As the death toll in Gaza passes the 10,000 mark, in principle we should all be motivated to march for an Armistice on Armistice Day but in practice I believe Saturday’s pro-Palestinian march should be postponed.
That is the lamentable, but certain, conclusion I have reached. The march has been drawn into a toxic political vortex and the person responsible for this is none other than the Home Secretary.
Suella Braverman, the person who is supposed to be in charge of protecting us all, has lit the touch paper and ignited community tensions.
Couching the planned demonstration as “armistice day vs a hate march,” she has pitched community against community and set a noisy call for peace against a quiet moment of reflection to mark the war.
I have had to set aside passionate principles in favour of calm pragmatism
For me there is something personally sacred about Armistice Day and the moments of commemoration.
My family connections to our armed forces is both historic and current.
Both my grandfathers served in the British Indian army, my great uncle was a prisoner of war and I grew up being shown their medals and told their stories. Both as a government minister and as a Parliamentarian I have worked closely with our armed forces and veterans, most recently in establishing a strong working relationship between the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims and the Royal British Legion.
Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday are about acknowledging all those that served to bring about peace, whether Tommies, Tariqs or the Palestinian Regiment that fought alongside British and Commonwealth soldiers.
This pro-Palestinian march was never intended to offend. It intended to work with not against this sacred weekend in our calendar. To ask for a ceasefire on the date that marks the moment firing ceased.
I sympathise with this sentiment.
But last week when the Home Secretary chose to make this a poisonous political issue, another issue upon which to fight a culture war and did so based upon a straw man argument of defending the Cenotaph, I knew I had to set aside passionate principles in favour of calm pragmatism.
Let’s get a few facts clear. The Cenotaph was never at risk. The march was never planned to clash with Remembrance weekend events and the police have continuously worked closely with the organisers.
This was never about the Cenotaph. It is about Suella Braverman’s route to number 10.
This is not about wanting peace on our streets its about Braverman wanting another headline.
And this is not about protecting our veterans it’s about Braverman’s political posturing.
The political culture war is now distracting from the real war
The Home Secretary has positioned a perfect culture war, created division , emboldened the far right, politicised the police and undermined the momentum in calls for a ceasefire all whilst Palestinian deaths mount.
The political culture war is now distracting from the real war.
And as the Home Secretary throws her toddler tantrums it falls to communities to be the grown ups.
The chaos she has caused has the potential for catastrophic consequences the responsibility for which will lay at the Home Secretary’s door.
But the organisers of the march should too engage in damage limitation by postponing.
They must seek reassurance that if they do so, the police will be able to manage those that turn up anyway and the groups that may fill the void. The police must be confident they can polic , without stewards, without marshals, any protests that occur if the official one is called off.
I, like millions, am deeply concerned for the plight of the civilians in Gaza and desperately know that the only way we will have security for Israel and dignity for Palestine is by bringing about a political process and that starts with a ceasefire. And yet despite this, with a heavy heart the pragmatic politician in me says the march must be postponed.