Allison Pearson, The Telegraph, February 1, 2024
Call me old-fashioned, but I rather liked our country when women and children didn’t have acid thrown at them in the street, teachers weren’t forced into hiding with their family for educating pupils about religious tolerance, Saturdays in the capital didn’t feature anti-Semitic hate marches and well-loved Members of Parliament didn’t quit their jobs after being subject to death threats because they spoke up for their Jewish constituents.
Yesterday was a perilous and dark moment in the history of this democracy. Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, announced he was leaving politics after being hounded with death threats for his pro-Israel views. A decade ago, a group called “Muslims Against Crusades” urged its supporters to target the man who represents the UK’s most heavily Jewish area. Alluding to the stabbing of Labour MP Stephen Timms by an Islamist extremist, the group told Mr Freer to “let Stephen Timms be a warning to you.”
Today, Mr Freer considers himself “lucky to be alive”, having learned that Ali Harbi Ali, the terrorist who went on to murder Sir David Amess MP in 2021, had turned up at his constituency office in north London with the intention of killing him. A devastating arson attack there in December followed by an email (calling him “the kind of person who deserved to be set alight”) was the final straw.
Since the heinous massacre by Hamas of 1200 men, women, children and babies in their cribs on October 7 and the occupation of Gaza by Israeli forces, anti-Semites have been horribly emboldened. As one of the founders of British Friends of Israel, and a signatory to the October Declaration asserting the right of Israel to defend herself, I have had the smallest possible glimpse of what Mike Freer and his husband Angelo have had to endure. Graphic pictures of defiled and mutilated Israeli women and children have been sent to me as a “Jew-loving bitch” who “deserves the same”.
And yet, perfectly understandable though it is, Mike Freer’s decision to step down is a victory for the zealots who have no respect for the norms of what feels daily like a less and less civilised society. It’s a capitulation to forces against which we need to stand firm if the ballot box is to mean anything.
But don’t expect the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition to attack the culprits. After lovely, gentle Sir David was murdered, his fellow Parliamentarians could not wait to change the subject from barbarous slaughter to online safety. In the Commons, there was a cowardly stampede away from the elephant in the room. It is a measure of the success of extremist groups that, too often, fear of being seen as Islamophobic now trumps the solemn duty to defend the British way of life.
It’s not only supporters of Israel who are at risk. Last November, a mob surrounded the Tower Hamlets office of MP Rushanara Ali after she abstained from a vote on a ceasefire in Gaza (never mind that it was the official Labour party position). A primary school in east London received bomb threats after its headteacher banned pro-Palestine badges.
Katharine Birbalsingh, the redoubtable head of Michaela Community School, and her staff have faced appalling threats of violence after Muslim pupils were told they were not permitted to pray during the school day. That decision was in keeping with the strict secular ethos which Birbalsingh believes is the best way to bind her multi-faith school together. But the fanatics in the UK demand ever more concessions.
What runs through these alarming events is a tantrummy defiance, a determination by hardline “community leaders” to get their own way regardless of what custom or the law of the land may say. As long as such people remain an aggrieved minority it is just about possible to keep a lid on it. There are enough of us to speak up for our Jewish citizens and call out medieval attitudes towards women, girls and gay people, and to assist those who want to integrate to do so.
I think that’s why I found the Office for National Statistics projection that the UK’s population will exceed 70 million by 2026 so devastating. It’s not just that our hospitals and transport system can barely cope with the people here already (although they can’t). It’s not just that we know for a fact that our useless elite are not going to build a town the size of Doncaster every year to provide enough housing (so our young people are going to feel ever more alienated). No, it’s that 92 per cent of the 6.6 million rise – 6.1 million people – will come from immigration, not British people having children. Such a surge would utterly reshape the Britain we love, its culture and even its language.
Professor Matthew Goodwin points out that, since the 1990s, the share of school pupils whose first language is not English has almost tripled. I have taught English as a second language in Tower Hamlets, and, let me tell you, it will simply not be possible to integrate such a vast number of human beings within that time frame. And that’s if they want to be integrated, which the extremists who have hounded out Mike Freer clearly don’t.
Five cities the size of Birmingham within fifteen years. Seriously? There is no democratic consent for such demographic change. No one voted for it. Mindboggling “diversity” is being ushered in against the express will of the people by politicians who think GDP matters more than a contented nation and that anyone who objects is “racist”.
Parliament has the power to stop this, and stop it they must or they will never be forgiven. And they must do so soon. I could cry thinking of the hundreds of thousands who gave their lives in two world wars to protect this precious island, its values, its green places, its eccentricity, its kindness, its humour.
What did they die for? So we could become some teeming Travelodge of Babel? Call me old-fashioned, but no. We have to protest; we must.