Tory minister to step down at election as threats to personal safety ‘too much’

A Government minister has said he will stand down at the next general election after a series of death threats and an arson attack on his constituency office.

Conservative justice minister Mike Freer said that “by the skin of my teeth I avoided being murdered” by Ali Harbi Ali, who went on to kill Southend West MP Sir David Amess.

“There comes a point when the threats to your personal safety become too much,” he said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Mr Freer, who has served as the MP for London’s Finchley and Golders Green seat since 2010, said it was time to “say enough” as he could no longer put his family through the anxiety for his safety.

Ali Harbi Ali court case
Sir David Amess was stabbed to death while hosting a constituency surgery (Chris McAndrew/PA)

In a letter to his local Conservative association, Mr Freer wrote that it “will be an enormous wrench to step down”, but that the attacks “have weighed heavily on me and my husband, Angelo”.

The MP and his staff have decided to wear stab vests when attending scheduled public events in his constituency after learning that Ali had watched his Finchley office before going on to knife Sir David to death during a constituency surgery in 2021.

Mr Freer told the newspaper: “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 said MPs tend to try to “make light” of threats, but that it remained at the back of his mind that he could have been killed.

Mr Freer said he had also received threats from the group Muslims Against Crusades “about coming to stab me” and found “mock Molotov cocktails on the office steps”.

The arson attack on his north London constituency office in December was “the final straw,” he said.

Mr Freer, who has pro-Israel views and represents a heavily Jewish constituency, said “I don’t think we can divorce” antisemitism from the intimidation.

Police have said it is not being treated as a hate crime.

He won his seat by around 6,600 votes at the last general election in 2019, seeing off a Liberal Democrat challenger.

Mr Freer joins a series of MPs who have announced their intention not to contest the next election, which is expected later this year.

Labour’s candidate in Finchley and Golders Green Sarah Sackman said she was “shocked” by the news, adding: “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.”