The team and I have knocked on about 10,000 doors so far this Campaign, and recorded something like 3500 Voting Intentions, so it’s a pretty good survey. We have also been doing a fair bit in neighbouring constituencies- what is called ‘Mutual Aid’ although it sometimes feels a bit one sided! It’s a fascinating sociological and political experience. Here are a few sample responses:-
“Always been a Conservative/Labour/Lib Dem.” (No problem there for the entry on the canvass card). Pro/anti Brexit, although the voting intention nonetheless sometimes bit hazy. “Want to leave the EU. So voting LibDem” is one of the most curious. Very few Corbyn lovers- in fact none that I have met. A great many Boris lovers, although a few doubters even amongst good Tory voters. (Marmite.) The funniest, and music to my egotistical ears came when I was canvassing a neighbouring marginal seat. “On no. I’m not voting Conservative. Can’t stand xyz the local Tory MP because he always supports the Government. I’d vote for that James Gray if we had him here.” Er, thank you so much, Madam. You have just made my Campaign.”
There’s a myriad of reasons for voting in any particular way. But only one thing is truly central, and trumps all other considerations: do you want a Conservative Government and all that we stand for, or do you want a hard-left Socialist Government led by Mr Corbyn? Those are the only two possible outcomes. Any kind of hung Parliament or minority Government would just be a continuation of the paralysis we have seen over the last two or three years. There won’t be a Lib Dem Government, no matter what their Leader may ludicrously claim. (‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government’ as my friend David Steel told the Liberal Conference in 1981, yet achieving only 23 MPs at the General Election. History may be repeating itself.)
So flattered as we local candidates may be at praise (or saddened by criticism); easy as personal liking (or hating) of the leaders may be; the fact is that this is not a Presidential election. You are not electing the PM. You are electing a Government; therefore, all that matters are the respective Manifestoes.
Now I suspect that precious few voters actually ever see the Manifesto, and all bar the very well informed never read it. So here are a few easy headlines from each:
Labour plans to spend a colossal £83bn more on current spending each year, apparently financed by ‘re-writing the rules of the economy’. This would represent the biggest hike in taxes ever recorded in peacetime. It would impact not just on those areas identified such as higher rate taxes, corporation taxes, death duties and windfall taxes on the oil companies, but also on almost everybody else who would have to pay the higher prices which would result. Removal of the single person’s discount for Council Tax would hit single people particularly hard and would include many people who are certainly not the wealthiest 5% as Labour claim. If all this was not enough, Labour promised on Sunday another £58bn would be spent on effectively reversing certain pension changes – this last promise was not even in their manifesto and is in addition to all the other tax rises planned. They would nationalise Water, Energy and Royal Mail at vast and unquantified cost; create a state-owned drugs manufacturer; provide free long-term care for the elderly, and abolish university tuition fees. Its good Old Labour Tax and Spend. Private schools would be “integrated into the comprehensive education system,” rent controls imposed on private landlords; they would build a million new Council houses; and undertake a Brexit renegotiation followed by a second referendum in which the PM would be neutral. (Good negotiating tactic, eh?)
Lib Dems would: Cancel Brexit (democratically ignoring the Referendum); splurge £130 Billion on infrastructure; give £10,000 to every adult to improve education and training throughout life; they would legalise marijuana, raising £1.5 Billion in tax (a lot of spliffs there.) And they would do a load of other worthy enough stuff which they know perfectly well they will never have to implement, since they cannot form a government.
And the Tories? Our Manifesto will get a full Column all to itself. So watch this space.
I am taking nothing for granted, and so have spent the first two weeks of the campaign on the doorstep in every corner of the Constituency. Our team has covered a lot of ground, ranking 6th in the country last week for number of houses canvassed, and meeting something like 2,000 voters, so a reasonable sample.
The canvass result is pretty consistent. People have had enough of Brexit and ‘just want to get it done’, no matter which side of the argument they may have been on. They want to see us get on with the real agenda- health and education, housing, the environment, law and order, the economy and so much more. Real life has felt it was more or less on the back burner over the last couple of years. There is so much to do, and we need a decent majority to get it done.
The minority parties are pretty much steady on the last election – 17% of the electorate or thereabouts each for the Labour Party and the Lib Dems. The Brexit Party have of course dropped out of the running. Perhaps because of their failure to achieve any traction in North Wilts, there has been a bit of an outbreak of undemocratic shenanigans from the other parties. Many of our posters have been vandalised or torn down. You’d have thought that a blue poster would be pretty inoffensive. The Lib Dems have been sending out a leaflet claiming that they are “only 4% behind the Tories”. Its only when you check the small print that you find this comes from some poll, commissioned- surprise, surprise- by the Lib Dems, with no figures given for the numbers polled nor any other back-up evidence. Well I can tell them that I have conducted a very scientific poll of at least 2000 electors and I do not believe their claim to be accurate.
The Green Party are not free of blame either. One of their Box activists bearded me in the street, desperately trying to make me lose my temper. She shouted at me, and would not let me get a word in edgeways. All true to normal form. Yet what I did not know was that she was covertly filming the episode and has now put it out on social media. Covert filming is a pretty desperate tactic but anyone who manages to wade through the footage will just some lady banging on and not pausing for breathe nor allowing any responses from me.
Then again, I was guilty of a very minor traffic violation in my Battle Bus in Malmesbury, for which I am sorry. I inadvertently turned right because of poor signage. One of my most regular correspondents, who outspokenly disagrees with me in every way immediately leaked the (non) story to the local papers. I suspect that his motives may have been less about road safety and more about party political point scoring.
Well all I would say to them all is: let’s grow up. Let’s exchange intelligent discourse about policy matters. And let’s try to put these childish campaigning tactics back in the school kids’ box of party political games. I shall anyhow ignore it all, and you can be certain that subsequent bulletins will be about national and local policy matters.
James Gray MP has spoken out against plans made by Wiltshire Council and Chippenham Town Council to build a relief road around the eastern side of Chippenham. Proposals have recently been announced that could see a £75 million link road built around the town, and would see the development of 7,500 more houses by 2043.
James Gray wrote to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to stress his opposition to the plans stating that:
“I am horrified by a bid made by a Wiltshire Councillor for HIT funding of some £75 million towards what is effectively a ring road around the edge of Chippenham… It breaches every aspect of the Neighbourhood Plan, which specifies that the Eastern side of the town of Chippenham has outstanding natural and community value, and that it should not be built on in any circumstances.
HIT funding, as I understand it, demands full public support and I can tell you that there has been no public consultation at all. The parish councils of Bremhill and Tytherton Lucas are opposed to it, as am I.
This proposed road is a serious desecration of the countryside and should not, under any circumstances, be allowed.”
Parliament is dissolved as of 6th November and there won't be any MPs until after the General Election on 12th December 2019.
More children across North Wiltshire will be able to access a world-class education thanks to a major funding boost. The Conservative Government has confirmed schools in this constituency will receive 5.3% more funding per pupil next year as part of the recent multi-billion investment in primary and secondary education.
James Gray MP has welcomed this new funding, saying the commitment that every secondary school pupil will receive a minimum of £5,000 next year and every primary school pupil will receive a minimum of £4,000 by 2021-22 would reassure parents of the Government’s promise to deliver the best for their children.
This funding follows the Prime Minister’s announcement in August that the budget for schools and high needs would be increased by a total of over £14 billion over three years, rising to £52.2 billion by 2022-23. Schools and local authorities will today find out how the first part of that investment - £2.6 billion - will be allocated for the coming year.
The extra money, available from April, will ensure that per-pupil funding for all schools can rise at least in line with inflation and will deliver promised gains in full for areas which have been historically under-funded
James Gray welcomed the funding boost and stated that:
‘Every child in my constituency deserves a high quality education and I welcome this announcement. I am glad that each pupil will receive £4,547 of funding, an increase of 5.3%, and I am certain that it will increase standards in our schools.
‘I work closely with many of the schools in my constituency and am aware of the very real pressures that schools have been facing. I hope this extra funding for pupils and teachers will bring great benefits to the schools in my constituency.’
© 2019 Promoted by Nick Botterill, on behalf of James Gray, both of North Wiltshire Conservatives, 12 Brown Street, Salisbury SP1 1HE.