Westminster hero Tobias Ellwood cancels appearance at Yachad dinner

MP who tried to save life of policeman in terror attack drops out as guest speaker at short notice in bid to avoid media spotlight


One of the heroes of last week’s Westminster Bridge terrorist attack, foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood, cancelled his appearance at the last minute as guest speaker at Yachad’s annual fund-raising dinner on Monday evening.

The nearly 200 guests had been anxiously waiting to hear Mr Ellwood, who is minister for the Middle East, on what would have been his first public appearance since his failed attempt to save the life of PC Keith Palmer, fatally stabbed by Khalid Masood last Wednesday.

Mr Ellwood had every intention of attending the Yachad event, and confirmed as late as 6pm that evening. However, a renewed wave of publicity, including pictures of him viewing the floral tributes to PC Palmer in Parliament Square, which appeared in Monday’s Evening Standard, convinced him that the best way to deal with the unwanted limelight was to keep a low profile.

With deep apologies he asked the Yachad organisers to excuse him from appearing. He had been due to hold a Q&A session after his address and many guests were keen to ask about the government’s Middle East policies, particularly in the light of last week’s surprise contribution at the UN Human Rights Council.

But a resourceful Hannah Weisfeld, Yachad’s director, persuaded one of the guests to stand in for Mr Ellwood. Gina Miller, the businesswoman who has persistently challenged the government’s Brexit strategy in court, said she “completely understood” Mr Ellwood’s reservations as she herself had been the focus of unwonted and unwanted publicity.

She said she had made her court challenge on Brexit “because I felt that someone had to do it”. But she admitted that she had not expected the issue to drag on past last October, and also had hoped that other people would join her in her fight.

Ms Miller gave a gnomic response when asked by Ms Weisfeld if her next step was to go into politics. “No,” she said, but then quickly added that “now I have a voice and I don't want to waste it. For a democracy to work, you have to have an opposition — and we don't have that at the moment.”

Gideon Smith, the Yachad chairman, told the guests that in its six years of existence the organisation had helped to change the communal discourse on Israel. He said that in the coming months Yachad planned to re-pitch the conversation among politicians, and to show that to be pro-Israel one did not have to be anti-Palestinian, and vice versa.

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