I’ve delivered on promises, says MP Mike Freer


Mike Freer has enjoyed a solid first term in Parliament — working for the varied communities in his constituency, supporting the government, and showing flashes of oratorical brilliance with his award-winning speech on gay marriage two years ago.

He has a middle-range majority — 5,809 — is popular with a cross-section of constituents, and rarely attracts the attention of the headline-writers.

So his seat in the Commons should be safe for another five years then. Not necessarily. Current polling suggests he is expected to be re-elected as Tory MP, albeit with a vastly reduced majority, but he faces a stiff challenge from Labour candidate Sarah Sackman.

Experience is what he believes will serve him well in the next three months. He said: “I think I go into the election well-placed on my track-record. No one can say I’m an absentee MP. I’ve delivered on my key promises. In terms of the battleground for the constituency it will be bread and butter issues — the economy, jobs, unemployment.”

Clearly, though, in the constituency with the country’s largest Jewish electorate, many voters will be concerned with policies on Israel, combating antisemitism, and protection of practices such as shechita.

On Israel, Mr Freer is determined to draw a distinction with the opposition. He questions whether his constituents want to be represented by a Labour MP whose election could help to put Ed Miliband into Downing Street, and perhaps alter the British government’s position on Israel and the Palestinians.

When the Commons debated Palestinian statehood last October, 54-year-old Mr Freer resigned as a parliamentary private secretary to vote against unilateral recognition. “I was put under pressure to abstain rather than resign,” he explained.

“Most of the Jewish MPs absented themselves, which I could have easily done. But that would have been the easy option. I did think it was a point of principle. I believed in it and it’s what my constituents wanted me to do.”

Mr Freer, who is not Jewish, is one of parliament’s most prominent campaigners on Jewish issues. He has visited an abattoir to learn more about shechita, is a vice-chairman of the parliamentary group on British Jews, and has become a semi-regular shul-goer.

“I have particularly strong empathy with the Jewish community and minority communities in general,” he said. “Sitting at Holocaust Memorial Day events it strikes me that if it was happening today I’d be on the trucks as well. Maybe not wearing a yellow star, but a pink triangle.”

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