Skip to content
Home ยป Hate Faced By MP Mike Freer Is Attack On Democracy, Says Downing Street

Hate Faced By MP Mike Freer Is Attack On Democracy, Says Downing Street

Image caption, Mike Freer has represented Finchley and Golders Green since 2010

By Chas Geiger

Political reporter

Downing Street has said the “vitriolic hatred” faced by a Tory MP who has said he will stand down at the next election is an “attack on British democracy”.

Death threats and an alleged arson attack on his constituency office had “become too much”, Justice Minister Mike Freer told the Daily Mail.

The PM’s spokesman said no one elected “deserves to be abused or intimidated”.

Asked if MPs had enough protection, the spokesman added existing measures were “robust” but were “kept under review”.

The prime minister was “extremely saddened” that Mr Freer, who has represented Finchley and Golders Green in north London since 2010, “feels he is no longer able to serve his local community”, the Downing Street spokesman said.

He described the abuse the MP had suffered as “clearly deeply distressing”.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he was saddened to hear Mr Freer was standing down and vowed to do what he could to ensure MPs were safe.

But he also called for MPs to “turn down the heat” and “have a nicer politics within the House” than the “election frenzy” he currently saw.

“Because in the end don’t be shocked if people react in the way that we react to each other,” he told Sky News.

Earlier, Sir Lindsay told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Politicians want to do the right thing by their constituents, by the country, but we have others who all the time are trying to stop people carrying out the job they were elected to do. It is not acceptable.

“I will do whatever I can as Speaker, working with the security, working with the police, working with ministers, to ensure that members are safe, their families are safe, their offices safe.

“But that is the big challenge at the moment. It really is a threat. We all get death threats, but Mike really has been targeted,” he added.

In the Commons, MPs from across the House condemned the abuse that had led Mr Freer to make his announcement.

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said: “It is an absolute tragedy that people who come here in good faith to represent their constituencies and do a job they love doing are hounded out of office or have to leave office because of the well-being of their family.

“We know that what often encourages others is where they are given permission to demonise members of Parliament, to dehumanise them. Quite often that permission to do serious physical harm and the motivation for it often starts on social media.”

In an interview with GB News, Mr Freer also called for social media firms to take more action against content that incited violence against MPs.

“Email and social media have a lot to answer for, because it can be kind of anonymous, certainly social media. Social media companies do very little to just stop it,” he said.

Labour’s shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell expressed “profound regret” that Mr Freer was standing down.

‘Too much’

“That any member is forced from office due to intimidation, threats and fear is an attack on all of us and what we represent. It is unacceptable and we must do more to protect our freedoms and democracy, and we stand together.” she said.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said the pressure on MPs was increasing. “It’s going to be a terrible thing if people are afraid to come offer themselves for public office and stand for Parliament.

“I recently raised my problems, I haven’t had much help or support from the House or even from my own party. We need to do better if we’re going to keep this a healthy parliamentary democracy,” he added.

In an interview with the Mail, Mr Freer, who’s 63, announced he would not contest the next election, saying: “There comes a point when the threats to your personal safety become too much.”

He said it was time to “say enough” as he could no longer put his family through their anxiety for his safety.

In a letter to his local Conservative association, he said it would “be an enormous wrench to step down”, but the attacks had “weighed heavily on me and my husband, Angelo”.

He said he and his staff had started wearing stab vests after learning he had narrowly avoided being attacked by Ali Harbi Ali, who went on to murder Southend West MP Sir David Amess in 2021 after watching for Mr Freer at his Finchley office.

“I was very lucky that actually on the day 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.”

He added that MPs tended to try to “make light” of threats, but it remained at the back of his mind that he could have been killed.

‘Kinder campaign’

He had also received death threats from a group calling themselves Muslims Against Crusades, and the alleged arson attack on his constituency office on Christmas Eve had been “the final straw”, he added.

Mr Freer, who has pro-Israel views and represents a constituency with a significant Jewish population, said: “I don’t think we can divorce” antisemitism from what he had experienced.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said Mr Freer’s experience proved the UK had a “serious problem with antisemitism”, adding that he had been “targeted because he supports the Jewish community”.

A man and a woman, charged in connection with the fire, have denied involvement. They remain in custody and are due to stand trial in July.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP for Ynys Mon Virginia Crosbie has urged all prospective candidates for the seat to promise a general election campaign “free of personal attacks and unpleasantness, especially on social media”.

She said: “The fact I need to wear a stab vest to surgeries and that MPs are quitting parliament because of attacks on them and their offices all means we need to have a kinder political discourse.”