James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James at The Springfields Academy
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
I am not of a nervous disposition, and having spoken most days in the House of Commons for 15 years, public speaking holds few fears for me. Yet even I was a bit overawed a few years ago to be speaking after a Regimental Dinner. William Hague spoke before me – brilliantly as always, and Boris Johnson after me. Talk about being the filling in a sandwich!
Boris is of course highly amusing. All he has to do is stand up and everyone starts to giggle. His was a brilliant ‘guest celebrity’ contribution to the Tory Party Conference last week, with the razzmatazz and media circus to match. But whether that qualifies him to be Prime Minister may well be another matter. He’d have to become an MP first, which he can’t while he is Mayor of London. David Cameron’s speech by contrast was serious, passionate and weighty. It pulled no punches in warning us of the difficult times which lie ahead, and was truly Prime Ministerial and statesmanlike in trying to tease out the solutions to the manifold problems the world faces.
Meanwhile Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched a magnificent tirade against her opponent’s sexist remarks. And it’s not long since Nigel Farage wiped the floor with his opponents in the European Parliament. It’s well worth looking them both up on YouTube or Facebook (if, unlike me you know how to work these things). Rhetoric – the power of language; the ability to take world-moving complex issues and express them in clear language comprehensible to all – those skills still have a crucial role to play in this soundbite world.
Pythagoras Theorem has 24 words; the Lord's Prayer: 66 words; The Ten Commandments: 179 words; The Gettysburg Address: 286 words. The EU regulation on the sale of cabbage has 26,911 words. It is also – like most papers emerging from Brussels – completely and utterly incomprehensible. Those who write these things make an industry out of it, an industry in which only they can work, because no- one else can have the faintest idea what they are on about!
There are arguments in favour and against giving 16-year-olds the vote. Yet of one thing I am sure – it should be a matter decided in Parliament, and not in a deal done behind closed doors with Alex Salmond. Running the country is a complex matter and giving some say in it to those who are still at school is not something which should be done for short-term political reasons. If they get the vote in The Scottish Referendum, then the genie will be out of the bottle. That is a constitutional change so profoundly important as to be crucially a matter for Parliament as a whole.
Serious matters should be discussed seriously and in clear and unambiguous language. Running the country should not be a matter for soundbites nor for what Boris would doubtless call persiflage.
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