James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

It must be the time of year. Over the last few weeks, I have been honoured to be invited to some fantastic, interesting and impressive events (without, of course neglecting my constituency, Parliamentary or Brexit work). Here are a few in reverse chronological order:-

Malmesbury Mayor-Making; Wiltshire High Sheriff’s lunches (x2) in Box; Heddington Village play area opening; HAC Officer’s dinner; magnificent Salisbury Plain event to celebrate 300 Years of Royal Artillery, and lunch with HM Queen (amongst a few others); Graduation Dinner aboard HMS Duncan in Canary Wharf; Parliamentary Reception for Invictus Games athletes; speak at seminar on Arctic at Norwegian Ambassador’s House; attend ‘Marriage of Figaro’ and superb picnic by Box-based Pepperpot Catering at Glyndebourne; go to services in Westminster Abbey to commemorate 100 years since the epic Shackleton voyage, in Salisbury Cathedral for RA 300 years and in Malmesbury Abbey for Prince Of Wales’s Music in Country Churches concert; speak at Chippenham Constitutional Club Skittles dinner, Kemble Conservatives and an Army course at Shrivenham College, near Swindon; State Opening of Parliament and Speaker’s Reception after it; Parliamentary Beer Awards dinner with Devizes based Wadworths Brewery; lunch with the Russian Ambassador in his Residence; attend Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme Garden Party in Buckingham Palace; Political Supper Club at Red Bull in Malmesbury and speak to two classes at Braden Forest School in Purton. That’s all in the last two weeks.

A great privilege to be invited to all of those many and varied events. ‘But what good has it done?’ you might ask. Well, first, people arrange these events to celebrate their own particular achievement or organisation. It is right to support them by being there. Second, the military events are a particular priority of mine, especially coming from such a military area as this. And third- lets be frank about it- it’s just jolly good fun.

But there is something else which is integral to the pursuit of politics. Parliament and politics is all about swapping ideas and experiences, arguing about things, gossiping, chatting, socialising. That is the very meat of the politician’s life. The hundreds of conversations I have had with a huge variety of people at these and so many other surgeries, meetings and functions of one kind or another shapes my views on life; gives me inspiration for my parliamentary work, and a flavour of what people in North Wiltshire are thinking. Only if I have a reasonable idea of local peoples’ views will I stand a chance of representing at least some of them in Parliament.

So if you don’t want me to come to your event don’t issue an invitation. But if you do, and if I can possibly fit it in, I will most assuredly be there.