My late grandfather fought in the Second World War. For decades afterwards, until the day he died a few years ago, he was haunted by the memories of the horrors of war. He bore the psychological trauma stoically, without complaint, my grandma possibly the only person who knew the true extent of what he suffered, so many years later.
He had come close to death on a number of occasions, and saw countless friends and colleagues fall in the line of duty. Others in my extended family were not so lucky, one in particular being rescued from a Japanese PoW camp only to die a matter of weeks later.
My brother served in Afghanistan. Whatever we might think of the merits of the decision to send troops to Afghanistan, our soldiers have a track record of honourable service. A sniper's bullet went within an inch or two of my brother's head; I am thankful that he escaped a fate which many did not.
On Remembrance Day, we remembered those who fell in the service of their country. Not everyone will agree with the reasons for every war; I myself do not agree with British involvement in some recent conflicts.
But every day should be Remembrance Day. We should treat our war veterans with respect all year round, honour the military covenant and make sure that those injured or psychologically scarred in the line of duty get the care and medical treatment they deserve. My Party has views on how that should best be achieved, but this is not a time for partisan politics.
This morning at 11am, I - and the campaign team I was with in Rochester - stopped to observe a two-minute silence. We heard a cannon fire nearby to mark the silence. I was reminded of my grandfather's funeral - which fittingly took place on 11th November. The war shaped the rest of his life, for almost 60 years after it ended.
All parties (except the Greens) suspended campaigning for the day on Sunday in Rochester as a mark of respect. It was right to do so; a rare unity in British politics.
Buying and wearing a poppy does not symbolise tacit agreement with every conflict; it is a donation to those in need for the saddest of reasons. It is a show that we will not forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that today we can live our lives in freedom.
A belief in freedom, democracy and the right to self-determination underpins everything that I stand for. Where the State impinges on that freedom, I stand against it. That is why, for example, I oppose the European Arrest Warrant. I support extradition treaties, so that British criminals can be sent abroad to face trial and justice where there is prima facie evidence to convince a British court that our citizens should face trial, and where we can be sure they will face a fair trial. The European Arrest Warrant has none of these safeguards, and can be used to deport people without evidence. Examples abound of the Warrant being misused, and it is an attack on fundamental liberty.
Politicians of all parties have a duty, to act in accordance with their consciences and in memory of those who died so that we might enjoy the fruits of a democratic society today. We have a responsibility to stand up for freedom, whether that be electorally popular or not. If nothing else, this time of Remembrance reminds me of the solemn responsibility that I have as an elected representative to champion those causes.
I hope that representatives of other parties might share the sentiment, even though we might have differences of opinion as to how that should be put into practice. Let us remember them, not just on Remembrance Sunday or on 11th November, but all year round.Suggest a correction