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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 15:33 GMT
Adultery or arrogance?
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
The Politics Show West

James Gray on horse
James Gray: High horse ... or faller

When senior Conservatives in North Wiltshire voted last November to deselect their MP, the reason seemed clear ... his adultery.

James Gray had been having an affair while his wife Sarah was being treated for cancer. After she got the all clear, he announced he was leaving her.

The tabloids had a field day: the pro-hunt MP had met his 'mistress' Philippa Mayo while campaigning against the ban; her husband, a part-time judge, was furious.

Tories troubled

Local Conservatives were troubled, culminating in a narrow vote by the party's executive that he should not be their candidate again.

The MP has one more chance: a ballot of all Tory members in the constituency, which ends on Monday 29 January 2007.

Peter Simmonds
Peter Simmonds claims Gray is 'a disaster'

However, the intervening weeks have seen other factors emerge.

"James Gray has been an increasing disaster for the North Wiltshire Conservatives," says Peter Simmonds.

"He is arrogant with other members, he treats them sometimes as if he was the sergeant major and they were squaddies."

Former Chairs against

Former constituency chairmen have spoken out against the man who has been their MP since 1997.

They complain he does not consult local Tory councillors, is hard to work with - and may be a liability in the coming local elections.

"Frankly," states Malmesbury councillor John Thomson, "I am embarrassed at the prospect of being associated with him in the minds of my voters."

Nevertheless, after being taken by surprise by November's vote against him, James Gray is fighting hard to save his political skin.

Chris Wannell
Chris Wannell dismisses allegations against Gray

Counter view

Friends and supporters have given a different picture to the media.

Chris Wannell, a councillor from Wootton Bassett, dismisses accusations of arrogance as 'absolute rubbish'.

"I've worked with James ever since 1997 and I've found him an easy chap, easier than our previous MP to work for."

Moreover, they are confident he has a positive image with constituents.

"I think if you ask most people, they would say that I've been a worthwhile, useful MP," says James Gray.

Party members ballot

Not that most people get a say in this ballot. It is only for Conservative party members living in North Wiltshire - who number nearly 1000.

Few of them would have had much close contact with him - so accusations of arrogance may matter less than his adultery.

There is one thing that both sides agree on: the contest has bitterly divided the local party.

If James Gray survives, he will find fewer activists happy to help at election time.

In that case, he will be relieved about forthcoming boundary changes: they are expected to make North Wiltshire safer for the Tories.

Tune into the Politics Show, to find out. And we would like to know what you think - e-mail us here!

The Politics Show on Sunday 28 January 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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Politics from around the UK...

Previous stories...

MP faces deselection after affair
17 Nov 06 |  Wiltshire
Members urged not to vote for MP
04 Jan 07 |  Wiltshire
Cameron shuns MP in cheating row
17 Nov 06 |  UK Politics
North Wilts MP in marriage split
14 Sep 06 |  Wiltshire
11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show

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