It has always been the issue of greatest concern to me if I got elected: that I would become responsible for voting about whether we should send our troops into harms' way and take our great nation to war.
As I stood at the Remembrance services two weeks ago, I contemplated again that so many of our young people have gone to war to defend our nation & our values, and have made the ultimate sacrifice. That around the globe today, British armed forces are protecting our assets, saving lives through humanitarian programmes, and teaching other armies to build skills to defend their own nations.
As part of trying to become much better educated on this, in case I ever have to vote, I joined the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme and have been visiting bases around the UK, from HMS Faslane in Scotland, to RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, to detailed briefings at Shrivenham from Chiefs of Staff of all services and Joint Command.
I am now much reassured that all our Armed Forces personnel are extraordinarily well trained, committed and keen to put all that into action to protect their country and serve the Queen.
So now the question remains, when is it right to take our nation to war, putting it at risk of reprisal, of attack, of threat to civilian lives at home?
And the answer comes back to me more clearly every day - if the values and freedoms we hold dear, that all those Great War and WW2 troops fought for, are put under threat, then it is the Government's first duty to protect our people, our interests & the future of our ideals.
MPs are likely to have to vote in the coming weeks on whether to join other nations already committed to the Syrian battlespace, to extend our commitment to beating the Daesh-ISIL terrorists who are trying to create a Caliphate across Iraq and Syria. These people want to eradicate modern Western ideals of freedom of thought, speech and action, of womens' rights. They want to return societies to a pre-Enlightement world where a repressive religious State controls every aspect of our lives.
This is not a vision which I could ever find acceptable, and therefore I am reaching the inevitable, but no less difficult, decision that the right thing to do would be to give my assent to our Government sending our armed forces to fight Daesh-ISIL, not only in Iraq as we are doing already, but wherever these terrorists are in the world, including Syria. Our RAF personnel are already deploying over Iraqi soil, but at the moment we stop "at the border" with Syria.
Under an international UN-backed framework, nations who want to ensure our values, must fight together to eliminate those terrorist groups who threaten our modern world, intent on destroying freedom of thought & action which we have all built up - the victory of modern freedoms protected by long fought-for laws of equality for women & minorities, for all peaceful religious groups and for those of no faith at all.
As that great Frenchman Francois-Marie Voltaire wrote in 1770:
"Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."
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