North Wiltshire MP James Gray has written to his constituents to inform them that his critics are “tooth-suckingly self-righteous”.

He has given a tongue-lashing to those who found fault with his support of Owen Paterson, who resigned from the House of Commons earlier this month amid controversy surrounding a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that found that he had broken paid advocacy rules.

Mr Gray was among the 250 MPs who unprecedentedly voted not to back the cross-party Standards Committee’s call for a six-week ban from Parliament for Mr Paterson after it found he repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

Following Mr Paterson’s resignation amid much controversy and heavy criticism, Mr Gray stated: “I stood by my friend Owen Paterson throughout his Parliamentary ordeal not necessarily because I approve (or disapprove) of anything he may have done; but because he has been my friend for 25 years or more.”

Now, following criticism of his loyalty to his former-MP friend, Mr Gray has hit out at those who questioned his stand.

In his latest column on his website and emailed out to constituents, Mr Gray issued a slap back to his detractors.

He writes: “When I was bold enough to admit in a column a couple of weeks back that, while I do not necessarily support what he did, I stood by Owen Paterson as an old friend, my admission was greeted by shrieks of condemnation by a few tooth-suckingly self-righteous, holier-than-thou correspondents.”

He adds: “They would rather jump on the passing bandwagon of disapproval and condemn Owen as if he were a mass murderer than give him the safeguards of natural law. It is my experience that friendship is more important than self-righteousness.”

Mr Gray concludes his latest column with further thoughts on friendship: “Human beings are herd animals, birds of a feather who flock together. We are most comfortable with those who are similar to us - from the same country, school or college, Church or social group, our family and friends; those who hold similar political, religious or social opinions to ourselves.

“That is a natural human instinct; and it provides the very sinews from which a happy society is born. Friends and family are more important than almost anything else.

“Those whose best friends are their fellow human beings will sleep easy in their beds at night. He whose best friend is himself will have only his best friend to blame for his aching loneliness.”