Mike Freer quits politics over death threats for supporting Israel

Arson attack on Finchley office was ‘final straw’ for outspoken MP


Mike Freer has been driven out of politics by death threats in part because of his stance on Israel and his work challenging antisemitism.

Elected MP for Finchley and Golders Green in 2010, Freer has faced more than a decade of abuse and intimation and says he feels “lucky to be alive”.

One month after his constituency office was set alight in a terrifying arson attack, the Justice Minister has informed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that he will step down at the next election.

The veteran MP said quitting politics was “a real wrench” but he could no longer put his family through the fear that he could be attacked whenever he went outside.

The 63-year-old narrowly escaped murderer Ali Harbi Ali, who went on to kill Tory MP Sir David Amess in 2021. Before killing Amess, Ali had visited Freer’s consistency office.

In an interview with the Mail, Freer said: "I was very lucky that actually on the day [of Ali's attempted attack] I was due to be in Finchley, I happened to change my plans and came into Whitehall.

"Otherwise who knows whether I would have been attacked or survived an attack. He said he came to Finchley to attack me."

Since Amess’s murder, Freer and his staff started to wear stab vests when attending public events in his constituency.

Amess was the second serving MP to be murdered in recent years. Jo Cox was assassinated in 2016 in her constituency. Labour's Stephen Timms was stabbed by an Al Qaeda sympathiser in 2010 but survived. 

Freer said he received his first serious death threat in 2011 from the group Muslims Against Crusades, who told him “let Stephen Timms be a warning to you”.

The MP has also found "mock Molotov cocktails on the office steps".

Freer said last month’s arson attack was “the final straw”. An email sent after the attack informed him he was “the kind of person who deserved to be set alight”.

The MP said: “There comes a point when you say enough is enough."

Freer has been outspoken on Israel and a strong supporter of the Jewish community in his constituency. He said the abuse he faced for challenging antisemitism was “a factor” in his resignation. He went on, "I don't think we can divorce" antisemitism from the intimidation.

Last month, Freer told the JC: “Because I have such strong views on the Middle East, and I’m pro-Israel, this has led me to become a target”.

He added that he “always worried if I'm going to come home each night”. Freer said his husband “always wants to make sure he picks me up from the tube after work, he doesn’t like me walking home alone”.

First elected as a local councillor for West Finchley in 1990, Freer has served the North London area in public office for more than 30 years.

In his resignation letter, Freer said: “Since my election as MP in 2010 I have sadly had several serious threats to my personal safety. The attacks by Muslims Against Crusades, Ali Harbi Ali and the recent arson attack (where the motives remain unclear) have weighed heavily on me and my husband, Angelo.

“These serious incidents are alongside the many 'low level' incidents. No MP can operate effectively without the support of their spouse and wider family. Sadly the serious incidents place intolerable stress on them too.

“It will be an enormous wrench to step down, it has been the privilege of my life to serve the wonderfully diverse and vibrant area that is Finchley & Golders Green. Serving the constituents and getting things done is what makes the job worthwhile.”

There has been widespread recognition of Freer’s work in his constituency and condemnation of the terrible circumstances of his resignation.

Lord Walney tweeted: “An MP standing down because of the threats and attacks he has endured should shake our political system and make us all reassess how we protect those who represent us, and the liberal democracy they uphold. My heart goes out to Mike and his husband.”

Labour's candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, Sarah Sackman, said she was "shocked" by the news: "We should have been able to face each other in the polls based on our ideas and merits.

"Instead, politics is now so often skewed by violent language, hate and the dangers of social media."

Tory former minister Sir Conor Burns tweeted: "Totally understandable decision. The drip drip of hate (not exclusively from people on the other side) and remorseless cynicism will drive more people out of politics."

Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, said: “So sorry to read this. A champion for our community. This should not be the consequences of public service.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “No elected official should have to put up with death threats and arson attacks. That’s an attack on democracy itself. I wish him well. We should all think about how poisoned the well of politics is today. And resolve to change it.”

Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy wrote: “There is a campaign of violent intimidation around the world, to make it impossible for people to support Israel’s right to defend its people. Free societies can’t afford to allow this thuggery to win. The anti-Israel movement is a threat to democracy.”

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