The Tudor dramas at No 10 continued this week and I tried to ignore it all. Having worked with the principal players during their time of successful cooperation in the second half of 2019 - forcing Brexit through an unwilling Parliament, civil service and EU - I deeply regret the great falling out. The main thing is that the Government gets on with taking us out of lockdown on schedule, and then gets back to delivering the people’s priorities, as we promised when we were elected that year.
Today a new All-Party Parliamentary Group, called ‘Dying Well’, was launched under my chairmanship. This is a cross-politics alliance of MPs and peers who are opposed to the campaign to legalise assisted suicide i.e. giving doctors the power to prescribe lethal drugs to people who wish to end their lives early. The case for assisted suicide is being overtaken by developments in medicine (the science of pain relief has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, and the UK is the world leader in palliative care), but there is a growing clamour for it to be legalised. We believe that instead of requiring people to choose whether to take the option to kill themselves with the help of the state, we should ensure everyone has access to the best quality end-of-life care.
I know that opinion locally will be divided on this question, for many people believe strongly in the right to be helped to die early. I am sorry I am so implacably opposed to this course, but I am of course happy to discuss the issue with any constituent who wishes to - especially those worried about the death that they or a loved one are facing. To read the letter I (and 70 other MPs and peers) sent to the Lord Chancellor today, and for more facts and arguments against assisted suicide, see the APPG website www.dyingwell.co.uk. I also had a piece in the Sunday Telegraph which you can read here.
Last week a local farmer sent me an appalling image of a country lane at night, lit by headlights, on which were laid a dozen dead hares neatly spaced out down the road. This was a blatant signal by the courser gangs that they will do what they want, and care nothing for the community or the police. I spoke about this to the local media (listen here to me on Radio Wiltshire) and raised it in my monthly call with the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police on Friday. I am determined to work with the police, with the new Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire (to be elected on May 6) and with farmers to help them defend their property, and our lovely hares, from this terrible crime. I will also press for changes to the law to ensure more can be done to punish and deter the criminals.
I was out on Saturday campaigning for the Conservative candidate for Police Commissioner, Jonathan Seed, and also for two of our candidates for Devizes Town Council, Iain Wallis (also standing for a Wiltshire council seat) and Maria Hoult. All three are deeply involved in the local community, and it was an education walking round with them all. Jonathan knew the history of every house in Bromham. In Devizes, Iain filled me in on all the plans for the town, while Maria seemed to know the people at every second house we knocked at from her volunteer work delivering shopping to isolating households during the pandemic. I was proud to campaign with them and hope we will be working together after May 6.
Two public service announcements. First, do you know of a defibrillator in your town or village? Is it registered with the local ambulance service? If so, 999 call handlers can let callers know if there is a privately-owned defibrillator nearby in the case of a sudden cardiac arrest. They will also make sure it’s properly serviced and working. Please see here for more info on the campaign to register defibrillators.
Secondly, do you agree walkers should be welcome in Pewsey? The indefatigable Pewsey Susie (as I think of her - real name Susie Brew) leads the Pewsey Vale Tourism Partnership and is seeking Walkers are Welcome status for the area. This will bring more tourists and economic benefits. Susie needs 700 people to support the campaign. Please do so here - many thanks.
Pewsey is the dark heart of my constituency - somehow more mysterious, pagan even, than Devizes, Marlborough or the garrison towns. Admittedly I may only have this impression from my favourite play, Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem (2009), whose fictional setting Flintock is modelled on Pewsey. In the play a motley band of druggies, drinkers and Morris dancers invoke the ancient woodland spirits of the vale, expatiate on the evils of the local council, and conjure visions of giants striding across Salisbury Plain. It is a subversive but also deeply patriotic play, about the power of local attachment and the rebellious, traditionalist instincts of the English. Jerry Kunkler, landlord of the Moonrakers in Pewsey, could have stepped straight from its pages. As it happens Jerry is a Wiltshire Councillor and is standing for reelection on May 6.