During the months which preceded the Iraq war and especially in the days close to the onset of the conflict my mailbag was inundated with views on the rights and wrongs of the decision for Britain to be in a coalition with America and others in the war against Iraq.
In as many cases as possible I replied to my constituents but at times the calls, e-mails and other communications were overwhelming and I’m sure that some failed to receive a response.
We are now at war and I think it is appropriate that our association members are given a clear understanding of my views about this most important of subjects.
In the House of Commons debate I voted with the government and hope very much that the conflict will see an end to Saddam Hussein’s reign and that this will be an important prologue to resolving the continuing problems throughout the Middle East.
In my still relatively short period in the House of Commons I have been steadfast in supporting the notion of a universally recognised Israel alongside an economically viable Palestinian state. Similarly I believe that US and European commercial interests in Saudi Arabia have allowed us to turn a blind eye to the almost feudal state there. Until there is democratic accountability throughout the Middle East we can only continue to be concerned at the potential conflicts lying just below the surface alongside a burgeoning global terrorist industry.
The situation in Iraq has been a very difficult personal issue for me not least as my mother, who as a young girl was ethnically cleansed from Poland at the end of the Second World War, remembers the malnutrition and disease which the civilian population in central Europe had to withstand at that time. Accordingly, I have made detailed representations concerning the humanitarian situation in Iraq to central government.
My decision was that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed to provide any hope for a long term Middle East solution and I regarded the war as being legally sanctioned by UN Resolution 1441.
But the decision was not an easy one. I am deeply concerned at the notions of regime change and pre-emptive self-defence, both of which are untried and untested policies. Although I have less concern than many at the United States adopting these policies, equally I believe we run the risk as an international community that they will be used as a precedent in future by rather more unsavoury world leaders.
For those of you who were able to watch the debate in the House of Commons parliamentarians from the two major parties have found it hugely difficult to take the decisions that were finally made. I can assure you that all Labour and Conservative MPs with whom I discussed the matter gave the grave decision their utmost concern. The number of resignations from ministerial positions in government and in opposition is a testament to the decisions made on the basis of personal conscience.
Unfortunately the Liberals showed themselves to be the sad bunch they are by all voting against the government, having been led by their leader down different avenues for the months before. Charles Kennedy and his crew were not an edifying sight in the Commons I’m afraid.
As you will be aware there are some 659 Members of Parliament, and we all have different experiences and backgrounds which inform the decisions that we make. It has not been an easy time for all parliamentarians who are there both to represent their constituents and to act in the best interest of the nation.
I know that many of my constituents will profoundly disagree with my view but I trust that you will respect that my judgement in these matters is honestly held.