On Armistice Day, I joined the British Friends of Israel in Parliament Square to make sure Churchill’s statue wasn’t defiled by pro-Palestinian protestors. You can read more about my adventures in this week’s Spectator.
When we arrived at the north-east corner of Parliament Square, the area in front of the statue was occupied by two groups, one made up of middle-aged intellectuals holding up pro-Israel banners, and the other of white working-class men who would later be described by the Guardian as “football hooligans”. I felt ambivalent about the second of these groups. On the one hand, they would undoubtedly be very useful if a mob of masked protestors arrived with Palestinian flags and spray cans. But on the other, I didn’t want to be lumped in with them if any trouble broke out. I could picture the pursed-lipped BBC news reader introducing the item: “In Westminster earlier today, the two minutes’ silence to commemorate Armistice Day was interrupted by a far right mob, including the journalist Toby Young, throwing bottles at a group of mostly peaceful Muslim protestors and shouting, “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”’
Luckily, as more members of the British Friends of Israel arrived, the other group began to wander off. Was it because we had effectively claimed the space? I cannot imagine they were intimidated by us. Was it the fact that a press photographer arrived and started snapping away? That may have been a factor. Or did they just take one look at us and conclude this wasn’t where the action was? If so, they were right. In the hour and a half I spent ‘guarding’ Churchill’s statue, I only spotted two pro-Palestinian protestors and they both looked lost rather than intent on doing damage. The march wasn’t due to begin until noon and the starting point was Hyde Park Corner, about a mile away.
Instead of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with black-clad militants, I spent the morning chatting to like-minded conservatives. “Do you two know each other?” Allison Pearson said at one point, introducing me to Gary Mond, the President of the Jewish Assembly. “You were both at Trinity.” We reminisced about what a lovely place it is. Another gentleman sought me out to tell me that he was a fellow QPR fan and would be heading to Loftus Road that afternoon to watch the first home game under our new manager, Marti Cefuentes. That turned out to be equally uneventful – a 0-0 draw with Bristol City.
Worth reading in full.