Welcome to the Rudloe and environs website.


Here you will find news, articles and photos of an area that straddles the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in north-west Wiltshire.


Contributions in the form of articles or photos are welcome. Even those with completely contrary views to mine!


Thanks to the website builder 1&1 and Rob Brown for the original idea.


Rudloescene now, in January 2014, has a sister, academic rather than anarchic, website about Box history here: http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/

It contains thoroughly professional, well-researched articles about Box and its people.


Contact rudloescene through the 'Contact' page.


James Gray's 1st February 2019 newsletter and my response are reproduced for rudloescene readers below. And further below you will find his 22nd February 2019, 14th March 2019 and 13th September 2020 newsletters and my responses. These articles are in chronological order down the webpage however, for the reader's convenience, the latest newsletter (writing this on 6th November 2020) is now at the top of the webpage and I propose to add any further newsletters/responses 'on top'. 

8th January 2021 - email response to James Gray's weekly newsletter
You mention two reactionaries in this week's piece. One who threw out, in your words, a "a perfectly workmanlike remote electronic voting system" for MPs thus effectively disabling the work of the House. The other, a deranged, egotistical, power-hungry tyrant.
In a 2018 Times article, on the subject of the latter's visit to the UK, the former said "The red carpet that is laid out must be spotless". What a shameful, reprehensible error of judgement this was.
Among world leaders who will (unfortunately) be laughing their socks off at events in the US is a murderous, egotistical, power-hungry, Russian thug.
The wretched members of this troika have (at least) one thing in common - they are all advocates of Brexit.
Paul T
From: GRAY, James <jamesgraymp@parliament.uk>
Sent: 08 January 2021 10:18
To: Mr P Turner
Subject: From James Gray MP - A Surrealist Parliament & Democracy under Threat
 James Gray MP
Home<http://www.jamesgray.org/> | Contact James<http://www.jamesgray.org/index.php/contact-james>
Dear Constituent,
It is quite right that Parliament has been recalled for a second time in this Christmas Recess to pass Lockdown Number Three into law. It is right that these things are scrutinised and approved by Parliament, not just by the Government. MPs must have a chance to raise specific questions about it all with the PM and Ministers, and this Recall is their moment..…. Sort of.
For in a positively surreal way, the note from the Chief Whip recalling us all coincided with another note from Mr Speaker pleading with us all not to come back. It was a positively Alice in Wonderland moment. To be fair, the Leader of the House has now changed the rules with regard to remote participation in debates and statements, so that we can all have our say from home or our constituency offices. MPs have to log in electronically, ask for a chance to speak on a particular Parliamentary event; the names are selected at random by a computer and, if you are lucky, your name comes up.
However, perhaps because it can be done electronically, vastly more MPs than ever before are putting in to speak. It was 350 or so for the debate on this Lockdown. The PM’s Statement, the Statement on Education under Lockdown and then the substantive debate on the laws needed to make it all happen, all took place between 1130 AM and 7 PM including speeches from both Front Benches. So very probably no more than a hundred MPs were able to take part. And anyhow a time limited two minutes reading out a pre-prepared statement to one’s computer on the kitchen table hardly fulfils the highest standards of Parliamentary debate.
Not only is the debate pretty stilted, to say the least; but we are also effectively prevented from voting in person on the matter being debated. For a month or so at the start of Lockdown 1 we had a perfectly workmanlike remote electronic voting system. But the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg did not like it, perhaps out of concern that it would become a permanent fixture, and abandoned it. For a time it was only possible to vote in person in Parliament, but of course that cannot really be justified now that we are asking everyone else to stay at home. So they have brought in a ‘proxy’ system which in essence involves us handing our vote to the whips who vote on our behalf. I understand that the Government Deputy Chief Whip, for example, now holds about 250 votes.
I am afraid that, perhaps in line with so much else right now, the Parliamentary system is wholly unsatisfactory, and it cannot be allowed to continue. I am glad to serve on the Commons Procedure Committee which looks after these matters (or at least advises the Speaker and Leader, who may always ignore what we say). We are already turning our thoughts to how the Commons should look once the Pandemic is over. We are considering the elements of a proper Parliamentary debate; how to re-educate MPs who may have got a bit slack about the whole thing over Lockdown; and how to make the best use of some of the innovations  we have seen as a result of the Pandemic.
The Commons is Surrealist, Alice-like for now. We must take steps to make sure that after the Pandemic is over we recreate it as the finest debating and decision-making chamber in the World. We more or less created Parliamentary democracy. We must now restore it.
Just yesterday when I wrote this week’s Column I commented on a serious matter in the Westminster World - whether or not the current Covid-inspired arrangements were or were not good for Parliamentary democracy.  That now seems a petty consideration by comparison with the developments overnight in America.
It is simply inconceivable that in an advanced democracy thousands of thugs supporting the losing side should think it reasonable to invade Capitol Hill and seek to disrupt the smooth transition of power. The Republicans demonstrably lost the election, reconfirmed by the unheard-of loss of two Senate seats in Georgia. The Democratic party, for good or ill, now control both the Senate and House of Representatives as well as having a duly elected President. So be it. That’s democracy for you.
What comfort it must be to corrupt dictatorships round the world to hear ‘The Leader of the Free World’ apparently incite his disappointed followers to seek to disrupt that very democratic process. By any standard of decent governance anywhere, it’s an absolute disgrace, and President Trump will leave office under a cloud of shame.
The Global Covid crisis (and the UK figures announced yesterday are horrific) demands at least good sound governance to deal with it - governance which the people respect and accept even if they dislike it. That principle seems to have broken down in the United States and it must be restored.
In our own little way, we here must make sure that Parliamentary procedures and practice equally deserve the respect of the electorate as a whole. Government must be seen to be fair and decent and strong. That’s why I am so keen to be certain that the Westminster Parliament behaves and is governed in a way that all of the people accept, even if they dislike it. If it does not, then we risk undermining the whole basis of decent Parliamentary democracy.
Best wishes,
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire
5th January 2021 - the third (and final) New Year 'Dad's Army' message (email) to James Gray
Thanks for your New Year message - here is the third (and last you'll be pleased to know) of my Dad's Army, New Year messages to you (they've been 'building' to this one!).
In your message, you say "the Pandemic is raging" and this is, of course, the reason for the new national lockdown announced by the Prime Minister last night (4th January). And the principal reason for the raging, is the new variant which is, apparently, 50-70% more easily transmissible than the 'original'. And this new variant was first detected in Kent.
But why Kent? There are no major centres of population in Kent; the largest town is Maidstone with a population (from the 2011 census) of 113,000. However, there are four major ports in Kent: Dover, Ramsgate, Folkestone and Sheerness and the Channel Tunnel portal is also in Kent. Kent is also the most likely landing point for illegal immigrants. According to yesterday's (4th January 2020) Times, "At least 8,417 people in small boats reached Britain in 2020, quadruple the number in the previous year" - and this is the figure for 'known' illegal crossings only. The passenger traffic at Dover alone was 12 million in 2017 - we may assume that half of this figure was incoming passenger traffic.
It is more than likely then that the reason that Kent, a relatively sparsely populated county, was the source of the new Covid variant is that it is the principal channel of improperly regulated (and unregulated) access to the UK. Access should, of course, be regulated because in spite of the Brexit rhetoric about gaining control of our borders, we have always had the potential to control our borders - we are an island for a start and we opted out of the Schengen agreement for that very reason (control). I have attached Jenni Russell's excellent Times article on this subject - inter alia, she says:
  • The implication is that we have to be out of Europe to control immigration. That’s not accurate.
  • Successive governments have simply failed to use many of the ways in which we could have limited immigration under EU law.
  • For a country that is so resentful about migration, we have been astonishingly careless about measuring or managing it.
  • We didn’t know who was here for two decades, because Tory and Labour governments removed exit checks in the 1990s, meaning that we had no idea who was staying on.
  • A laissez-faire attitude was applied to finding out who had arrived in Britain, who had the right to live and work here, and who had the right to access public services. Unlike the majority of the EU, Britain basically neglected to apply most of those controls.
  • Under EU law there is no absolute right to freedom of movement. After three months any EU migrant must either have a job or a realistic chance of one, be a dependent of a family member who does, or have funds to support themselves, along with sickness insurance. If they don’t they can be sent home.
  • Britain has not implemented the policy for a simple reason: it has never bothered to get EU residents to register their presence here, has not, until the recent rollout of universal credit, asked welfare claimants their nationality, and has not had any system for requiring EU non-workers to take out health insurance.
  • In much of the rest of Europe there is less political unease about EU movement because there is more control over who is in the country and on what terms.
  • Britain has been too careless about immigration; too slow to see that its many economic and cultural benefits must be balanced against its social and psychological costs. But it’s not the EU that’s the problem, it’s our own ineffectiveness and complacency.
But this article was about Brexit and the EU, not about immigration pers se. For years now we have heard the same hyperbole about controlling immigration - that 'we' will reduce annual, net immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. Over the eleven years of your governments, this 'promise' has not been fulfilled, in fact the situation has worsened (If that's the right, PC term). With an annual net immigration rate of 300,000+ (two thirds from outside the EU)*, our population will have increased by over 3 million in your governments' terms of office. Even this year, with all the promises about 'controlling our borders' following Brexit on 31st January 2020, illegal immigration has quadrupled. As indicated earlier, Brexit rhetoric was just meaningless Trumpian slogans.
(*According to Migration Watch, net migration to the UK from outside the EU nearly tripled since the year to March 2013 (when it was 106,000) to its highest level ever - 316,000 in 2020)

These figures demonstrate that, in spite of always having the potential to control our borders (being an island, not part of Schengen) we, as Jenni Russell indicates, have been too careless about immigration. Even now, as my first two 'Dad's Army' emails illustrated, we do not have the policies, structures, processes, posts and staff to properly control our borders or undertake Covid testing on immigrants, visitors and returning nationals as many other countries have managed to do.
Bonne Annee
Paul T
Jenni Russell article.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [343.9 KB]

3rd January 2021 message (email) sent to James Gray



You will know, of course, that the extensive queues of lorries at Dover (Manston) at Christmas were a consequence of the French authorities requiring a negative Covid test before allowing (lorry) drivers to enter the country. There were no such queues in France as we allowed (had allowed and continue to allow) all drivers and passengers (anyone in fact - see below) to enter the UK unchecked (both for Covid and for post-transition goods). In spite of the constant entreaties to businesses to prepare for Brexit (post-transition), we (you!, the Government) do not have customs systems/posts/officials in place to make the required checks on incoming lorries and their goods. Apparently, we will not be in a position to make customs checks on incoming goods for at least six months.

Four acquaintances have, in the last months, travelled abroad, two to Bahrein and two to Italy. On arrival in Bahrein, both were tested for Covid, both were positive and were escorted by immigration officials/police to a hotel where they were required to isolate for ten days. In Italy, immigration officials made an arranged visit to the house where our acquaintances were staying to perform the required Covid tests; both were negative.

A friend of a friend having travelled in a number of African countries in an official capacity over some months representing an international NGO, returned to the UK just before Christmas. On arrival, not only was she not tested for Covid but she was not asked which country/countries she had visited. This is typical.

In my humble opinion, these examples illustrate that, in spite of all the bluff and bluster, the Government is absolutely incompetent and, post-Brexit, now has the 'freedom' to continue to make an absolute balls-up of running the country.

Dad's Army.

Bonne Annee

Paul T

2021 New Year message to James Gray (sent by email on 1st January 2021)



Happy New Year from darkest Rudloe.

For many months now, through national media, British businesses have been exhorted to 'check', 'change' (and other verbs I can't recall) to be ready for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020 yet we now discover that the UK Government itself is not ready.

While EU (customs) systems are in place for goods traffic from the UK, we hear that on the UK side, systems will not be in place for another six months.

Boris says "This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it" but the reality is that your Government (like Boris himself) continues to bumble along using bluff and bluster. Dad's Army once again comes to mind.

Bonne Annee

Paul T

7th December 2020 letter (email) to James Gray ...


From: Paul Turner
Sent: 07 December 2020 22:11
To: James Gray (New)
Subject: Taking Back Control

Lieber James,

Vot a hoot Brunhilde and myself had at ze report on ze ITV news heute abend.

Ze wisit of Prince Wilhelm unt ze Duchess of Cambridge to Schottland unt ze North in ze 'Royal Train'.

Did you see ze train as it passed over ze viaduct at ze Berwick upon Tveed (I sink) ... zere it was, unmentioned, ze emblem on the front of ze engine ... DB, yes Deutsche Bahn.

A royal visit on ze royal train operated by ... ze Germans!!!

Ven vill you be 'taking back control'?

Mit grussen

Herr Turner

This webpage might not be the best depository for this week's (20th November 2020) James Gray newsletter and my response as there are subjects (e.g. defence) involved other than the EU but I need to illustrate the shallowness of Tory arguments about Brexit - Senor Gray's response to my email following his 6th November 2020 newsletter was that the precautionary principle was not applied to the Brexit vote as the EU was "evil".


20th November 2020 newsletter

Dear Constituent,
The overblown fuss about the long overdue departure of Mr Cummings just proves that the moment that the Spin Doctor becomes the story is the moment that he has outlived his usefulness. Barnard Castle was the beginning of his end. And the subsequent events of the week demonstrate his redundancy (despite the PM having to self-isolate in Downing Street). For there is plenty going on, and plenty to be very cheerful about.
There is suddenly a great deal of good news about the Covid vaccine - both Pfizer and Oxford, Astra Zeneca and others. It has suddenly become possible to imagine a world (or at least a Britain) without Covid. Ministers are wrestling with plans to allow a (relatively) normal Christmas, although there may well be a price to be paid in the number of days of Lockdown.
De Profundis - out of the depths, I cry to you, and am certain that my cry will be answered.
The Government’s announcement of a ten-point plan to kick-start the green revolution has been welcomed by all bar the most committed of climate change sceptics. The expansions of protected landscapes, increased access to nature, stronger flood resilience, the creation and retention of thousands of green jobs, the announcement of new National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as the Landscape Recovery Projects - who would not welcome it all? I am currently chairing the Committee Stage of the massive Environment Bill, which similarly lays out an exciting green future for the UK, as well as transferring all of the EU environmental safeguards onto the UK Statute Book. It’s a massive task - five hours a day in Committee on Tuesdays and Thursdays (shared with a Labour colleague) - wading through the minutiae of the Bill. It has 232 pages, 130 sections and 20 massive schedules, and every word can be debated. For example, there are at least 30 amendments deleting the word ‘may’; and inserting ‘must’ instead. It’s a great Bill welcomed by all sides, and I hope it will also be good law once it has been through this rigorous process.
Then on Thursday, the Government announced the biggest increase in defence spending since the end of the Cold War, which I very strongly welcome. Much of it is for ‘modern warfare’ – drones, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target acquisition; and the overall modernisation of the armed services. It may well still entail some painful losses - main battle tanks, for example, may be under scrutiny. So, some traditionalists may well be disappointed that their favourite bit of defence is a casualty of the modern digital era. But a 10% increase every year in defence spending is of huge importance in this new World of a Globally Focussed United Kingdom.
So, no-one is irreplaceable. The departing teenage scribblers from No. 10 probably thought (perhaps hoped) that the whole great edifice would come tumbling down without them. The week’s events and announcements demonstrate that nothing could be further from the truth.
Best wishes,
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire
Please call, at any future time:
  • When there is any increased access to nature in north-west Wiltshire
  • With the names of expanded protected landscapes, new AONBs and National Parks
My crystal ball tells me that that call will never come. However, the apparent demise of tanks with the arrival of 'modern warfare' could release Salisbury Plain (and Imber perhaps) for a new AONB/National Park/Landscape Recovery Project?
But it appears that there is nothing new under the sun. Have you taken your cue on 'modern warfare' from Yes Prime Minister's 'The Big Picture' episode of 1985 when Jim Hacker was advised that "emergent technology" will replace conventional forces?
Anyway, enough of this tittle-tattle, the thing I find most interesting in this week's newsletter is your "... transferring all of the EU environmental safeguards onto the UK Statute Book". ​Just two weeks ago, in response to my question regarding the precautionary principle and the Brexit vote, your response was that the principle was not applied because the EU was "evil". Clearly then, your response was simply a squalid device to avoid a reasonable answer to the question.
And regarding a Globally Focussed United Kingdom, it should not have escaped your attention that most of the attacks on UK citizens now come from within. Aircraft carriers (at £3 billion apiece) to "project Britain's power and influence" (according to Captain Kyd, the first seagoing commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth) are an anachronism. Germany (an EU member), the strongest economy in Europe, has no need for such pompous, imperious gestures - it will simply take over another chunk of the British economy.
Paul Turner

The subject of James Gray's newsletter below was his support for the Lockdown vote in Parliament this week and the application of the 'Precautionary Principle' so it may appear odd that I include it in this webpage (Brexit & James Gray) but my response below the newsletter will explain (the bolding of Precautianary Principle in the text is mine)

6th November 2020 newsletter


Dear Constituent,


As a pretty dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, my heart strongly inclined me towards rebelling against yesterday’s Lockdown 2 Parliamentary vote. How can any free democratic government take actions which threaten the very livelihoods of so many of its citizens? How can it dictate who we see and when and how; how can it prevent families form visiting their old folk; how can it come between a husband and wife? These and so many other Covid-induced restrictions go against my most fundamental of freedom-loving instincts. And 30 or so of my colleagues did indeed vote against the Government, and others spoke out in the limited debate we were allowed on the matter. I salute them for the strength and clarity of their convictions.


And yet…and yet…. Opinions wax and wane about the models, figures and predictions which the scientists have used to persuade the Government to take this action; indeed there are ample statistics to be used by both sides of the argument to prove their correctness; but the overwhelming consensus amongst scientists, epidemiologists, statisticians alike is that if we do not do something about the dramatic explosion of the virus, then we will see mass infections across the Nation, hospitals will be unable to handle the numbers; death and misery will follow.


Now I am no kind of a scientist; but I do feel that we have to accept their conclusions. If my libertarian instincts had led to the Lockdown not happening, and if as a result of my vote hundreds of my constituents became infected, seriously ill or died, then I would be not be able to live with myself. How can any MP be expected to take an action which, if the expert advice is to be believed, would result in misery for hundreds of the people they strive to represent?


After all, if the scientific predictions turn out to have been incorrect (as some of the Covid deniers would argue), then there is of course a heavy economic and personal price to be paid for their error; but that is, in my view, less likely to be as catastrophic as if we accept their advice. In other words, the Precautionary Principle applies here - if we act, we hope to avoid a likely disaster. If that disaster is imaginary, then we pay a price for it, but a lower price than we would pay if they are correct in their predictions, but we had not acted to reverse it. We can put an unnecessary economic price right; we cannot reverse needless illness, deaths and misery which would be caused by our inaction.


So that is why I voted to support the Government - my heart told me not to; but on this occasion my heard prevailed. President Trump’s (likely) demise is rather similar. I instinctively support the Republicans and am deeply wary about the 78-year-old socialist, Mr Biden.  Yet my head tells me that President Trump is a huge personal liability, and that there is so much about him which is simply unacceptable in a civilised and liberal democracy. His method of departure - through the courts - has all the hallmarks of the worst kind of bad loser. Hilary Clinton stands in sharp contrast - honourably and quietly withdrawing from the field after a bitter defeat. My head tells me that the World will be a better place under Biden than Trump, even if my natural instincts tell me otherwise.


Best wishes,


James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire



You now cherry-pick "the Precautionary Principle" on the issue of the Lockdown vote.

If only you had supported the principle with Brexit. The following quote from Richard Dawkins is apposite (from his book 'Science in the Soul'):

"And so, to the precautionary principle. The referendum was about a major change, a political
revolution whose pervasive effects would persist for decades if not longer. A huge constitutional
change, the sort of change where, if ever, the precautionary principle should have been paramount.
When it comes to constitutional amendments, the United States requires a two-thirds majority in
both houses of Congress followed by ratification by three-quarters of the state legislatures. Arguably
that bar is set a bit too high, but the principle is sound. David Cameron’s referendum, by contrast,
asked for only a simple majority on a single yes/no question. Did it not occur to him that so radical a
constitutional step might merit stipulation of a two-thirds majority? Or at least 60 per cent? Perhaps
a minimum voter turnout to make sure such a major decision was not taken by a minority of the
electorate? Maybe a second vote, a fortnight later, to make sure the populace really meant it? Or a
second round a year later, when the terms and consequences of withdrawal had become at least
minimally apparent. But no, all Cameron demanded was anything over 50 per cent in a single yes/no
vote, at a time when opinion polls were yo-yo-ing up and down and the likely result was changing
day by day. It is said that a leftover statute of British common law stipulates that ‘no idiot shall be
admitted to parliament’. You’d think at least that stricture might apply to Prime Ministers."


Paul Turner

1st February 2019 newsletter


Dear Constituent,

Odd things, dreams. I woke up on Monday morning absolutely determined to back Graham Brady’s amendment to the debate on Tuesday. He called for the PM to return to Europe and demand a fundamental change to the Backstop arrangements, which was pretty much my own view. So I told the European Research Group via their WhatsApp, that that was what I was planning, and the whole world fell in on my head. I had phone calls from the very great, counter briefings, words of warning. I was one of only 15 people supporting the amendment; it was selling out; it could not get through; the DUP would not like it; we have an alternative plan etc.

But I ploughed ahead, seconded the Brady amendment, spoke at the ERG meeting in support of it (to a less than enthusiastic audience), did a bit of media and canvassed my friends and colleagues. Slowly but surely people came to realise that the deal – bad as many parts of it are – could just be tolerated if we could get rid of the backstop and that the Brady amendment just might be the way to do that. And at all events, opposing a motion which seemed at least on the face of it to be calling for exactly what we wanted would have been viewed as a little odd. During Tuesday more and more colleagues came round to that view, and of course we won the amendment in the end by 16 votes.

So now the PM has to go back to the EU and reopen the negotiations seeking a legally binding alternation to the backstop provisions. We gave her a means of doing so with the so-called Malthouse compromise, and we have done a lot of work on electronic alternatives to a hard Irish border. So we have the solutions for her, but she must now persuade the EU to accept them.

If they do not do so, then we will all know who to blame. The Conservative Party - and Parliament - came together to propose a solution to recent gridlock; we know what we want; we want a deal without the most obnoxious part to it. The EU must now step up to the mark. If they do not do so (and we will have another ‘meaningful vote’ on whatever they agree to later this month) - then they cannot be surprised if, come 29th March, we leave without any kind of agreement at all (which, of course, no-one wants.) The ball is now firmly in their court. I hope that they will enter into the spirit of the game.

So I am proud that - thanks apparently to inspiration in a dream - I helped persuade the ultra-sceptical 80 or so members of ERG to swallow their reservations (at least for now) and support the Brady amendment. As a result, we have a direction of travel which the whole Conservative Party and Government supports. With luck and a following wind, the EU will do what we want, and we will finally be able to leave the EU on 29th March with a clear agreement of the way forward.

I was but a small pawn in a big game, but on this occasion (rather immodestly) hope that I played a relatively decisive role in it. I am proud to have played some part in unlocking the Parliamentary gridlock, and therefore some little part in helping us towards leaving the EU.

I hope I am not being like Spike Milligan, whose Autobiography was immodestly entitled ‘Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall.’ ‘James Gray: How I helped Britain leave the EU.’ I hope it’s more as Shakespeare hath it, “A small thing, but mine own.”

Best wishes,

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire


Yours truly's response follows:



Thanks for the newsletter.

After consistently 'rubbishing' Mrs May's Deal, you now propose to support it in spite of its "40 fatal flaws" (your newsletter of 20th November 2018) as long as it includes a nebulous, undefined amendment! I have spent hours trying to find out what the Brady Amendment actually proposes (* see below) and have found only the following "To require that the Northern Ireland backstop be “replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border” while supporting the notion of leaving the EU with a deal and therefore supporting the Withdrawal Agreement subject to this change". In your 26th August 2018 newsletter, you said "It seems to me that it means ‘leaving the EU’ and that is what we must now do - lock, stock and two smoking barrels. WTO is probably the best route". 

I am concerned that in spite of the sentiment expressed in your 20th October 2018 newsletter: "I remain hopeful that our divorce from Europe can be on civilised and sensible terms of benefit to both halves", you continue to use disparaging, inflammatory language about our European partners.

In your newsletter of 21st December you said "The enemy in M Barnier, and Juncker and the rest of them. They are the ones who are preventing a fair Brexit by their insistence on the wholly unnecessary backstop.  But in the speech Mrs May gave to Parliament on 10th December 2018 she said "We had hoped that the changes we have secured to the backstop ...". Note 'we' meaning your government! It was not, as you say disparagingly, "Barnier, Juncker and the rest of them".

Your newsletter of 13th December 2018, in spite of an agreement being reached over our (yes 'our') required changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, included "make them (the EU) see reason". And in the same newsletter, you said that the requirement was "a clean and straightforward break with the European Union".

In your newsletter of 21st December 2018 you said "Everywhere I go round the constituency people tell me that they want Brexit sorted; they want to fulfil the people’s expectations in the Referendum of a Clean English Brexit; they want certainty and clarity; they want an end to the national humiliation which we are suffering at the hands of the EU; and to a very significant extent, they want us to stand up to Brussels in a real way and tell them how it is". Clean English Brexit is your phrase, not one I have heard elsewhere. It's interesting that your book 'Full English Brexit' which was published in October 2018 has had sales of just one copy in three months at Corsham Bookshop indicating that the thinking people of Corsham do not share your sentiments.

Two other things also, the first of which I have mentioned to you previously, Full English Brexit is all very well but what about Scotland and Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the EU? Secondly, Full English Brexit was a track on Billy Bragg's album 'Bridges not Walls' which was released in the autumn of 2017 - it seems that you have taken your book's title from an ardent socialist.

Your (as indicated above) "the national humiliation which we are suffering at the hands of the EU; and to a very significant extent, they want us to stand up to Brussels in a real way and tell them how it is" is entirely from the imaginations of Brexiteers like yourself. It was our 'decision', through a flawed referendum (I'll come to this later), to leave the EU; it was our decision to enter into a 30-month period of negotiation in order to obtain a deal. We have had the great and the good of the Conservative Party haggling over this deal yet when the deal is done and signed off in law, one side wishes to renege on it. And this, according to your logic, is the fault of the EU.

Getting back to your inflammatory language, your 11th January 2019 newsletter included "the EU negotiators who were crowing this week in a German newspaper that they had ‘won’". Perhaps you could give chapter and verse on this unlikely story and perhaps the newspaper was Bild, notorious for its mix of gossip, inflammatory language, and sensationalism.

Your 17th January 2019 newsletter included "Delete the obnoxious backstop" and "That would be to ignore the will of the people so clearly expressed in the Referendum" (see below). With regard to the Backstop, Simon Coveney's (the Irish Foreign Minister and deputy Taoisach) sentiments are clear and measured. In his interview with Andrew Marr during the latter's 27th January 2019 programme, he said (apologies, this is a series of long quotes from the programme but the questions and answers are important) "It was agreed that there was a need for a fallback or insurance mechanism for the people of Northern Ireland - the Backstop is already a series of compromises designed around British red lines. It was Britain that asked that the Backstop should be UK-wide on customs. It was the UK that insisted on review mechanisms for the Backstop so that it could be changed or removed if everyone agreed. The very need for the Backstop in the first place was because the UK wished to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union as well as the EU. The Irish position is that we have already agreed to a series of compromises and that has resulted in what is proposed in the Withdrawal Agreement. Ireland has the same position as the EU when we say that the Backstop within the Withdrawal Agreement is part of a balanced package that isn’t going to change. The problem with arguing against the Backstop is that nobody yet in arguing against it has come up with a pragmatic, sensible and legally sound way of avoiding border infrastructure re-emerging between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland and that is why it took two years to get the Backstop agreed and why I believe that the Prime Minister is correct when she defends it. If we don’t have a Backstop, then the EU, Ireland and the UK will have to work together to try to avoid border infrastructure but that will not be easy. There is no magic solution here. If there was, it would have emerged by now and that is why Ireland will insist on the UK keeping its word both to Ireland and the EU and to the people of Northern Ireland in terms of protecting a fragile but hugely valuable peace process. Don’t forget, Brexit is not an Irish policy; these are decisions that are being taken by the UK that are causing huge problems on our island, north and south, and there is an obligation on people to have pragmatic solutions here rather than wishful thinking in relation to border infrastructure".

Andrew Marr then asked: "We are where we are. To be absolutely crystal clear, if the House of Commons votes next week to remove the Backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement and to find alternative arrangements, your reaction will be that the Withdrawal Agreement is, in effect, holy text and cannot be touched?"

Simon Coveney responded: "That is like saying to Ireland that we are not now going to follow through on our commitments to a negotiated and sensible way forward to prevent border infrastructure re-emerging in any circumstances as an insurance mechanism and we’re going to replace it with an aspirational hope and a commitment that somehow will solve this but we don’t know how. Is it reasonable to ask people north and south on the island of Ireland to actually move ahead on that basis. I don’t think it is and I don’t believe the EU will support that approach at all".

Andrew Marr: "And therefore, again to be clear, you don’t think the EU or the Irish government would accept a British escape clause from the Backstop or a time limit to it?"

Simon Coveney responded: "There is already a review mechanism for the Backstop if there are sensible ways of providing the same solutions that the Backstop provides (if it is ever triggered). People keep talking about games of chicken and of the UK position being against the Irish or the EU position; we’re all trying to work together here. Britain and Ireland are two islands next to each other; we have an extraordinary history together, at times a very tragic history but we have to work out those things together and stop talking about games of chicken. We’ve had 30 months of negotiation; we have a withdrawal agreement; we have a future relationship declaration. There are ways of resolving these issues, in my view, by changing the aspirations within the future relationship declaration which will reassure people that the Backstop is never likely to be used. That is the way I hope those negotiations will go, rather than the British parliament deciding on something that may command a majority in Westminster but has no chance of getting agreement or ratification in the EU. Listen to what people are saying in Europe; this isn’t just about Britain’s future, it’s about our future together, the UK and the EU separate but at the same time working together in our combined interest. The European parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement that doesn’t have a Backstop in it, it’s as simple as that".

Andrew Marr asked: "As I understand it, you’re ruling out a time limit to the Backstop and a unilateral British escape clause, so I’m running through the options. One is a separate, individual treaty between Ireland and the UK to resolve the Irish border issue. What about that?"

Simon Coveney responded: "With respect, you’re talking about this as if we’re starting the negotiations again. All of these issues were debated, discussed and argued over when we were putting a Withdrawal Agreement and an Irish Protocol to the agreement together. We teased through these issues in great detail and your prime minister signed up to the Backstop as a compromise which was designed around her and Britain’s red lines and now you’re saying “Well actually we’ll accept a Withdrawal Agreement as long as we take out the compromises that the EU was willing to make. That is a wholly unreasonable position."

Again, apologies for the inordinately long quotes from Andrew Marr's programme but they set out an altogether reasonable position in the kind of language that you said "I remain hopeful that our divorce from Europe can be on civilised and sensible terms of benefit to both halves" that you wanted but have not, yourself, used.

"So clearly expressed in the Referendum" you say. When it comes to constitutional amendments, the United States requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress followed by ratification by three-quarters of the state legislatures. But our then prime minister, autocratically, decided that the immense constitutional issue of our EU membership should be delegated to the people in a simple remain/leave referendum, with no precautionary measure. Not only was there no need for such a referendum in the first place but with no precaution in place, a majority of one would have been enough to trigger the process of leaving the EU. Quite ridiculous. And now, with the experience of the last 30 months and with changes in the demographic and, perhaps, changes in attitude, another vote could well go with remain. But either way, this is no way to run a railroad (as someone once said) never mind a country.

Phew, that's my piece said for the time being - People's Vote I say.


Paul Turner


* Apparently the Brady Amendment is based on a Plan A and a Plan B which together form a Plan C known as the Malthouse Compromise. Detail of the plans and analysis by Dr Sylvia de Mars, an EU and international law specialist in the House of Commons Library, may be found here: The Brady Amendment

22nd February 2019 newsletter


Dear Constituent,

This week’s decision by Honda to relocate their manufacturing from Swindon back to Japan in 2022, with a potential loss of 3500 jobs directly, plus others from the supply chain, is of course deeply regrettable. Many people in North Wiltshire will be very concerned about it, and I will gladly do whatever I can to help with their particular circumstances. I attended the first meeting in Swindon yesterday of the Taskforce set up to deal with the repercussions of the decision. Amongst other things, I reminded the meeting of Dyson’s £200 million investment in electric car Research and Development just 20 miles up the M-4 at Hullavington. Maybe our area could become a national hub for electric car R and D, perhaps even manufacturing. That would be one good way or using what will by then be an empty, but high-quality car plant. Might even be of interest to Sir James?

It is also worth remembering that unemployment in North Wiltshire (and across England) is at an historic low. 800 people are currently registering in this area, which has been the same for several years. Most of those people are transitting between jobs. There is a great deal of expansion and opportunity across the area, and I am hopeful that after the initial shock has passed, the Honda employees will come to realise the opportunities in the area which will now open up for them.

The automotive industry is going through troublous times globally- Nissan’s announcement about its diesel 4x 4, Jaguar Landrover’s difficulties, even Dyson’s decision to move their corporate HQ (albeit only two highly paid top executives, one of whom already works in Singapore) may even be a part of it all. Its about a Global downturn in demand, environmental concerns over diesel emissions, competition from electric cars and much improved public transport in many places.

Brexit, and uncertainty caused by it, cannot have helped. But it is in no sense to blame. 85% of the cars manufactured in Swindon are destined for the US market; a large part of the balance is domestic. Those who have their own political reasons for doing so, will try to blame Brexit, but that really is both misleading and forlorn. There is no evidence at all of any kind of economic downturn as a result of, or in anticipation of Brexit; and it is ruthless and relentless scaremongering to suggest otherwise. These people are playing with workers’ personal concerns for their families, and it is quite wrong.

The split in the Labour Party is perhaps more directly attributable to Brexit, as well as to a general disaffection with their Leadership. I hear that up to 100 Labour MPs are being threatened with deselection by their Momentum-swelled local Labour Associations. One colleague was telling me that his Association has gone from 200 members, each of whom he knew personally for many years to a staggering 8,000 members, none of whom he knows at all. The obvious presumption is that these are communist infiltrators seeking to take over the Labour Party. By any stretch that must be a deeply damaging prospect for democracy in general as well as for Labour.

So I salute the bravery of the magnificent seven, and of those who will follow their lead. They may well be sacrificing their own careers and livelihoods in favour of their beliefs and background. That takes courage politically, and they should be congratulated and supported in their decision.

Best wishes,

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire



Your missive is interesting as much for the events not mentioned as those that are.

'Taking back control' was one of the mantras of the Leave cabal yet the Business Secretary, Greg Clarke, and indeed your government knew nothing of this momentous decision. This and other decisions, for example the loss of hundreds of jobs at Coopers in Melksham, are almost entirely at the whim of foreign companies. This state of affairs is seen across the whole breadth of (so-called) British industry from infrastructure (all our existing and upcoming power stations), the motor vehicle industry, the railways, our utility companies and so on.

Much has been made in the press lately of possible security issues around adopting Huawei's 5G telephony yet we are in thrall to the Chinese for (one of) the most basic elements of our infrastructure - power. This selling of the family silver has been going on for years in Britain but would not be countenanced in other European countries.

You also fail to mention the significant EU/Japan trade deal which has just been finalised which will save EU (and Japanese) companies billions in tariffs. UK companies will not, when outside the EU, benefit from this deal. Meanwhile Trade Secretary Liam Fox has been in South America trying to elicit possible trade deals with Peru!

And you mention Labour defectors but you do not 'salute the bravery' of the Conservative defectors. Such partial views are, I would suggest, to blame for defections from both sides.


Paul Turner

14th March 2019 newsletter


Dear Constituent,


This time last week, I was hoping against hope that the Attorney General would bring back some concession on the Irish Backstop, which would be sufficient for me to support the PM’s badly flawed Deal. And to begin with I was quite encouraged. ”She cannot have made that last minute dash to Strasbourg for meetings with M Barnier unless she really had achieved some kind of a breakthrough,” I reasoned. “Her Deal was so thoroughly beaten last time round on account of the obnoxious Back-stop arrangements. She must have got them removed, or at least a firm end-date inserted.”


So, to begin with on Tuesday I was rather inclined to support her Deal. Better than No Deal, perhaps, and certainly better than No Brexit, which might otherwise be the consequence. I went along to the Attorney General’s Statement. He would be an enthusiastic supporter of the negotiation, presumably, which would enable me to firm up my support. Sadly not. His support for the deal was wishy-washy to say the least. Afterwards it was strongly rumoured that he had told the PM that he could not support it at all and was offered the revolver and bottle of whisky treatment as a result. The Deal was as bad as it had always been, with no redeeming Cox’s Codpiece to make it any better. So my decision was clear- I voted against it for the second time. The  majority was smaller, but still overwhelming. Had it been closer; had I felt that my vote would have really mattered, then perhaps I would have been persuaded. But the DUP and most of my ERG colleagues, decided to vote against the Deal, so there was really no purpose in my compromising my Brexit principles. Or at least, not yet.


For the astonishing events of Wednesday and Thursday very probably mean that we will now either have to accept Mrs May’s Deal, atrocious as it is in many ways, or conclude that we really cannot leave the EU after all, and remain diminished and humiliated slaves of the Brussels hegemony for all time. On Wednesday, the PM’s motion proposed that we should not leave on 29 March with No Deal.  Dame Caroline Spellman moved an amendment that that should become a permanent No to ‘No Deal’.  Then she tried to change her mind and pull her amendment, which a Labour MP nonetheless moved on her behalf, which was then won by 4 votes. So now having been a three line whip to support the PM’s motion, it became a three line whip to vote against it. Yet in an unprecedented breach of collective responsibility, a gang of Ministers including Devizes MP,  Claire Perry, rebelled against a three line whip, abstained, and by that means allowed the amended motion to be carried. Sarah Newton was the only honourable minister to resign. The rest should be ashamed of themselves. The end result of their culpable disloyalty is that Brexit is suddenly starting to look increasingly unlikely.


Now this is a very fast-moving scene, and the outlook changes daily if not hourly. However whatever now happens, I am finding it increasingly hard to conclude anything other than that the only way we can achieve anything which even vaguely resembles the Brexit that 17.4 million people voted for is indeed the PM’s deeply flawed and in parts wholly obnoxious deal. It breaks my heart to say it, but my strong instinct is that our efforts to produce a Clean Brexit, a full Brexit, even a No Deal Brexit have now failed. There comes a time in any war when the losing side has to recognise defeat and seek to extract the best possible terms for their troops. The End Game, as it is known in chess.


I think we are now there. So my expectation is that when the same old deal is brought back before us next week, I for one, and I hope enough of my ERG colleagues to make it pass, will march through the Ayes lobby in support of the Deal, with our heads held high having fought a good fight. Its not what we wanted, but it now looks like the best we can actually get. To my strong Brexit electorate I would say: “I am sorry. You know that I  tried my best.” To my Remainer electorate: “I hope that you will at least be pleased at a much softer Brexit than people like me might have liked”, and to my pragmatic reasonable middle grounders: “I think you will understand my dilemma and my eventual decision.” And to you all, please understand the heavy burden of responsibility which all MPs feel resting on their shoulders. These decisions will affect life in Britain for generations to come. They are mot made lightly nor easily.


Best wishes,


James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire




I'm a tad confused.


Was your newsletter written before or after you appeared on TV on Wednesday evening and, addressing the camera and Mrs May directly, you said "I will never vote for your deal"?


You say that it is "a fast-moving scene with the outlook changing daily" so you were an absolute No on Wednesday and assuming your newsletter was written yesterday (Thursday) you were a Yes. When is the vote - next Tuesday? So let's see: Wednesday - No, Thursday - Yes, Friday - No, Saturday - Yes, Sunday - No, Monday - Yes, Tuesday - No. So it appears that you will vote against the deal next week (assuming a Tuesday vote).


In spite of the fact that the same deal is being brought back to the Commons for a third vote, then possibly a fourth, Mrs May and most MPs have voted to deny the possibility of the electorate even a second vote. One law for you and another for us?


There do appear to be many issues around referenda not least that they create division (almost three-years-worth so far with many more years to come for 'the' referendum). A major issue was that 'the' referendum was deeply flawed with no precautionary principle (it could have been won by a single vote whereas a precaution of just 55% would have avoided the subsequent chaos) such as is required in the USA for constitutional issues where two-thirds of both houses and three-quarters of state legislatures must approve.


Any referendum (the return of capital punishment, the scale of non-EU immigration, whether a multi-cultural society is wanted ...) at the time of 'the' referendum would most likely have returned an anti-establishment result. 'The' referendum was an appalling idea with no precaution and should never have been held. Politicians should have had the sense to see that and, in spite of the screams about the "end of democracy", should have followed their consciences (that's what we elect them for isn't it?) and dismissed the result.


When I see/hear leavers on TV saying repeatedly 'just get on with it' I despair of their lack of consideration of all the issues; my better-half and myself turn to each other and say "there is no 'just get on with it' button"! The best way out of this shambles? Why, revoke Article 50 of course (vis Ken Clarke, the SNP and five-sixths of MPs' consciences). That really is the 'just get on with it' button.




Paul Turner

13th September 2020 newsletter


Dear Constituent,


There has been a great deal of sound and fury over Brandon Lewis’s (factually incorrect) remark that if we seek to vary the terms of the Northern Irish Protocol to the Brexit agreement, then we will “be in breach of International Law.” It is perfectly true that every time you try to vary any international treaty it is a technical breach of the law. All that is happening is that we have spotted a fundamental flaw in one aspect of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and this Bill seeks to correct it.

It would only have effect if we fail to come to a Free Trade Agreement with the EU by the end of the year- which I still hope we will be able to do. But the trouble is that this particular aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement actually incentivises the EU NOT to make any such trade agreement. After we have finally left the EU, the UK Government may decide to help certain sectors of business in various ways. It may be that we would try to create a high-tech hub rather like Silicon Valley, very probably much of it in this area. Electric cars, for example, may well be an attractive idea, perhaps to replace Honda. Perhaps we will seek to support one or other aspect of farming. These things are known as ‘State Aid’, and under the Withdrawal Agreement they can only be done with prior approval of the EU - for all time to come. It’s ostensibly in case any of the State Aid supported goods went via Northern Ireland and into the EU market; but that is cover for banning State aid on the mainland of GB as well. And the EU of course would never agree to it.

So the UK Internal Market Bill is crucial to protect seamless trade and jobs across all four corners of the United Kingdom at the end of the Transition Period. It will: ensure that there are no tariffs on goods remaining within the UK customs territory; guarantee that businesses based in Northern Ireland have true ‘unfettered access’ to the rest of the United Kingdom, without paperwork; removes any possible legal confusion about the fact that, while Northern Ireland will remain subject to the EU’s State Aid regime for the duration of the Protocol, Great Britain will not be subject to those EU rules.

The Free Trade Negotiations are at a crucial stage. The EU wants to apply their State Aid rules to the whole of the UK; they want to apply fishing quotas to fish caught in our own territorial waters, and in a number of other ways they want to keep the UK within the EU in all but name. We cannot allow that. That is why we must make it plain that if we do not reach agreement on Free Trade, we will have taken steps towards an alternative- of which this Bill is a crucial part. 

I am glad that the negotiators are being tough- it’s the only language which Mr Barnier and co understand. They need to realise that the people of Britain voted to leave the EU, to leave the single market, to leave the EU courts and structures. The notion that we would nonetheless be prevented from subsidising one or other of our business sectors in the event that we chose to do so, undermines and invalidates Brexit. This is fundamental to our decision to leave; and if the EU negotiators do not give ground, then we must be ready to walk away, leave the question of a trading agreement to another day; and be ready to trade under WTO rules just as much as we will do with the rest of the world.

Best wishes,


James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire

My initial response ...



Greetings from darkest Rudloe.

You say the following: "These things are known as ‘State Aid’, and under the Withdrawal Agreement they can only be done with prior approval of the EU - for all time to come."

I have just downloaded the Withdrawal Agreement and, inter alia, it says the following on State Aid:

"In respect of aid granted before the end of the transition period, for a period of four years after the end of the transition period, the European Commission shall be competent to initiate new administrative procedures on State aid concerning the United Kingdom. The Commission shall be competent after the end of that four year period for procedures initiated before the end of that period."

Note, '... for procedures initiated before the end of that period.', not, as you say, "... for all time to come".

Your response?


Paul Turner

My further response ...



Having thought about this a little further, the four-year period is relevant to State Aid granted before the end of the transition period. Beyond the four-year period is relevant to State Aid initiated before the end of transition (note 'granted' v 'initiated').

It seems (unless you can put me right) that neither case refers to the possible State Aid scenarios beyond the end of the transition period that you suggest vis: a UK 'Silicon Valley', farming or electric cars.




James Gray's response ...


The NI Protocol is for ever.




My response ...



I've been looking for chapter and verse myself but can find nothing of your 'NI Protocol is for ever'.

By the way, my reference to the following:

"In respect of aid granted before the end of the transition period, for a period of four years after the end of the transition period, the European Commission shall be competent to initiate new administrative procedures on State aid concerning the United Kingdom. The Commission shall be competent after the end of that four year period for procedures initiated before the end of that period."

was from Article 93.

But one thing that I really don't get is the Consent Mechanism.

Given that the underlying purpose of of the Protocol on Ireland/N Ireland is set out in the Agreement as follows:

"The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is a fully legally operative solution that that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions, and safeguards the integrity of the Single Market."


The Consent Mechanism is set out as follows:

"The EU and the United Kingdom have agreed to create a new mechanism on “consent”, which will give the Northern Ireland Assembly a decisive voice on the long-term application of relevant EU law in Northern Ireland, based on intense discussions between Ireland and the United Kingdom. The Commission has been in constant and close contact with the Irish government on this point.

This consent mechanism concerns the substantive issues of regulatory alignment on goods and customs, the Single Electricity Market, VAT and state aid.

In practice, this means that four years after the end of the transition period, the Assembly can by simple majority give consent to the continued application of relevant Union law, or vote to discontinue its application, in which case the United Kingdom would notify the EU. In such a case, the Protocol will cease to apply two years later.

Every four years thereafter, the Assembly can vote on the continued application of relevant Union law. In case a vote of the Assembly gathers cross-community support for the continued application of relevant Union law, the next vote can only take place 8 years thereafter."

If the NI Assembly votes to discontinue the application of Union (EU) law which will bring about the cessation of the Protocol, surely this could (will!) have disastrous consequences, inter alia, for that oft-stated, all-important 'protection of the Good Friday Agreement'.

But back to your "NI Protocol is for ever", the Consent Mechanism (at least) illustrates that it isn't.




He has not responded which, if I may say so, is typical of current Tory politics. They will bluff and bluster but when challenged on the facts, they have nothing to say. This has been happening for quite some time (maybe forever!) - remember before the last election when the only party leader to refuse to be interviewed by Andrew Neil was (of course) Boris Johnson. Andrew Neil is a very astute and direct political commentator - Boris's 'bluff' would have been exposed - the solution? - hide away (Jacob Rees-Mogg) , say nothing (except slogans like 'Take back control').


And talking of 'Take back control', HM and myself watched the wartime (1942) propaganda film In Which We Serve  (starring Noel Coward) over the weekend. Some of the dialogue involved a conversation between shipmates on HMS Torrin when one seaman was extolling the virtue of Rolls Royce cars. If only he knew that 60 years or so later, Rolls Royce would be owned by BMW (and Bentley by Volkswagen). Been to hospital for a scan lately? Most MRI and CT scanners are German (Siemens). Kidney problems? The new dialysis centre in Bathford is run by a German company, Fresenius. Power? Hinkley C is being built by French company EDF with Chinese backing (The Chinese are also building nuclear power station Bradwell B in Essex). Steel? The Chinese have recently bought British Steel. Water? Wessex Water is owned by Malaysian company YTL and so on and so on. 'We' have been relinquishing control of our land, infrastructure, buildings, utilities and other companies over many years; our former western-European (EU) neighbours would not dream of selling off such fundamental parts of their national infrastructure but our governments would, and have.

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