James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

Sometimes you just have to do what you believe to be right, no matter what the consequences. There have been a few this last week or so.

On Tuesday I was one of the Tory MPs who rebelled and defeated the Government over extending Sunday trading. I am glad I did (despite my revulsion at the SNP’s hypocritically voting on a purely English matter such as this). Shop workers should not be pressurised into working on a Sunday unless they want to; small shops would be damaged if supermarkets and the like opened for longer, and I have long been a supporter of “keeping Sunday special.” I remember my late (clergyman) father campaigning against Sunday trading 50 or 60 years ago, so it’s a long family tradition.

So is my opposition to the EU, against which I voted in 1974. It’s a kind of instinctive thing.

On Thursday I sadly had to miss speaking to Compton Bassett Parish Council, as I was stuck in Parliament in a continuing effort to save the use of vellum to record our laws. (Not quite there yet, but looking hopeful). Some might think it a peripheral matter, but it’s important to many. I think it’s right to keep it, and will fight for it, despite some peoples’ derision.

On Friday I was delighted to be present at the opening by the Duke of Edinburgh of the REME HQ at the former RAF Lyneham. I felt huge pride at the long battles I fought first to save RAF Lyneham, and then to keep some sort of military use for it. I well remember the PM (against whom I had directed most of my fire since the Hercules fleet had moved to his Witney Constituency) opening a meeting with the Mayor of Royal Wootton Basset and me by saying “Don’t let James keep banging on about Lyneham.”  “Thank you, Prime Minister,” I said, “I am glad that I am getting the message through to the highest in the land!” I felt vindicated in my persistence seeing His Royal Highness open the new £250 million Prince Philip Barracks.

I was glad to take a message from the Duke to the Malmesbury Air Cadets at whose lovely 75th Anniversary dinner I spoke that evening. The Prince had been Patron of the Air Cadets for 63 years. I was honoured to be presented with a handsome crest, depicting Eilmer the Flying Monk of Malmesbury. He took off from the tower of Malmesbury Abbey a thousand years ago with makeshift wings strapped to his arms, and flew 200 yards before crashing to the ground. His landing spot must have been just a few yards from where we were celebrating the splendid young air cadets’ achievements.

1000 years ago Eilmer was not worried by the derision of his fellow monks; he was not concerned about his own health and safety; he did not listen to contemporary wisdom that flying was purely for the birds. He thought he had come up with an answer to the ancient conundrum about men flying. He stuck his neck out, took off from the Abbey and was crippled for the rest of his life as a result. The motto of the 992 (Malmesbury) Air Training Squadron is “Rise Above.” That’s what Eilmer did; what the cadets do.

Perhaps it’s what we politicians should strive to do as well. Rise above the mundane, the accepted wisdom, the herd instinct. Stick our necks out a bit; just like Eilmer the Flying Monk of Malmesbury.