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Most of my Easter Recess has been taken up with ‘campaigning’ of one sort or another. I’ve been out delivering and door knocking for our two outstanding Police and Crime Commissioners – Phil Wilkinson in Wiltshire and Chris Nelson in Gloucestershire. Very good for the step count. I’m out most Fridays and Saturdays these days, just taking the temperature and listening to the views of my constituents. Good to see Chris Bale (Reform), Zoe Billingham (Labour), Bob Eastoe (Green) and Ros Savage (Lib Dem) throwing their hats in the ring. Parliamentary democracy is alive and well, which I welcome. My instinct from three months of canvassing since Christmas is that people are coming back to the Tories after a period of disaffection as they come to recognise on which side their bread’s buttered; but that there is a clear threat from the Labour Party (be careful what you wish for). It should be an interesting election when it comes (my guess is 14 November).

The huge solar installation which threatens at least 5000acres of pristine North Wiltshire remains top of my agenda. It was great to see perhaps as many as 700 people at the public meeting I convened in and around Malmesbury Town Hall last week, and I have been very impressed by every aspect of the StopLimeDown campaign. I am certain that we can win and see off these speculative asset strippers if we argue that we are deeply concerned about Climate Change; that we support renewables of every kind in tackling it (perhaps preferring nuclear over solar, though),but that the proposed site is - for a whole host of reasons - totally inappropriate. We support solar; but just not here. After all, Wiltshire has already done its bit with 54 solar farms, thousands of acres already blighted and our national target exceeded by the sites planned or in production.  

Very much of my constituency postbag is filled with email campaigns. Even over Easter, we average around 2000 emails a week, often many more than that at times of crisis or big campaigns. This week I have been in receipt of email campaigns on: Solar, Potholes, Pensioners, Prospect Hospice, Global Ocean Treaty, Defence Spending, Gaza, Ukraine, The European Convention on Human Rights, Waterways and Assisted Dying. Thankfully, I have a very good team handling it all (although I insist on seeing ever email and every draft reply). We try to reply within maximum one week, but I do wonder why some people get grumpy when there’s a day or two delay, or if it’s a standard reply (er, yes – your email was a standard campaign one too). I am also amused to be confronted down the high street by a constituent: “Did you get my email? “they ask. “Absolutely,” I slightly vaguely reply in the hope of some little clue what it was about!

Campaigning is a vital part of Parliamentary democracy. Only by knocking on doors, visiting businesses and institutions, being seen up and down our high streets, holding meetings, and reading and replying to letters can I hope to get a really good grasp of what my constituents are thinking. I don’t always agree, but I do always seek to let people know my own thoughts even if we may differ perhaps in some detail.

So I welcome campaigning of all sorts. It’s something we are allowed to do in a free democracy, -a right for which millions of people round the world would fight. Let us rejoice in our diversity of opinion rather than seeking coalescence or consensus. Thesis versus Antithesis produces Synthesis.

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James Gray
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Published Date
April 12, 2024