs, including the Liberal Democrats.

Here in North Wiltshire, I was very grateful for and humbled by, the substantial majority I achieved two years ago, and hope and trust that the people will renew their faith and support for me. I hope I am right in thinking that I have been a pretty hard working local MP speaking up and fighting battles for people of all political persuasions and those with none. I very much want to continue that important work.

And I do above all want to play my part in delivering the strong Conservative Government which the country needs at this time. Wiltshire voted 52/48 in favour of leaving the EU (and don’t believe any propaganda from other parties pretending that North Wiltshire was different and actually voted to stay. The fact is that the vagaries of the counting system are such that no-one could possibly claim that was true.) My instinct is that since the Referendum last June, more and more people have become convinced that leaving the EU is the right thing to do, and will want to re-elect a Conservative Government committed to the best interests of all during the forthcoming negotiations.

So the choice is clear here in North Wiltshire as across the country. A strong Conservative Government led by Theresa May, or a rag-bag coalition led by Jeremy Corbyn. I think I can anticipate how the country will vote on the matter. I will be campaigning hard here in North Wiltshire, which I believe to be my duty. People locally need to see and hear from me, and they certainly will be doing so. I hope that any who might like to help in the battle which lies ahead might like to contact me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to volunteer their efforts.

Syria

Whose heart was not broken by the tragic pictures of that young man cuddling his twin babies as he buried them in Idlib last week? They had died the most horrific of deaths along with their Mother and other relatives – gassed to death by Sarin bombs, choking and burning in a basement. This was the latest chemical weapons outrage by the dictator Assad, in blatant breach of International law. It was a war crime of which Adolf Hitler would not have been ashamed. Yet the British Parliament- and I am as much to blame as any other MP- voted against bombing Assad four years ago. How many innocent lives might have been saved had we not been war-weary post Iraq and Afghanistan, and untrusting of the reports of weapons of mass destruction?

Trump was right to act as he did - in a proportionate and well-targeted military response, and it is to be much regretted that we could not have done so, even if the PM had wished to as a result of the absurd and very damaging convention which has grown up in recent years that military action needs the approval of Parliament. War crimes and wickedness on this scale demands an urgent military response. That is all that Assad, and his ally Putin can understand.

I had a couple of days in Russia last week discussing Arctic defence matters, and including a meeting (along with 100 or 200 others) with President Putin. I was struck more than anything else how blandly he gave answers knowing perfectly well that they were untrue – and knowing that whoever heard them equally knew them to be untrue. For example, the presence of two brigades (shortly increasing to two divisions) of Arctic trained soldiers based near Murmansk in the High North, he argued were either for Search and Rescue as the Northern Sea Route opens up (two divisions of infantry to save lost yachtsmen; I think not), or to counter terrorism (of which there is no threat in the Arctic regions; and even if there were, two divisions of infantry against random acts of terror come off it.)

I am increasingly of the view that decisive action is going to be needed in Syria, and soon, if we are to stop it descending into terminal chaos, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the West through terrorism and migration. And I am increasingly concerned about the expansionist ambitions of the Russians. Who knows what they will do next? Only firm action by NATO will show them the strength, which they have so often demonstrated, is the only thing they respect. These are dangerous times indeed, and only clarity of vision, strength and determination will save us from yet more terrorist outrages across the West, and worse perhaps, conventional military aggression.

Arms are the Balance of Peace.  And only military strength and purpose will end tragic pictures on our TV screens like the gassing of innocent women and children in Syria, or the sad funeral of PC Keith Palmer so brutally murdered in Parliament. I wholly support President Trump’s bold assertion of our outrage at Assad’s wickedness, and am only sorry that we could not stand alongside him in doing it.

Easter Recess

I’ve been your MP and Gazette Columnist  for 20 years, so maybe 1000 columns so far (perhaps another 1000 lie ahead of me). And in all that time I have never missed a week. So I am sorry that last week my comments on the terrorist outrage at the House of Commons never made it into print. I have to say that my colleagues, Michelle Donelan and Claire Perry did a very good job on my behalf! But if you want to see what I WOULD have said, have a look at my website, jamesgray.org, or even volunteer to receive my weekly email update by emailing me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It is quite right that we, in no way, allowed the terrorist attack on the Commons to divert us from our normal business. We were back in the Chamber at 9.30AM the following morning, and the PM cracked on on Wednesday with signing Article 50. So it is now clear. We will be leaving the EU on or by 29 March, 2019. The time for debate on the principle is now past, and we Brits must now all come together to argue for the best possible outcome for us all. People and businesses do of course have perfectly legitimate concerns - over the status of EU citizens here and vice versa; over trade within the EU, and trade with the rest of the world; over the effect which all of this will have on the Euro, on the EU itself; about defence and security; about Gibraltar, farming and fisheries. These are all perfectly legitimate concerns, on which we must now all work to allay.

My own view is clear, incidentally, on Gibraltar. It has been a British Protectorate since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1711, and it will remain so unless and until the people vote to leave. (The last time there was a referendum it was 99% in favour of remaining a UK Protectorate.) So it is frankly disgraceful of the Spanish, which have their own enclave inside Morocco around Ceute, to use our Article 50 Declaration as some kind of bargaining chip over Gibraltar. And it is pretty typical of the EU bureaucrats to let them do so. We must be clear and firm on this: Gibraltar will remain British now and in the future, and no amount of EU meddling will change that.

So Parliament has risen for Easter. For me it’s a few weeks in Wiltshire, catching my breath, clearing up the in-tray and the list of things to do, campaigning in the local Government elections and carrying out a spread of Constituency engagements. As the weather looks increasingly spring-like, I cannot remember looking forward more to a Parliamentary recess, after what has been an especially torrid Parliamentary term.

Defeating Terror

It was the morning after the murder of PC Keith Palmer. As I arrived in Parliament at 7AM, I spoke to the police officer on duty at Chancellor's Gate. “Did you know Keith?”  I asked. “I was on duty with him yesterday morning,” he said with a distinct tear in his eye. “Mind how you go now, Sir.” The Prime Minister was absolutely right in her magnificent statement later that morning. (As was Margaret Thatcher when she addressed the Party Conference the morning after the Brighton Bomb in 1984).  If we allow terrorist outrages to interfere with our everyday business, then we are letting them win.

I had been having a drink on the Terrace of the House of Commons with Brinkworth farming family, the Collingbornes a few moments before the murderer hit the pedestrians 100 yards away on Westminster Bridge. Thankfully, we had moved just inside to the Terrace Cafeteria and were just sitting down to a plate of British beef when a civilian looking policeman burst in - body armour and helmet, balaclava and bristling radios and weapons making him look pretty terrifying. He was screaming and shouting at us to follow him (only slightly hampered by trying to go out the ‘In’ door which stubbornly refused to budge until I got my fingers around it). All six of us, including young Bede, who at 8 years old was as cool as a cucumber, filed quietly up to Central Lobby, where, together with 500 or so other random people we spent the next 3 hours or so standing up on the hard marble floors.

There was no official announcement of what was going on as the special forces policemen rushed in and out brandishing their weapons, and changing their minds about how to handle this crowd of MPs, peers, staff and visitors. We kept ourselves up to date with events outside on our mobile phones. But of course no-one knew whether or not this might have been a part of a more concerted Mumbai-style attack perhaps involving several gunmen, some quite possibly inside the building. We kept pretty calm, but some of us understood the risks and worries. We were then evacuated in single file down to Westminster Hall to join a good few hundred others, yet more having been evacuated to the Abbey. Then about 8PM, or 5 and a half hours after the terrible incident we were allowed to return to our rooms. I was glad to find that all of my team were fit and well, despite my Private Secretary, Amy, having heard the shots directly outside our office window, and my Chief of Staff, Adam, having witnessed the immediate aftermath. They did not have to come into the office the next morning, nor did Duncan. But they were at their desks on time and in good humour. I salute their resolution.

There is something particularly wicked, and saddening about the killing of a policeman doing his duty. But returning to duty afterwards - as we then all did, and as Keith’s colleague on my way in that morning led by example in doing - is absolutely the right thing to do. We will defeat these wicked people. We defeated the IRA, and despite his apparent conversion in recent years, I have to say that I shed no tears at the death of convicted terrorist Martin McGuinness’s funeral the following morning.

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