James Gray (British politician)

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James Gray
James Gray MP.jpg
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 60)
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, 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[edit]

Christ Church, Oxford

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

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.[4] Gray resigned after controversially claiming that the Scottish Parliament should be abolished and replaced with Scottish MPs travelling to Edinburgh to conduct devolved business.[5] 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".[5]

Gray has served on a variety of Parliamentary select committees[6] 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).

In the 2010 Parliament he sat on the Procedure Committee, Panel of Chairs and until 2013 the Finance and Services Committee. From 2013 onwards he sat on the Defence Committee and Committees on Arms Export Controls. In May 2014 he was one of seven unsuccessful caddidates for the chairmanship of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.[7]

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 report, An Unquiet World in July 2007.[8]

In the previous Parliament he served as the chairman of the All-Party Group for Multiple Sclerosis. He was Treasurer of the APPG for Suicide Prevention, a vice-chairman of the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development and a founder and member of the APPGs for Historic Churches and Dairy Farmers. He was 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.

Alternative medicine[edit]

He has signed several early day motions, sponsored by Conservative MP David Tredinnick, in support of the continued funding of homeopathy on the NHS.[9]

2009 Afghanistan photo incident[edit]

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 equipped with the latest medical equipment, and were photographed with medical staff on board. Gray denied allegations that he had taken photographs of a "dying soldier" posted on the blog of Iain Dale,[10] stating that after a reminder to delete any images including injured servicemen, he had checked his camera and found none.[11] According to Gray it was night time and the delegation was kept 500 yards away from the injured soldiers[11]

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.[12][13]

Allegations of racism[edit]

In a House of Commons debate on 9 December 2010, Thomas Docherty, the Labour Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife accused Gray of directing a "racist remark" towards Willie Bain. Gray was alleged to have told McBain to "get back to Jockland".[14] Gray responded "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."[15]

Personal life[edit]

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.[16] 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[17] when Mrs Mayo's husband, the barrister Rupert Mayo,[18] 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."[19] The local Conservative association subsequently considered deselecting Gray as their parliamentary candidate,[20] but in January 2007, after a secret ballot of all local party members, decided to confirm him as the Conservative candidate for North Wiltshire.[21]

MPs' Expenses scandal[edit]

In May 2009 Gray's expenses were highlighted in the media when he was accused of claiming for Remembrance Day wreaths.[22] It was claimed that his action both shamed the Conservative Party[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] Gray organized three special surgeries in Corsham, Wootton Bassett and Malmesbury to answer any questions from his constituents regarding his expenses.[26]

Local campaigns[edit]

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'.[27][28] 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.[29]


  • 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


  1. ^ http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/2015guide/wiltshirenorth/
  2. ^ Biography at jamesgray.org, retrieved on 8 February 2010.
  3. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (11 June 1997). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 11 June 1997 (pt 34)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "Shadow Scottish secretary resigns". BBC News. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Maddox, David (11 December 2010). "Tory accused of racism after telling fellow Scot: Get back to jockland". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "James Gray". Parliament UK. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Defence Committee Chair election: Rory Stewart MP elected" (PDF). parliament.uk. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Security Policy Group, Conservative Party, London (20 July 2007). "Security Policy Group - An Unquiet World" (PDF). conservatives.com. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  9. ^ Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion #284 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy". 
  10. ^ "Iain Dale's Diary: EXCLUSIVE: James Gray & the Photo of a Dying Soldier". Iaindale.blogspot.com. 11 May 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Harding, Thomas (11 May 2009). "Tory denies taking wounded soldier pictures". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Press Complaints Commission >> News >> Mr James Gray MP". Pcc.org.uk. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  13. ^ "Press Complaints Commission >> News >> James Gray MP". Pcc.org.uk. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Tory accused of racism after telling fellow Scot: Get back to jockland". Scotsman. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Points of Order: 9 Dec 2010: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  16. ^ "MP had affair while wife battled cancer (From Swindon Advertiser)". Thisisswindon.co.uk. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  17. ^ "Barrister slams disgraced Tory MP for 'wrecking' his family | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "Rupert Mayo | 7BR | 7 Bedford Row Barristers Chambers". 7BR. Retrieved 11 May 2009. [dead link]
  19. ^ Morris, Steven (23 September 2006). "Jilted husband lashes out at Tory MP | Politics". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  20. ^ "Local Tories reject unfaithful MP | Politics | guardian.co.uk". London: Politics.guardian.co.uk. 17 November 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  21. ^ "Cheating Tory MP reselected by local party | Politics | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. 30 January 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  22. ^ Wiltshire MP tried to claim money back for Remembrance Day wreaths, The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, 11 May 2009, retrieved 7 November 2010 
  23. ^ "James Gray shames the Conservative Party". Conservative Home, Tory Diary. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  24. ^ "James Gray denies that he claimed for remembrance wreath". Conservative Home, Tory Diary. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  25. ^ Gammell, Caroline (20 May 2009). "James Gray claimed for redecoration the day he moved out". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2009. 
  26. ^ "James Gray to be quizzed by North Wiltshire people over expenses". Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard. Retrieved 20 May 2009. 
  27. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 6 January 2010 (pt 0001)". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  28. ^ "Player". Parliamentlive.tv. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  29. ^ James Gray MP. "James Gray MP - Conservative Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire" (PDF). Jamesgray.org. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 

External links[edit]

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