James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

Well, we are into the final straight of the Referendum race (‘Phew!’ I may well hear you saying). The polls are pretty close, although the bookies have ‘Remain’ ahead. Two weeks today those who have not done so already (we have quite a large postal vote quota in this area) will cast their votes in what is, I firmly believe, the most important election of our times. So I hope that my tolerant readers will understand and forgive me if I return to the topic once or twice over the next couple of weeks!

I fear it has been rather an unedifying campaign nationally so far, both sides tending to exaggerate their cases, the Project Fear side making themselves laughable in some of their claims. Locally, I am glad to say that we have managed to keep the campaign on pretty much of an even keel. I have spoken to about 15 or so public meetings, each of which has been well balanced, intellectually relatively satisfying, and I hope broadly informative.

I organised six public meetings of my own- in Sherston, Stanton St Quintin, Calne, Cricklade, Royal Wootton Bassett and Box; and have spoken at other meetings in Malmesbury, Corsham, Kemble, Salisbury and elsewhere. Some have been well attended, others less so; but at least people in every corner of my ‘patch’ will have had the opportunity to hear more about it, ask their questions and express their views. The only less well balanced (but actually very good fun) meeting was the one at Box where two or three of the minor political parties advertised on their Facebook pages that they intended to come along ‘to disrupt the meeting.’ I am glad to say that  they failed, trying to make up for their lack of brainpower with vociferousness, and by that means turning the rest of the audience very firmly against their cause!

To a degree public meetings are a thing of the past- most people will make up their minds through what they read in their newspapers, see on television. But they have a very real role to play in an area like this, and I have greatly enjoyed attending them. Rather Eighteenth Century in a sort of way, and thankfully more peaceful than those I used to attend in my first try at getting elected to Parliament –in Ross Cromarty and Skye in 1992. I used to take a friendly bagpiper with me in those days to drown out the hecklers.

I am very glad that the people of North Wiltshire are taking this Referendum so seriously, and I think the majority backing my stance on the matter. But either way round, I hope that our example of (by and large) decent debate and discussion may set an example to the national campaign. Let’s disagree about this most difficult of subjects, but let’s disagree and remain good friends.