A U.K. Conservative lawmaker has revealed he will not contest the next general election and will leave politics due to a string of death threats, an arson attack on his constituency office, and ongoing intimidation from Islamist groups.
Mike Freer announced his decision to step back from frontline politics in a statement posted by his local Conservative association on Wednesday evening.
He has represented Finchley and Golders Green constituency in north London since 2010. As a parliamentary seat with a sizeable Jewish population, Freer has been a staunch supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself and has been outspoken on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
Freer referenced a near-miss encounter with Ali Harbi Ali, the Islamist terrorist who took a weapon to his constituency office in September 2021 only to find that Freer was elsewhere. Just days, later, Ali stabbed Freer’s parliamentary colleague Sir David Amess to death during a constituency surgery in Southend.
Freer also cited an arson attack that saw his constituency office reduced to rubble over Christmas as the latest attack on his life.
“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 have weighed heavily on me and my husband, Angelo. These serious incidents are alongside the many ‘low level’ incidents,” Freer wrote.
“No MP can operate effectively without the support of their spouse and wider family. Sadly, the serious incidents place intolerable stress on them, too,” he added.
Speaking to the BBC, Freer elaborated on his near-death experience with Sir David Amess’ killer.
“He’d been to Finchley several times. He told police that he’d come to Finchley on Sept. 21, 2021 – I remember the date vividly – armed with the intention to harm.
“And purely by a stroke of luck, the night before, Boris Johnson had moved me from the whips’ office to courts and equalities. Otherwise I would have been in Finchley and probably attacked,” Freer added.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that Freer’s decision not to seek nomination again as an MP “due in part to the threats and abuse he has received should be widespread cause for concern.”
The U.K. Jewish Leadership Council thanked Freer for his efforts in supporting the Jewish community during his time as an MP and said: “We firmly oppose any efforts from those who seek to undermine our vibrant democracy.”
Several Conservative colleagues expressed their regret that a lawmaker had felt the need to withdraw from frontline politics due to fear of their safety.
“The abuse Mike and others have endured is shameful and unacceptable,” remarked former Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Conservative broadcaster Nigel Farage described Freer’s decision as “a symptom of a new, worrying political phenomenon. Political sectarianism is now here and it won’t go away. We must protect our MPs.”