James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

There’s an important balance in the Great British Parliamentary democracy. It prevents dictatorship, or over-dominance of one interest group or another. We are a pragmatic, centre of the road, decent fair play sort of people, who dislike extremes. So when people say to me (as they very often do) “You must be cock-a-hoop. The Tories are 18 points ahead in the polls, the economy is strong, you won your Brexit vote, Teresa May is achieving pretty universal admiration and support. Everything’s going your way,” I of course agree with them. Things are indeed pretty good for my Party.

And now we have the Copeland by-election result to prove it.  Trudy Harrison won it by 2000, the seat having been held by Labour for 80 years at least. It is the best by-election result for the governing party since Worcester in 1878, and it brings the total of Tory women MPs in the Commons to a record 70. (It was 17 in 2005.) So a lot to celebrate there.

But I also celebrate the Stoke on Trent by-election where Labour held on, despite an apparent strong challenge from UKIP (whose absurd Leader, Mr Nuttall made a complete Horlicks of it all.) Not only does it put UKIP firmly back in its box; but it also shows that Labour are not quite dead (at least not yet.) I also rejoice for my friend Labour MP Ruth Smeeth who masterminded the Labour campaign there, with marked success. We need a reasonable, decent Opposition if we are to hold by our standards of decency and moderateness.

They are the people who should be holding the Government’s feet to the fire, not ageing has-beens like Tony Blair, Michael Heseltine and John Major who launched themselves into the Brexit debate this week. Who asked them anyhow? And what a cheek for them to suggest that they have some kind of a right to overturn the will of the people so clearly expressed both in the Referendum, and then in our elected House. Their opportunity comes from the failure of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, the Father of the House, died on Sunday. He together with Ken Clarke (the new Father) and Beast of Bolsover Denis Skinner all arrived on the same day in 1970, their precedence being settled by the precise time when they swore the oath of allegiance. All three doughty fighters know that it is their business, their duty, to disagree with each other and with the government over issues great and small. Thesis and antithesis produces sensible synthesis. We need a strong Opposition to ensure that all of our interests are properly represented in Parliament.