Weekly Column


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The customary hustle and bustle of Parliamentary life has seemed hushed this week. Labour were on a one line whip, so we had no votes at all in the week (for the first time I can remember). The controversial Bills are all churning through their Lordships’ processes, so we at the Commons end of the Palace will get very busy again shortly.Or perhaps it was just like that lovely clean feeling the air seems to have straight after a heavy summer rainstorm. Last weekend was a turmoil (and a rainstorm) for most of us. The Local Government Elections on Thursday involved hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, telling at polling stations and so much more. I did as much as I could to help my Conservative friends in Cotswold District Council, who ran a brilliant campaign securing 44% of the vote, despite sadly losing a couple of longstanding and dedicated Councillors, to whom I pay tribute for their commitment to public life.The Coronation, its build up and aftermath was, of course a huge success in every possible respect. The 7500 soldiers on duty; the hundreds more who got them ready for it, and the multiple trains which shipped them into Waterloo Station; the staff at the Royal Mews and Knightsbridge Barracks; the Police and security people, and hundreds and hundreds of others who made the whole thing such a great success. Penny Mordaunt has to have been one of the greatest stars- holding that sword up for 2 hours in her beautifully designed costume. Yet even more endearing is the very modest way in which she accepted the universal acclamation- diverting the praise away to the military and all who took part.Simultaneously over the long weekend, local businesses were benefitting from the 250,000 people who attended the 3-day Event at Badminton- another brilliant occasion involving many hundreds of people of every kind. It is said to be the largest spectator attended sporting event in the world; and we should be proud of that, alongside other major local gatherings like WOMAD near Malmesbury. And then on Monday so many people took part in a celebration of volunteering and self-help to mark the Coronation.We are a nation of people who do stuff. I remember seeing Rishi Sunak make a clever point at one of his leadership rallies in Wiltshire. The audience were standing. He asked people to sit down if they were: Councillors, candidates, party activists. (Many did). But then he asked those who were local volunteers; who helped run youth services of all kinds; who were involved with Rotary, Round Table or Royal British Legion; volunteer firefighters – you get the idea. By the end of it there was not a single person left standing. We Brits get involved, help each other, volunteer in a million ways.That is what makes us such a great Nation- our readiness to put our backs into causes, or politics, clubs and societies; to lend a hand to those less able than ourselves, to organise the committees, sell the raffle tickets, turn out on rainy nights in November to support the WI. The events of Coronation weekend reminded us all of that great British sense of duty and engagement so personified in the hard work of HM the King and every member of the Royal Family.

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James Gray
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May 11, 2023