Dr Andrew Murrison, MP for Westbury, spoke at the Conservative Luncheon Club in Stockbridge. He had recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, with the rank of Surgeon Commander. He spoke of his experiences in Iraq, and of the prospect for peace.
In the audience was the local MP, Sir George Young, and Lord Howell, Conservative Front Bench Spokesman in the House of Lords on Defence.
"The media took a lot if interest in me on my return, as I had voted against the war in March. I felt the case had not been made, and of course no weapons of mass destruction have been found. I would be delighted to be proved wrong, if some are discovered tomorrow. The American President is in a somewhart stronger position, as the reason for his intervention was simply regime change."
Dr Murrison saw no contradiction in being called up for action after a war he had voted against. "I strongly believe we should now restore stability; nothing would now be more disastrous than withdrawal. But we need to engage more countries, and the UN, in the peace process."
He thought that the UK might need to send more troops to Iraq, and this would put pressure on those in the middle ranks, who were the lynchpin of the Armed Forces. "The challenge is to hang on to the skilled men and women who are already trained and serving. If we make their lives too unsociable, they will go back to Civvy St."
Dr Murrison pointed out the heavy reliance on volunteers in Iraq - 25% of those serving were territorials, and 75% regulars.
After speaking for 20 minutes, Dr Murrison answered questions.
Sir George said that those who had heard Dr Murrison were enormously impressed. "He had the ability to put the conflict in a broad strategic context, as well as describing conditions on the ground. We were all left with the feeling that it will be some time before we are able to withdraw our troops."