MP Mike Freer ‘appalled’ by Commons vote to recognise Palestinian state

Mike Freer beside Big Ben. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Mike Freer beside Big Ben. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer has resigned from his role in government over a historic vote to recognise Palestine as a state – describing parliamentary colleagues who voted for the motion as “appalling”.

The Conservative politician was one of only 12 MPs who voted against the landmark motion tabled in the House of Commons on Monday, stating “the government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel”.

The motion was overwhelmingly supported by the Commons – with 274 votes in favour – and sends a powerful symbolic message to decision-makers in Israel and Palestine about the UK parliament’s stance on the conflict over Israeli and Palestinian territories.

Mr Freer took the decision to resign as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to skills and equalities minister Nick Boles in order to oppose the motion, as parliamentary protocol dictates that ministers and PPSs are required to abstain on backbench business votes.

The former Barnet Council leader said his vote “corresponded with most of the letters in my postbag” and insisted voting in favour of the motion played into the hands of militant group Hamas, which is locked in conflict with the Israeli government over territory.

“If they get more and more of what they want without having to sit down with Israel and thrash out a peace deal, it is in their favour,” he said.

“When you have an organisation like Hamas which refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and says they want to kill every Jew, it’s appalling that some of my colleagues can only encourage an organisation like that.

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“I’ve long been a supporter of the two-state solution. I firmly support a Palestinian state. But you can’t bring about a two-state solution when one party wants to wipe another party off the face of the planet and kill everyone.”

Significantly Labour compelled its MPs to vote in favour of the motion or risk losing the whip, raising the prospect that the party would defy Israel’s wishes and recognise Palestine as a state should it come to power at the next election.

Labour’s Hampstead and Kilburn MP Glenda Jackson and Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson both voted in favour of the motion, while Hornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone abstained as a government minister.

Ms Jackson said she had received “hundreds of e-mails” from constituents urging her to vote in favour of the motion.

She added: “The issue is encouraging the British government to join 135 countries around the world who have recognised the state of Palestine. Symbolism can have power and it sends a very powerful message. One always lives in hope.”