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James Gray (UK politician)

James Gray
Member of Parliament
for North Wiltshire
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Richard Needham
Majority 7,483 (15.4%)
Personal details
Born (1954-11-07) 7 November 1954 (age 59)
Glasgow, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Christ Church, Oxford
Religion Presbyterian

James Whiteside Gray (born 7 November 1954) is a British politician. He is the Conservative Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire.

Early life

Born in Glasgow, Scotland,[1] Gray is the son of the late Rev. John Gray, Minister at Dunblane Cathedral and the 1977 Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Dr Sheila Gray who was a GP.

Gray was educated at the Hillhead Primary School, Glasgow, and the High School of Glasgow, before studying history at the University of Glasgow where he graduated MA in 1975. He continued his academic career at Christ Church, Oxford, where he completed a history thesis in 1977.

Early career

From 1977, Gray worked as a graduate management trainee with P&O for a year. In 1977 he also joined the Honourable Artillery Company, a unit of the Territorial Army based in Islington, serving for seven years and is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies and Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme. In 1978 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London and was appointed a ship broker with Anderson Hughes. He was a member of the Baltic Exchange from 1978. He became a managing director of GNI Freight Futures in 1984, in which capacity he served until 1992. At the same time, he was a director of the Baltic Futures Exchange from 1989 to 1991. In 1987 he was awarded the Lloyd's of London Book Prize.[2]

Entering politics

At the 1992 general election, Gray was the Conservative candidate for Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye. Before winning North Wiltshire constituency in 1997, he was a special advisor to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Howard, and to his successor John Gummer. His particular responsibility was to the Ministers of State for housing, local Government and the Environment from 1992 until 1995, when he became a Director of the public affairs consultancy Westminster Strategy. Gray also served as governor of two schools in Balham and in the London Borough of Wandsworth. In 1994, he was elected as the Vice- Chairman of Tooting Conservative Association for two years.

Gray unsuccessfully contested the Scottish Highlands seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye at the 1992 general election and was defeated by 7,630 votes by the sitting Liberal Democrat member Charles Kennedy.

Member of Parliament

At the next election, 1997 general election, Gray was elected to the House of Commons as Member for the North Wiltshire constituency, following the retirement of the former Conservative Member Richard Needham. Gray won the seat with a majority of 3,475 and has represented the constituency since.

Gray made his maiden speech on 11 June 1997, in which he spoke of his constituency's largest town of Chippenham, and of his sadness at the massacre in his childhood home town of Dunblane.[3]

In the 2010 general election, James Gray once again stood for election in the constituency of North Wiltshire. He won by a majority of 7,483 votes, winning 25,114 votes and securing 51.6% of the 48699 who voted. The amount of votes he received had risen by 1.9% since the last election, whilst support for the Labour party had fallen by 5.3% in his constituency.

Alternative medicine

He is a supporter of homeopathy, having signed several early day motion in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service sponsored by Conservative MP David Tredinnick.[4]


His shadow ministerial career began with his appointment as a Conservative Whip in October 2000 and then as a Shadow Minister for Defence in 2001. He served as Shadow Minister for the Countryside from 2002 to 2005. After the 2005 general election, he served for just one week as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.[5] Gray resigned after controversially claiming that the Scottish Parliament should be abolished and replaced with Scottish MPs travelling to Edinburgh to conduct devolved business.[6] Gray again attracted controversy in his native Scotland in 2010, when he said in Parliament that Labour MP Willie Bain should "get back to jockland".[6]

Gray has served on a variety of Parliamentary committees. He sat on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee from 1997 to 2001. He served from 2001 to 2003 on the Broadcasting Committee. He was a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for the 2005 Parliament, and Chairman of the Conservative Rural Action Group (2002–2005).

Gray is currently the chairman of the All-Party Group for Multiple Sclerosis and the founding chairman of the All-Party Group for the Army. He is Treasurer of the APPG for Suicide Prevention, a vice-chairman of the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development and is a founder and member of the APPGs for Historic Churches and Dairy Farmers. He is also a member of the all-party groups for Financial Markets and Services, Middle Way (hunting and animal welfare), Minerals, Racing and Bloodstock Industries, Solvent Abuse, China, and Mongolia.

Gray founded the All Party Group for the Army in 2004 and was the sitting MP on David Cameron's policy group for National and International Security, chaired by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones (2006–07) The Group published their seminal report, An Unquiet World in July 2007.[7]

2009 Afghanistan photo incident

In March 2009, Gray was a member of a cross-party parliamentary delegation to Afghanistan to learn about British Army operations there. During the visit, British service personnel demonstrated the process by which wounded soldiers are flown into Kandahar on a Hercules and transferred across the runway to a C-17 fully equipped with the latest medical equipment. The delegation was shown on to the C-17 and posed for photographs with the medical staff on board. The delegation was then taken back to the terminal to watch the incoming Hercules and the transfer operation. Members of the delegation, including Gray, took photographs of this operation from the distance of approximately 500 yards. The brigadier accompanying the delegation consequently requested that any photographs of the wounded be deleted. Gray and his colleagues were happy to reassure the brigadier that if there were any such photographs, they would be very pleased to delete them. It has been alleged that Gray used his camera with the intention of taking photographs of a wounded soldier.[8]

Following the publication of two articles in The Sun and Daily Mail, the incident was investigated by the Press Complaints Commission and Gray's complaints were upheld.[9][10]

Allegations of racism

In a House of Commons debate on 9 December 2010, Thomas Docherty, the Labour Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife said "On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have given advance notice of this point of order to the Member in question. During Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions earlier, Mr James Gray directed a racist remark towards my hon. Friend Mr Bain. What steps can you take to protect Members of the House from the racist views espoused by Mr James Gray, and will you now ask him to apologise?". Gray responded "Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I cannot imagine what sedentary remark the hon. Gentleman may have heard, but I am certain that had it been out of order in any shape, size or form, Mr Speaker, who was then in the Chair, would have picked me up on it. Further to that, as a Scot born, bred and educated, who never left the borders of Scotland until the age of 21, I think that unlike [Thomas Docherty], I have the highest respect and love for my native heath. I would never say a single word against it."[11]

Personal life

Gray married Sarah Ann Beale in 1980, and they have two sons and a daughter. The marriage ended in 2006, after it emerged that Gray was having an affair with a married woman, Phillipa Mayo, while his wife was fighting breast cancer.[12] This was brought to public attention by BBC TV's Have I Got News for You programme, broadcast on 22 May 2009, when the studio audience showed their opinion by booing Gray. He had met Mrs Mayo, then Director of the Countryside Alliance's pro-hunting campaign, while organising Conservative opposition to the anti-hunting bill. The affair attracted national press attention[13] when Mrs Mayo's husband, the barrister Rupert Mayo,[14] wrote to a local newspaper, the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, "The irony is that I will not reap the benefits of Mr Cameron's excellent family-based policy proposals because one of his own MPs has ripped my own family apart."[15] The local Conservative association subsequently considered deselecting Gray as their parliamentary candidate,[16] but in January 2007, after a secret ballot of all local party members, decided to confirm him as the Conservative candidate for North Wiltshire.[17]

MPs' Expenses scandal

Main article: United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal

In May 2009 Gray's expenses were highlighted in the media when he was accused of claiming for Remembrance Day wreaths.[18] It was claimed that his action both shamed the Conservative Party[19] and angered Forces charity groups. It was reported that Gray then complained to the Leader of the House of Commons when he was told that Remembrance Day wreaths were not a legitimate expense. These claims were denied by Gray who argued that Military and Council representatives do not pay for wreaths out of their own pockets.[20] Details of Gray's expenses, published by House of Commons Authorities, show that he was never reimbursed for the cost of Remembrance Sunday wreaths. Gray was later criticised for claiming £2000 decorating fees for a second home on the day he moved out.[21] Gray organized three special surgeries in Corsham, Wootton Bassett and Malmesbury to answer any questions from his constituents regarding his expenses.[22]

Local campaigns

Gray campaigns against the closure of RAF Lyneham. In January, he hosted a special 1½ hour Westminster Hall debate on the subject of 'The RAF Air Transport Fleet and RAF Lyneham'.[23][24] Following the debate, Gray published a dossier on a number of significant changes in the Air Transport Fleet which should, according to Gray, result in the decision to close RAF Lyneham being reversed.[25]


  • Financial Risk Management in the Shipping Industry by James Gray, 1986 Fairplay Publications ISBN 0-905045-89-0
  • Futures and Options for Shipping by James Gray, 1987, LLP Professional Publishing ISBN 1-85044-136-7
  • Shipping Futures by James Gray, 1990, LLP Professional Publishing ISBN 1-85044-322-X


External links

  • James Gray MP official site
  • Parliament of the United Kingdom
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
  • Hansard
  • The Guardian
  • Public Whip
  • TheyWorkForYou
  • Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
  • Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
  • Articles authored at Journalisted
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Needham
Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Duncan
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
12–19 May 2005
Succeeded by
Eleanor Laing

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