Weekly Column

A fortnight in politics is even longer….….

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Can the Leadership Ballot really have been only a few days ago? It seems like an age. And before you ask, the method of triggering the ballot through letters to Sir Graham Brady and the ballot itself, is and so far as I am concerned will remain, secret. So I will have to leave your (perfectly understandable) curiosity about my role in it all unsatisfied. And anyhow, does it really matter now that we know the result? The 211 votes which the PM secured is by any standard disappointing, and a 148 MPs being ready to express their dissatisfaction must be very worrying for him. I have largely been of the view that the Sue Gray report was not of itself sufficient to justify the removal of the PM. And I suspect that the 148 rebels based their vote not on anything to do with “partygate” but because of their general view of the direction of travel of the leadership and of the Conservative Party. My concern is that we must make sure that that strength of feeling and the views widely expressed by the electorate are changed by urgent action in the aftermath of this ballot. The good of the country now demands that we put internal squabbling and divisions behind us and address the great issues of the day – the economy, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Climate Change amongst so many other things.So for my part I will be seeking to keep my attention as always on the interests of the people of North Wiltshire. By Tuesday I was focussing on military matters (a personal interest as well as a strong constituency one). I was honoured to welcome HRH the Princess Royal to Parliament for a magnificent Beating Retreat and Reception in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Falklands victory. (Alongside the PM, Speaker and Lord Speaker- that may be this year’s Christmas card sorted!). On both Tuesday and Wednesday I spoke in debates on the environment and planning- first on the importance of Neighbourhood Planning and second about the blight of Solar Farm and Battery Storage Units. Getting very worried about progressive ‘industrialisation’ of our Wiltshire countryside.Amongst other things, I had a meeting about funding for Swindon’s Prospect Hospice, a day’s campaigning in the forthcoming Tiverton and Honiton By-Election. (Hmm….), I took part in a variety of Platinum Jubilee events including witnessing Royal Wootton Bassett’s longstanding Town crier, Owen Collier announcing it, a beacon lighting in Malmesbury’s Cuckingstool Mead (derivation: Ducking Stool?), followed by a very fine service in the Abbey (‘I was glad’ and ‘Zadok the Priest’- what a treat). I held a ‘Freshers Fair’ for the Armed Forces Parliamentary scheme, which I chair; attended Trinity House for their annual service and lunch (with Princess Royal- she will be getting bored with me); spoke at the Tory Party AGM and attended family marriages in London (on Friday) and North Yorkshire (on Saturday.)These are the public (and private) events in an MP’s life, and they are actually what really matters to the everyday lives of our constituents. Leadership ballots and the like may be beloved of the media and the commentators; but they are insignificant by comparison with constituents’ real needs and concerns. I am happy to focus my attention on the latter!

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James Gray
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Published Date
June 9, 2022