Independent Political Commentator, Anthony Webber, contacted me and all the other candidates, to ask about my views regarding Ukraine. Anthony, whom I do not know, sent the below 20 questions. Here are my answers, with his questions in bold.
As the UK’s first candidate in an election to crowd source their policies from the constituents, I will always follow the lead of the consensus of the people of Selby and Ainsty.
If elected, as a leader, of course, it is my job to express my views and to inform, however, as a representative, it is my job to represent the will of my constituents, even if this clashes with my own views. I am first and foremost a democrat.
Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was the most shocking international event in my lifetime. I accept that there were some provocations by Ukraine and her allies, but nothing justified the invasion and its barbaric prosecution.
I have followed the events closely. In my view, this is the key issue of our times. The reason why it is not discussed as often as it should be is because – by and large – people in the UK support the Government’s stance. Ukrainian flags can be seen in nearly every village and town. I should add that, at considerable cost, my wider family are hosting a family of four Ukrainians. I am very proud of this.
The current polling/consensus I have here in Selby and Ainsty reveals massive support for Ukraine. As their potential representative, I follow their demands, but if elected, I will ensure to keep seeking their views as this situation develops.
As I wrote last year in my blog on my website, I do believe that we are in a de facto indirect war with Russia. I believe that this is as dangerous as the Cuban Missile Crisis. I believe that a solution/settlement ought to be vigorously pursued. Most wars end in settlement, rather than the total evisceration of an opponent.
1.Bearing in mind that the majority of world countries do not sanction Russia and are neutral, should the UK now adopt a neutral stance and focus on peace making?
The premise of the question is untrue. The United Nations General Assembly debated the issue on 12 October 2022. The results were that 143 countries voted to support Ukraine, with only Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua, Syria and Russia, voting against. Sanctions may not be universally applied, but the world is almost united in its criticism of Russia. I am pleased that we are not in the same camp as Syria and North Korea!
I would, however, agree that we here in the UK should always be looking to resolve a conflict, particularly one on our doorstep and one which has nuclear threats.
2.Do you believe it is acceptable for the UK government to spend billions of taxpayers’ money on weaponry for Ukraine?
Yes, if backed by Parliament, following a reasoned debate. When considering the risks to the UK, Russia has been a threat for decades. The unlawful invasion and the brutal prosecution of the war by the invaders, proves our wariness of Russia to have been valid.
3.Do you believe it is acceptable for the UK government to spend billions of taxpayers’ money on aid and other expenditures for Ukraine?
4.Are you aware of how much money the UK government has committed to Ukraine?
Yes – a great deal. I cannot give you the number, but I accept that this number ought to be known more widely. Off the top of my head, I cannot give you the NHS budget numbers, either.
5.If you agree with spending taxpayers’ money on Ukraine, how much would you be prepared for the UK to pay per year?
I do not have a figure.
6.Do you believe that the government should have been honest with Parliament and the UK public about the consequences of their Ukraine and Russia policies?
Yes. There has been far too little debate and information imparted about this issue. I am pleased that you are asking these questions. Please keep asking them.
7.Are you aware that any taxpayers’ money spent on Ukraine, means that money is not available for many expenditure requirements in the UK?
Yes, of course.
8.) As the Ukraine and Russia policies of the government have been the main reason for:
Rises in Cost of living and Energy prices, Inflation, Interest rates, Rents, Mortgages, Utilities, Income Tax and Local Council Rates, Reductions in Local and National Services and much more….
Is all this justified to support one very dubious side in the Ukraine conflict?
Again, the premise of your question is erroneous. There are a multitude of reasons for the issues you raise, one of which is the immoral invasion. The printing of money to pay for Covid is the principal contributor to inflation in the UK. High inflation has caused the rise in interest rates – a rise which I don’t support.
9.As the Prime Minister stated that financial and military support was available to Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” how long do you think the UK can shoulder this burden before it becomes untenable?
I don’t know.
10. As there is no mandate for the government’s Ukraine and Russia policies, do you believe that if the government does not end such policies, that there should be a Referendum on the issue?
It is an interesting and thought-provoking question. The consensus-building tool that I am using in Selby and Ainsty does – I believe – reflect the national opinion polls – ie one of strong support for Ukraine. As the main parties seem to have identical views on the invasion and our support for Ukraine, I do not see a need for a referendum. But referenda are a good way of solving big issues when a population is split. I supported the Brexit Referendum taking place.
11.Like Iraq, there is no plan for the objectives of the UK government’s intervention in Ukraine. Do you believe the government should be open and transparent about its intentions?
Yes, as far as it can be. In matters of such importance, for example, what our special forces and spies get up to, such information cannot be in the public domain. But there needs to be democratic oversight by MPs. As a society, we do need to discuss this issue and I praise you for raising this issue.
12. Do you believe that NATO has lost sight of its original principles and that the UK’s membership should be reviewed?
No, unless the people in Selby and Ainsty have a different view. NATO’s objective – though not explicitly stated as far as I know – is to ensure that Russia does not invade other nations. Its utility seems more relevant than ever.
13. Do you believe that the UK government betrayed the Afghan people to the Taliban, not standing up for democracy, freedom, human rights and women’s rights and education?
No. We could not be there forever. However, the manner in which the Foreign Office handled the matter was a national disgrace, but this was triggered by President Biden.
14. We have over 240,000 Ukrainian refugees in the UK, the vast majority of whom arrived in the UK after Boris Johnson persuaded the Ukrainians to not sign a peace deal with Russia, prolonging the conflict, costing approximately £2bn a year. Do you accept that ending the conflict urgently is necessary to end the refugee crisis?
Yes, if it can be resolved.
15. Do you accept that the government’s Ukraine and Russia policies have put back the genuine green agenda in the UK?
This an excellent question, to which I do not have the answer. My instinct is that it has impacted the transition to Net Zero, because some things are, frankly, more important.
16. Do you believe that the government’s policies in Ukraine and Russia should primarily be in the best interests of UK citizens?
17. Do you believe that the government’s policies on Ukraine and Russia best serve the interests of world peace and safety from nuclear catastrophe?
This is a good and necessary question. The UK is, thankfully, working in conjunction with NATO partners. It is imperative that NATO is united. I do, though, believe that significantly more efforts should go into finding a peaceful solution. Last year, peace was nearly achieved, but the plan was scuppered. I am worried about the “Military Industrial Complex’s” involvement here; worried that new weapons are essentially being battle-tested; deeply concerned that diplomacy doesn’t seem to have been pursued as actively as it should be. However, no doubt many a conversation is being had behind closed doors to which we are unaware.
18. Do you believe that a free media, free speech, and free debate should be allowed on the subject of the government’s Ukraine and Russia policies, and that restricting it is not acceptable in a country which purports to adhere to democratic values?
Yes. I am unaware that free speech has been curtailed on this issue.
19. There are reliable reports that British service personnel are serving in Ukraine under the guise of mercenaries, and also acting as military strategy advisors. Do you believe that all British service personnel should be withdrawn immediately as there is no democratic authorisation for this and risks the UK being fully involved in a war?
British people, and military personnel, should be allowed to go to Ukraine, though not to fight. In my blogs, I was critical of the decision to withdraw our military trainers in the run-up to the invasion. I do believe that, prior to the invasion, our policies towards Russia should have been smarter, however, we are dealing with a gangster state which poisons people in Salisbury; so many prominent Russians meet their end by falling off a balcony. International norms do not seem to bother Russia.
20. Do you have any general comments to make on this issue?
Thank you for raising this issue. As I said above, I believe that two of your questions are factually incorrect. If I am incorrect, please explain how. I like open debate on key topics.
21. Do you believe that the UK government should insist on the resumption of democracy in Ukraine?
This is a matter for Ukraine, but we in the UK should be watchful of what happens. Over the years, we have supported far less democratic regimes. Ukraine is no utopia, I know. We should be realistic. But in times of an existential threat, desperate measures are often needed.