Sir Robert Buckland is feeling pretty chipper about the prospect of defending his South Swindon seat against the recently announced Labour candidate Heidi Alexander.

While the election of an experienced MP, a former shadow cabinet minister, a Swindon girl with a fair bit of name recognition,  might suggest that Labour are eyeing South Swindon as a winnable seat, the Conservative MP for the patch since 2010 is, on a sweltering afternoon, sounding cool about it.

He says: “I’ve been in South Swindon a long time. I was elected in 2010 so I’ve been the MP for 12 – but I had six years before that as the candidate, so by the time of the next election I’ll have been doing this for 20 years.

“I’ve made a lot of contacts and a lot of friends in the constituency and a lot of people know me and what I have done and am doing and will continue to do for South Swindon and my constituents.”

The recently appointed Secretary of State for Wales says of his new opponent Heidi Alexander who did eight years as an East London MP before joining the Mayor of London’s team as deputy for transport: “I’ve known Heidi since we were both first elected in 2010.

"I get on well with her and respect her, and I expect a good campaign, I’m not worried about a dirty campaign.

“But I was first elected against a sitting MP who item came back to stand at the next election, so they were both big challenges. Then I faced a very capable candidate twice in Sarah Church.”

Normally an MP in their twelfth year would be looking at their third election campaign – but the next will be Mr Buckland's fifth. And in every one, except for 2017, he has increased his majority. In 2019 Sir Robert’s majority of 6,625 was not far off double his majority in 2010 of 3,554.

Nevertheless, MPs and candidates are often assailed by forces greater than themselves. When a tide turns against a party, many decent MPs, with good personal support in their constituency, are washed away by the national change.

It might look as if this is happening to the current government: just two and a half years after securing an 80-seat majority Boris Johnson is seeing out the days of his premiership, having been told to go by his own MPs, Sir Robert included. Labour has been leading in national opinion polls for months.

There are accusations that while a cost-of-living crisis is only going to get worse Mr Johnson’s government is sleeping while the Conservative party involves itself in another leadership contest, its third in six years.

But Mr Buckland, now returned to the cabinet says suggestions of a ‘zombie government’ are far off the mark.

He said: “The work of government goes on. I’m still working at my department, and by the power of modern technology I’m still having meetings – it’s over the web rather than in the building mostly at the moment as Parliament is in recess, but we’re all still working.

And he says the cabinet will make sure the new leader and Pm will be able to make decisions on the various big issues facing the UK from day one: “We are working to be able to present the new Prime Minister with options for their decision the moment they start.

“The government is still working. And I’m still working here in Swindon, and I intend to be here for a long time to come.”

Other candidates, of course, will be available, but the recent electoral history of Swindon, both nationally and in local elections shows the two-party system squeezing other parties out.