On Tuesday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray attended an Industry and Parliament Trust event to discuss ‘The Path Toward a Plastic Free Future.’
At the event, MPs and guests came together to discuss the Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment, the UK’s Plastic Pact and plans to discourage the creation of plastic packaging.
According to research by waste management company Viridor, only 46% of plastic packaging is currently recycled against a target of 75%. Since the release of Blue Planet 2, pressure has grown from the public and MPs to cut down on single-use plastic. By April 2020, new controls on plastics items will be implemented with restrictions on the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds. However, James Gray believes that we need to formulate an aggressive strategy to ban all non-recyclable plastic.
After the event Mr Gray said that:
“I was extremely pleased to have attended this event to highlight the negative impact that plastic has on our environment and learn more about how we can address the problems of plastic pollution. Having seen for myself the albatross with their stomachs full of plastic, I know more needs to be done to tackle this crisis. We cannot lower our ambitions and should take action now to protect our planet and wildlife.
Recycling alone will not come close to meeting the challenge that faces us, particularly as plastic production is set to quadruple over the next twenty years. Therefore, we need action to reduce the amount of plastic that we use and stop the use of non-recyclable products in order to end our pollution crisis”
So is it all over bar the shouting?
It is certainly true that its been a great campaign nationally and locally. The people are terrified by the prospect of a Corbyn government, fully aware that a vote for the Lib Dems might nonetheless give them Corbyn, and are broadly supportive (sometimes with reservations) of the Tories and Boris. They really do want Brexit done - one way or the other. The polls have remained pretty steady at about a 10-point lead over Labour, and therefore a probable overall majority of 20 seats or so.
So what can go wrong now? Really only one thing - complacency. Here in North Wiltshire we had 61% of the votes cast at the last election, a 23,000 majority. Yet I never forget that in 1997 I won the seat with a meagre 3500 majority. We’ve been doing a good bit of work in neighbouring seats. Chippenham should be all right - but only if the Conservative pledges actually take the trouble to vote on Thursday. Cheltenham is on a knife-edge, but the outstanding local candidate, Alex Chalk, is a favourite on the doorsteps I have canvassed in the last week or two. Stroud really should be a Con Gain if Labour are as unpopular as I think they are.
Yet Stroud may be the victim of the second threat we face - tactical voting. The Lib Dems in Stroud stood down in favour of the Green Party; yet they know full well that few of their natural voters will support the no-hope Green. So their surrender in Stroud was actually in favour of the Labour candidate. Tactical voting may well benefit the Tories in Brexit Labour-held seats, of which we would hope to win about 40, mainly in the Midlands and North of England. Yet rejoice as we may well do in the West country at the collapse of the Lib Dems, that may benefit Labour in the North where we want a strong Lib Dem vote to steal votes from Corbyn.
Leaving complacency and tactical voting as the two main remaining threats on one side, my -relatively optimistic - prediction (and all predictions should be consigned to the rubbish bin shortly after being made) is currently: Tories 340 seats; Labour 220; Lib Dems 12; SNP 48, which gives an overall Tory lead of 30 or so. (And I know it doesn’t quite add up - I have disregarded the DUP, independents, the green, the Speaker and Sinn Féin who never take their seats.)
So no - it’s not all over. I am hopeful of a Conservative majority government for the first time in 32 years (1987 was the last proper overall working majority). But to achieve that great and historic victory we need every single Conservative pledge to be certain to vote on Thursday, and take nothing for granted. Even my relatively optimistic estimate gives us a majority of only 30. So it’s not all over, not by any means. Not until the lady of generous proportions has hit the high note…….But one last heave, and we may have something to celebrate on Friday 13th.
“On 2 and 3 December, I am taking time out from the hectic campaign in North Wiltshire to chair the first ever Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly which is taking place in London’s Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall” said North Wiltshire Conservative candidate, James Gray today.
“This is a conference on which I have been working for more than a year now. It’s the first of its kind- bringing together Parliamentarians from across the Globe to discuss issues of huge international importance, including, but by no means limited to, Climate Change.”
Timed to coincide with Antarctica Day and the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, Parliamentary delegations were invited from the 54 signatory countries of the Antarctic Treaty to take part in discussions and debates about subjects ranging from climate change and the melting Antarctic ice sheets, to the increase in polar tourism and protecting Antarctic biodiversity.
Sir David Attenborough sent his apologies for not being able to attend the APA due to filming commitments and commented: “It is a very worthwhile initiative and I hope that your deliberations will produce results which will help preserve and enhance the great White Continent. The challenges we face in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are both alarming and urgent, and I call on your parliaments and governments to work together to act decisively and collectively for the preservation of the continent.”
There will be presentations from scientists and experts from countries as diverse as Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Brazil, as well as Lord Ahmad, UK Minister for the Polar Regions and Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey.
James Gray, who was Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions until the Election campaign started commented:
“The signing of the Antarctic Treaty, under which the great wilderness is preserved for science and saved from either military or commercial use, was a truly historic moment. To mark its 60th anniversary, I am delighted to convene the first ever Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly, and I hope that this will become the first of many Assemblies that will be held in the future.”
The Campaign turns a bit chillier this week. As winter sets in, I am leading teams to neighbouring marginal seats - Stroud and Cheltenham in particular. And I am taking a couple of days out to chair a long-planned International conference on Antarctica. (Good to get a mention on the Today Programme on Saturday about it.)
We have had an absolutely brilliant campaign in North Wiltshire so far. We have visited (virtually) every corner of the patch, canvassed 15,000 houses finding about 4000 people at home. We have used direct mail, social media, a hand delivery of 20,000 leaflets and countless calling cards; three Royal Mail Freepost letters which should be dropping through letter boxes from now until the election; we have distributed hundreds of paper and correx posters, toured the high streets, attended hustings meetings, done some local press work, and been seen around in every village and town. It’s just been a huge success.
Having done all of that, and without any kind of complacency, I have now concluded that as long as all of those who have promised to vote Conservative actually get out on the day and do so, we will hold North Wiltshire. And quite frankly, whether we do that by one vote, 10,000 or 20,000 doesn’t matter all that much, apart from massaging the ego of the candidate! But there is not much point in increasing our majority here if we do not form a majority Conservative Government.
So at risk of disappointing some villages or some people who I have not been able to meet in the last month or so, we have now decided to switch our attention away from North Wiltshire and see what help we can give in nearby marginals. We have already sent teams in to Chippenham, and Thornbury and Yate. We had a big team in the pouring rain in Stroud last week, and now want to do all we can to help there (which would be a Conservative win from Labour) and in Cheltenham (which is on a knife edge. Our great candidate, Alex Chalk, is fighting a stout action to hold off the Liberals).
And on Monday and Tuesday, I took time out from campaigning to chair the first ever Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly in London. This is a conference on which I have been working for more than a year now. It’s the first of its kind - bringing together Parliamentarians from across the Globe to discuss issues of huge international importance. Timed to coincide with Antarctica Day and the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, Parliamentary delegations were invited from the 54 signatory countries to take part in discussions and debates about subjects ranging from climate change and the melting Antarctic ice sheets, to the increase in polar tourism and protecting Antarctic biodiversity.
Sir David Attenborough sent his apologies for not being able to attend due to his filming commitments, and commented: “It is a very worthwhile initiative and I hope that your deliberations will produce results which will help preserve and enhance the great White Continent. The challenges we face in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are both alarming and urgent, and I call on your parliaments and governments to work together to act decisively and collectively for the preservation of the continent.”
So without in any way neglecting North Wiltshire, I am using a bit of time to help secure an overall victory for the Tories, and for the world’s environment as well.
I feel no remorse about cramming the other Manifestoes into yesterday’s column and devoting a whole page to the Tory one. It may seem unbalanced, but then I am the Tory candidate, so perhaps I am allowed to be a bit biased. And anyhow, there seems like a strong likelihood that it will be a Conservative Government, and therefore the contents of our Manifesto might be just a little more important than the Green Party or Lib Dems. So here is my take on the main content.
It’s not all about Brexit. I welcome the fact that we are pledging to get at least the Second Reading of the Withdrawal Act passed through Parliament before Christmas. It may take some late nights, or sitting uncomfortably close to the day itself. But that seems to me to be a worthy indication of our determination to get it done by January 31.
But the main thrust and importance of the Manifesto is what we will do after Brexit is behind us. And in the words of my predecessor Captain Cazalet (1923-1942) in his election card: “Your support is asked for V. A. Cazalet. The man you know. No wild promises but a record of performance and a policy of steady progress.” So it’s not a dramatic nor over-promising Manifesto, and nor should it be. You must never forget that every penny spent is a penny of taxpayer’s money, and it must be used wisely. (Unlike Labour whose latest promise on the WASPI women would cost an unfunded £58 Billion)
Our much more modest proposals, all of which are wholly affordable include:- better hospitals (6 new ones now, 34 others in the planning stage, 20 others refurbished), alongside £34 Billion extra funding for the NHS, 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP appointments; increased funding for schools, and a correction to the imbalance in the funding system which has left Wiltshire trailing similar counties; and 20,000 more police who are already being recruited and trained. Tougher sentencing, especially for murder will be of especial importance locally.
The detail is worth reading too - an Australian style points based immigration system; a triple lock to ensure that income tax, VAT and National Insurance cannot be increased; millions more invested in science, apprenticeships and infrastructure while still controlling debt; a renewed commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050 with investment in green energy and infrastructure to reduce emissions and pollution; a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund, 30,000 trees planted every year; a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to preserve our oceans, and to end plastic waste landing up in them. Then there is a £1 Billion boost for childcare; an end to unfair hospital parking charging; £2 Billion on potholes and infrastructure; support for small businesses by cutting and reforming business rates, and so much else too.
And – crucially important- these commitments are all costed and funded and can be met within the expected growth in the economy and through continuing low interest rates.
Well I would say this, wouldn’t I, but it strikes me as one of the best Manifestoes I have ever read; crammed with great commitments, and actually deliverable, unlike the pie in the sky promises from Labour. Those who read these things will, without doubt, be renewing their support for the Tory Party as a result.
© 2019 Promoted by Nick Botterill, on behalf of James Gray, both of North Wiltshire Conservatives, 12 Brown Street, Salisbury SP1 1HE.