James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

1.8 billion chicken wings were consumed by the 180 million people watching the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, California last week. The following night we saw the tens of thousands of French and Russian soldiers in bloody combat at Borodino, and in the Retreat from Moscow in that brilliant BBC dramatisation of War and Peace. It was a tragic waste of human life almost reflected in the Russian/Syrian bombardment of Aleppo in Syria, and the hundreds of thousands of new refugees which it created. They are the tragic human consequence of the foolishness and wickedness of dictators.

An organisation called 38 degrees has concluded (quite incorrectly) that it’s a good plan to muster thousands of ‘supporters’ to bombard MPs with emails on every subject under the sun. In the last week I have received (and replied to) 570 letters on subjects as varied as: - Freedom of Information, the BBC, snaring, wild animals in circuses and climate change. They may come to realise that amusing as this exercise is, it irritates far more MPs than it persuades and may therefore be having the opposite effect to the one it sought.

In Parliamentary terms, the only numbers which matter are the 650 MPs, and the rather larger number of Peers. And given that when we ‘divide ‘ (i.e. vote), it tends to be more or less down the middle, very often only a handful of MPs one way or the other make the crucial difference.

The other number which matters overwhelmingly to me are the 67,858 voters of North Wiltshire, 57% of whom voted for me in the General Election last May, but all of whom I am proud to represent, no matter what their party views may be. That is why I am mildly amused by the regular correspondent in the Gazette and Herald Columns who describes himself as the  ‘LibDem Parliamentary Spokesman’, blithely ignoring the fact that the only place where he CANNOT speak is in Parliament, on account of having gone down to one of the worst electoral defeats in history.

The forthcoming In/Out Referendum on the EU, which may well be as soon as 23rd June, is the ultimate in people power. It is not Parliament which decides, not MPs, but truly the people. I shall be doing as Mr Cameron enjoined us and voting with my conscience – I shall be voting to leave the EU, and hope that in doing so I may well be in the vanguard of voters in North Wiltshire, or at very least (and here is where Mr Cameron and I differ), approved of by the bulk of my Conservative-voting supporters in the area.

People power matters. So does pressure, lobbying, debate and political pressure. But the only thing which truly matters in a democracy is the secret ballot. The people decide for themselves. That is the very right and power which we have, and which dictators refuse to allow their people, and for which so many people around the World would fight, and in some cases even give their lives.

We must relish and treasure our democratic rights and institutions.