In recent weeks, with the race to become the next Prime Minister and the debate over Brexit, Westminster has been fixated with the future of our country. But on Wednesday, in the wake of the publication of the Chilcot Report, the focus shifted to the decisions of the past.
It is my long-held belief that the UK should never have taken part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Like many others I have raised concerns about the justification for the war, insufficient planning for the rebuilding of Iraq and the poor standard of equipment provided to our brave servicemen and women.
Having read Sir John Chilcot’s findings it is now clear that these criticisms were entirely justified.
After the report was made public on Wednesday, MPs on both sides of the argument were keen to make their opinions heard.
But in the furore which surrounded the publication of the inquiry's findings, one statement stood out to me among the 12 volumes of the report and the statement that accompanied it.
“Service personnel,” said Sir John Chilcot, “showed great courage in the face of considerable risks. They deserve our gratitude and respect.”
Two weeks ago I attended a series of events to mark Armed Forces Day. Last Friday the country marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. In towns like Rochdale, where we have a long and proud tradition of military service, events like this have particular resonance.
We should never forget that 200 British citizens were killed during the Iraq War and at least 150,000 Iraqis lost their lives during the invasion and subsequent instability.
The best way to pay tribute to them is to learn the lessons from the Chilcot Report and work harder than ever to ensure the UK will never again go to war under questionable pretenses.
On a more positive note, I hope all my constituents who celebrated Eid this week enjoyed a happy and peaceful day. My thanks to all those who invited me to attend events during the month of Ramadan.