Changes to Constituency boundaries always mean disquiet and discomfort. None of us likes change; and if the new proposals from the Parliamentary Boundary Commission published this week eventually become law, then I will be very sad to lose places like Royal Wootton Bassett and Lyneham and Calne as well as a host of villages. I have represented their interests for 25 years and have so many friends across the patch. So it would be with a heavy heart that I would say ‘farewell’ to that part of my constituency. Under the proposals I would keep the northern half of it, including Malmesbury, Cricklade and Purton, to which would be added places like Tetbury, Cirencester, Fairford, Northleach and a great swathe of Gloucestershire countryside.
It’s only fair that all Parliamentary constituencies should be the same size - between 70 and 77,000 electors - but nonetheless achieving that every 10 years or so causes unwelcome disturbance in our democratic lives. It will all be much discussed over the next couple of years before final decisions are made, so watch this space….
I continue to hope that Britain will open up on 21 June, although the runes are looking a little sticky. It may be that the final Freedom Day will be delayed by a couple of weeks to allow vaccinations to catch up with infections; but I am hopeful that weddings in particular will be ‘full steam ahead’ from 21 June. We should hear on Monday, when the PM makes an announcement hot foot from Cornwall and the G7. (Have you noticed how much extra military air traffic there has been over Wiltshire for the last few days?)
The Indian Variant seems to be spreading like wildfire, especially amongst the young. I myself experienced it on Thursday. I was at the Oxford Union to speak in a debate about Veganism (against Heather McCartney- Mills!!) in support of livestock producers across Wiltshire as well as my own carnivorous instincts. But some student was given a positive Covid reading when she was actually in the audience and the whole event had to be scrapped. Another first-class speech went home in my pocket! All the speakers were kept clear of any possible infection; but it does go to show how much this variant is spreading among the young. The good news is that crucially there are relatively few hospitalisations and no deaths as a result. So let’s get young people vaccinated against it and we will finally be able to relax a little more.
In Parliament I chaired a debate on retail workers’ rights and the prevention of abuse and worse during the pandemic (hybrid- virtual and physical); and then I spoke in a debate about saving Burlington House, the ancient home of the Learned Societies (Physical). And on Friday I chaired a Ministerial meeting for Wiltshire exporters (entirely virtual). What experts we are all becoming on Zoom and Teams. And what lovely new phrases are entering our vocabulary (‘You’re on mute, Kevin.’)
In an action-packed week, I am delighted and proud that Philippa has been appointed to be a Governor both of Sir William Romney’s School in Tetbury and of Wiltshire College (with special responsibility for Lackham College of Agriculture and land-based skills.)
So, life moves on - Boundary Changes, Covid developments, new appointments.