Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson was in London yesterday and wrote about what happened in Parliament Square and other parts of the capital as Armistice Day was marked and protesters marched and clashed.
I was standing with the British Friends of Israel at the foot of the statue of Winston Churchill (If only the great man were here in the flesh and not cast in bronze to show the present Government what leadership looks like!). Lots of Telegraph readers had travelled from far and wide to join us. “It takes a lot to get Brits out of their armchairs,” said James, a gentle giant from Thaxted in Essex, “We are a nation of armchair critics, aren’t we? But if this doesn’t get you to stand up for your country then nothing will. Enough is enough.”
I lost count of how many times I heard that phrase. Events at the Cenotaph were blighted by football hooligans and ‘far-Right yobs’. There was disorder, and some men who looked as if they weren’t entirely there to hum along to Edward Elgar. But that was hardly the whole story.
Things were worse down at Embankment where Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League, had summoned his followers to “protect” the war memorial and “honour” the fallen.
But where we were in Parliament Square, and till well past noon, it was respectful, peaceful and good-humoured, with no pro-Palestinian protesters to spoil the two minutes’ silence as we had feared.
“Do you think you’re far-Right yobs?” I asked a group of elegant and venerable ladies.
“Oh, no, we’re from Kensington mainly,” came the startled reply.
From Kensington, from Yorkshire, from Dorset, from Kent, from Stratford, from Hertfordshire, from Reading, from Belfast, from Swansea; the silent majority of decent people, who agree with Suella Braverman, showed up, perhaps because they intuited that a mob who were chanting genocidal slogans, driving away poppy sellers from their annual perches, posed an existential threat to their country.
How shameful it was, too, that so many British Jews were too intimidated to venture into the heart of their own capital city. Gary Mond, chairman of the National Jewish Assembly, did come along and movingly, and quite instinctively, the rest of us closed ranks as if to protect him.
As we stood there, people expressed dismay that Sir Mark Rowley, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had failed to ban the fifth pro-Palestine march through London since the heinous Hamas massacre of Israelis on October 7th. And this latest one on a most solemn, sacred day in the national calendar; almost calculated to give offence.
“It’s incredibly disrespectful to Britain,” said a veteran of Asian background who had been coming to the Cenotaph on this same date for 25 years. “This is a Christian country. When my grandfather came to the U.K., he fitted in, he didn’t start laying down the law about what he wanted. This is a good country, show some gratitude”.
The Home Secretary may have a point when she says the Metropolitan Police have favourites. Peter, a sweet, deeply courteous man who had been helping me hold up the British Friends of Israel banner, popped over to invite a couple of coppers to pose for a picture with our group. They declined.
“They did it for the Black Lives Matter lot, they took the knee to them, didn’t they? We’re not woke enough, Allison,” Peter laughed, bitterly.
And why were so few police officers wearing poppies? It did not go unnoticed. “You’ll wear your Pride patches and badges, won’t you?” jeered Jayne at some passing coppers. Jayne complained how hard it had been to get across town, passing stall after stall selling Palestinian flags.
Worth reading in full.