Two months ago Gray was part of a cross party delegation visiting Afghanistan to learn about the British military operations there. During the visit, the MPs were present at an airbase as a very badly wounded soldier was transferred from a Hercules to another plane which was taking his back to a military hospital. The MPs did their best not to get in the way as the very poorly soldier was wheeled across the tarmac to the plane. It was a very sombre moment. Suddenly, James Gray took out his camera and proceeded to take photos of the soldier. His colleagues looked on aghast. They were so shocked that none of them could react quickly enough to tell him to stop it.
The MPs were then summoned into a sideroom by the Brigadier in charge who yelled at them and told them that taking photos on such an occasion was totally unacceptable. He ordered whoever was taking the photos to delete them from their camera. Needless to say, Gray failed to step forward and own up. Whether he did delete the photos is not known.
The other MPs on the trip were most concerned that his behaviour would damage the prospects of future trips, as the military would think that MPs just couldn't be trusted to be present on such sensitive occasions.
James Gray is chairman of the All Party Army Group. He has brought shame to the group on two occasions now. Perhaps they ought to seek a new chairman.
The soldier, whose photograph James Gray was so keen to take, sadly died.
UPDATE 11.48am: James Gray has just issued this statement, which I am happy to publish in full.
During a recent parliamentary trip to Afghanistan, the army were keen to demonstrate the process by which wounded soldiers are flown in to Kandahar on a Hercules (based at RAF Lyneham in my constituency) and swiftly transferred across the runway to a C-17 fully equipped with the latest medical equipment. We were all shown on to the C-17 and posed for photographs with the medical staff on board, many of whom come from North Wilts. I press released those photos. We were then ushered back to the terminal to watch the incoming Hercules and the transfer operation, of all of which we all took photographs.
The Brigadier who was then flying on with us to Camp Bastion did indeed tell all of us that if any of us had taken photographs of the wounded we should delete them, which we were all of course delighted to do.
I am by no means certain that I had done, since were were 500 yards away at all events, and of course my interest was in the plane, not the wounded. But I and my colleagues were happy to reassure the Brigadier that if there were any such photographs, we would of course be very pleased to delete them.
The story is a gross distortion and exaggeration, and clearly designed to be a personal slur and smear of the worst kind.
My story is 100% correct and comes from a witness to the events. This witness has said he will go on the record if Mr Gray disputes it. Ignoring the hyperbole of the last sentence, Gray's statement merely confirms what I wrote, so far as I can see.
I don't make a habit of slagging off Conservative MPs. Indeed, I am fully aware that by writing this story, and the one on Saturday, I could be thrown off the Conservative candidates list. I have no agenda. I've never met James Gray, but this seems to fit with everything I have ever been told about him. In my opinion he is not fit to be a Conservative MP and I do not regret saying so. No matter what the consequences are.
UPDATE 11.51: I have just had an email from another MP on the trip who has confirmed everything I said was totally accurate. In case you were wondering...
UPDATE 22.55: The Daily Mail is now running the story. It ends... "Mr Gray yesterday flatly denied taking pictures of the soldier, but three MPs who were on the trip said this was 'utter rubbish'."