It’s a wonderful world in which anything can happen.

What a brilliant success for the hugely skilled Lionesses at Wembley Beating Germany (the footballing old enemy). 2-1 was a triumph; but that they did it in such an elegant and sporting way is a great credit to them all. It reminded me of my only trip to (the old) Wembley- supporting Chippenham Town in the finals of the Doc Marten’s Cup about 2001. I also well remember watching the 1966 World Cup finals - on an island in Germany’s Lake Konstanz. The German people were very sporting about their loss, and we must be as gracious in our victory as we were then. (My excellent Private Secretary Jenny Fleischer will, I am sure, rejoice with us despite her German nationality!)

The Conservative Leadership battle is (almost) as fair minded. I have moved my alliance to Rishi Sunak from Penny Mordaunt (who despite her defeat, nobly came to Bowood for a dinner attended by 160 people last Friday, followed by a lunch the next day). I attended Rishi’s rallies in Fairford and Devizes on Sunday and am full of admiration for his abilities and energy- as were the many hundreds of Conservative members who met him. I will similarly look forward to seeing Liz Truss in Devizes tomorrow and will of course listen very carefully to what she has to say. Both are first class candidates, and I am delighted that they have taken so much trouble to come down to Wiltshire to see us and seek our vote. I will be glad to serve behind either of them.

But if you had told me in 1966 on Lake Konstanz that 55 years later it would be the England Women’s team who would beat Germany in the UEFA Euro Cup; and that the two finalists in the contest for the leadership of the Tory Party and the PM would be a woman and a person of Asian ethnicity, I would simply not have believed it. In 1966 Harold Wilson was PM, and the British currency was still in Pounds Shillings and Pence; Margaret Thatcher had not been thought of as a potential PM and there was a tiny handful of either women or Black and ethnic minority MPs. What a magnificent triumph it is that racial and sexual equality is now where it is in the UK- and we must lead by example other less enlightened Parliaments round the world.

So I’ve packed my bucket and spade, and I’m off to Cornwall for a week with all sorts of family members, but most excitingly my first (and only so far) grandson. He’s not yet two years old, so will love the sun and sand and sea (weather permitting!) It’s been a tough few weeks for all of us, so I’m going to pack my computer away, have the post diverted and turn off my mobile phone in favour of a bit of surfing and a few (safe) barbecues. I can hardly wait.

It’s been a brutal and exhausting week in Parliament. Seeing my good friends and Conservative colleagues knocking spots off one another has been an unedifying spectacle. The TV hustings in particular were very poor, and also pointless since the electorate at that stage was 350 MPs. There were particularly unpleasant interventions, and some very nasty press ‘briefing’ from people who are supposed to be on the same side. I hope that Sir Graham Brady and the 1922 Committee will have a good look at the whole process once it’s over and assess what damage it has done to the Tory Government and the body politic in general.

I championed Penny Mordaunt against whom there were some particularly unpleasant smears and was deeply disappointed that she was knocked out in the final Parliamentary round of voting. She would have been a fine ‘pair of fresh hands.’ That’s democracy for you. So now we have a straight choice between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. They will tour the country attending hustings meetings (the closest to here will be Cheltenham on 11 August). The 160,000 Tory Party members can vote from 1 August by post or online (with a right to change their vote if they subsequently suffer from ‘buyer’s regrets.’)

I will happily serve behind either Rishi or Liz (as I have loyally served behind a total of eight previous Leaders), and it will be up to members to make up their own minds. Liz is probably the preferred candidate to the right of the Party who want tax cutting and small government; Rishi has demonstrable competence and ability but (perhaps inevitably as an ex-Chancellor) is fiscally much more cautious. On a personal level Liz has some downsides; Rishi suffers from the overblown fuss about his wife’s tax affairs. Why should being very rich preclude you from being PM? It might actually make you more dispassionate since you yourself have no need of the money!

I personally simply have one vote as an ordinary member of the Party and will be listening very carefully to what they have to say, perhaps especially about topics close to my heart- defence and foreign affairs, the Polar Regions, the environment and countryside. I am a small government, low taxation traditional Conservative; but then both candidates will have their hands tied by the current cost of living crisis and the battle against inflation; so there may in reality be little to choose between them on that front. I am pretty sure that my own personal preference will be for Rishi Sunak.

Boris meanwhile gave a spectacular farewell performance at PMQs on Wednesday “Hasta la vista, baby”, only just stopping short of “I’ll be back’”. He has some remarkable achievements to his name as PM- a record majority, uniting the Party, getting Brexit (more or less) done, the vaccine roll-out; a positively star-like status in Ukraine and so much more. He can be proud of his achievements as PM, although other elements left a few things to be desired. He is a remarkable character in every way, and I suspect that we have not seen the last of him. A political Schwarzenegger. Watch this space.

We must not let ‘war weariness’ nor understandable concerns about domestic matters allow us to forget the awfulness of all that is happening in Ukraine; nor the very real risk to the UK as a result of it. We must not give in to the ‘appeasers’ who will argue that it’s a war in a distant land; that we should let Putin have what he wants in the Crimea, Donbass and Black Sea regions, or that ‘doing a deal’ with Russia is preferable to any kind of NATO escalation. The fact is that this is an aggressive, bloody, illegal and unjustified invasion of a sovereign country; and that if we ‘appease’ we will not only be inviting Russia into military adventures ever closer to the UK - in the Baltic states or Finland, for example - but would also be sending a message to the world that illegal invasions of neighbouring countries are somehow or another acceptable , as the West will ultimately  give in for the sake of a quiet life. Let us not forget that Kyiv is not much further from us than Southern Spain.

When the new head of the Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders said this week that ‘this is a 1937 moment’ he was surely referring not only to our state of military preparedness; but also to the appeasement to which Churchill was so opposed and which gave Hitler all the encouragement he needed. So we must constantly reiterate that Russia must be removed from the whole of Ukraine, that they must be held to account for the multiple war crimes they have committed; and that we will not do business with them nor come to any kind of a ceasefire until that has happened.

As the Prime Ministerial caravan moved from the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kigali, Rwanda to the G7 in Germany to the NATO summit in Madrid, there was simultaneously a Whitehall turf war developing over defence spending and the size of the Army which seemed almost as intense as the real thing in Eastern Europe. The PM’s absence overseas (but engaged on matters military and diplomatic) coincided with the annual Land Warfare conference in RUSI; a dinner I hosted in the Commons for the Chief of Defence Staff, where he dealt with some 27 piercing questions from MPs and peers and a meeting with defence manufacturers the next day where it was inevitably the hot topic.

The vast military aid we are giving to Ukraine (an extra £1 billion announced at NATO) allows the PM to claim that our spending is now close to 2.5% of GDP (especially if you include the nuclear warheads in the total). That of course takes no account of inflation and allows us to proceed with the absurd cut of 10,000 in Army numbers, making it the smallest army since before Waterloo. Surely if there is any lesson to be learned from Ukraine, it must be that the focus on cyber warfare, Intelligence and Security and ever higher high-tech warfare is all very well; but that as CGS said “cyber won’t build a bridge over a river.” We are not yet making enough ammunition nor vehicles to replace those we have sent to Ukraine, at least partly thanks to some kind of a delay in contracts, I am told - no doubt Treasury inspired.

The fact of the matter is that there is a very real risk of escalation of a variety of different kinds from what is happening in Ukraine, and it must be our duty to make sure that we are ready for whatever may now happen. Cutting defence spending in real terms or reducing the army to 75,000 at a time like this, is irresponsible in the extreme. The MoD and No 10 must prevail over the Treasury in the intense turf warfare which is raging down Whitehall. Far from cutting defence spending, now should be the moment for a significant increase in it if we are to be sure of carrying out what the PM promised NATO, and if we are to keep our Nation safe at the same time.

It really is a 1937 moment - and we should never forget what happened in 1939 as a result of it. Appeasement of any kind and defence cuts alongside it would be a suicidal mistake.

I am very cross about one particular aspect of the shambles in and around 10 Downing Street - that I had no appointment from which to resign! There is no purpose in dwelling over the agony which has been played out on our TV screens over the last few days. I am glad that Boris Johnson has now gone and that we can start to rebuild respect for the Party and Government. To do that we must now focus on two matters.

First, the 1922 Committee will urgently start a Leadership election process which we must complete before the House rises for the Summer Recess on Thursday 21 July. I am confident that the excellent Sir Graham Brady will manage the process of winnowing out the very many candidates who will doubtless have a shot at it, down to two people, who will then tour the country for a series of hustings meetings amongst Conservative Party members, with the new PM being in place by September (perhaps sooner). There will be many candidates to choose amongst, and I will always value your views as to who would be best for the country. I am looking forward to welcoming Penny Mordaunt to Wiltshire on Friday 22 July for a Tory Party dinner and believe that she is one of the front runners. She is a very attractive personality and has had a pretty faultless political career so far. So let me know your thoughts.

And second, we must make sure that the Government which he or she heads will once again start to deliver what the electorate need and want as well as what is best for the country. We must address the current cost of living crisis, the current spike in inflation, and especially high energy prices. Wage increases to cover it would be fatal- a wage/price spiral would cement inflation into the economy with disastrous long-term consequences. But wage restraint at a time like this is unlikely to be very popular! Inflation comes from the after-effects of huge Government spending over the Covid Pandemic and now to lessen the effects of the energy price rise. Quantitative Easing and Public spending are inflationary.

I would like to see the Government return to traditional Conservative values- small government, low public spending, low taxes, freedom of the individual, respect for our great institutions and traditions. We must now reiterate our vision for the Conservative future of our country, which the people will once again respect. I would like to see a return to crisp and clear traditional Conservative values and policies, and I will support whichever candidate will deliver that renewal of Conservative values.

The events of the last few days must be cathartic, and allow us to move forwards with a new energy and enthusiasm.

There’s been an awful lot happening on the railways lately (with the exception of 21,23 and 25 June when there is nothing happening at all because of the strike).

The Elizabeth line may be four years late and a tad over budget. But it is truly magnificent. It runs from Reading to Canary Wharf and beyond and up into Essex; and from Paddington to Heathrow. Trains are twice the length of any train I have ever seen and are air-conditioned comfort in every way. What a great British achievement. I did (reluctantly) vote for the Crewe-Manchester leg of HS2 on Monday despite my general opposition to HS2 as a whole. My colleagues from the Northwest of England are mad keen on it, so as a West Country MP I did not find it in my heart to vote against their pet project.

I am much keener to support my neighbours Rob Buckland in his bid to get the HQ of Great British Rail to Swindon; Danny Kruger to get a new station in Devizes (which took a step forward this week); and jointly with Michelle Donelan to campaign for new stations in Corsham and Royal Wootton Bassett. There is a great deal going on with our (recently electrified) railways and as a customer and local MP I strongly support all of that work. I commute weekly up to Parliament, and greatly appreciate the (generally) excellent service provided by Gods Wonderful Railway.

However, there is so much more to be done.  Elements of our rail network are sorely in need of modernisation. The whole ticket structure (pricing and the way they are issued), needs to be re-examined. Can you imagine turning up at an airport with cash in hand to buy a ticket for a flight? We badly need to do something about catering on GWR, which is hopeless; and we must get rid of most of those silly announcements from the train manager (“see it, say it; sorted” as if I would not know to tell the staff if I saw something suspicious.)

I am also keen to expand the network, perhaps for example by using alternative rail systems- such as monorail and driverless trains which may well have a role linking small towns to the network.  We should be proud that 129 new stations have opening since privatisation, and that (leaving aside the Pandemic) something like 2 billion train journeys are taken every year. There is plenty of room for growth. I would love to see some of the old Beeching cuts reversed, new stations opened and all kinds of efforts to see ‘rider-ship’ increased. The railways make a great contribution to carbon reduction, and in so many ways are just vastly preferable to any other form of transport.

With all of that as background; and with huge potential for the future opening up; how can it be that in a throw-back to the 1960’s the RMT Union think it reasonable to strike, to throw the country into chaos, to prevent people getting to work, to the doctor or to see their families; why is it that the most experienced train drivers on £65,000 a year want to see it increased by inflation; and how can they really object to the vast swathes of modernisation which the railways still need. The RMT strikes are prehistoric; the RMT officials and their Labour Party supporters, positive dinosaurs. The hundreds of thousands of pounds paid by RMT both to the Labour Party centrally and to so many MPs must make it hard for them to be otherwise.

Box man Revd Awdry’s Fat Controller would have given the RMT bosses pretty short shrift. Railways are part of Britain’s heritage; and they are the backbone of any sustainable transport policy. We must not allow them to be shunted into some obscure siding by the Socialist Trades Unions.