Flick Drummond: The UK Conservative 'Friend of Palestine' running for re-election as MP

Flick Drummond: The UK Conservative 'Friend of Palestine' running for re-election as MP
Flick Drummond co-founded Conservative Friends of Palestine in 2023 to give a voice for Palestinians in the UK centre-right party in parliament.
7 min read
25 June, 2024
Flick Drummond is a British Conservative Party politician standing at the UK general election [UK Parliament]

Flick Drummond is seeking re-election for the ruling Conservative Party at the UK's 4 July general election.

She is standing in the Winchester constituency in southern England, having been MP for the now-defunct seat of Meon Valley, since 2019, and nearby Portsmouth South between 2015 and 2017.

Drummond co-founded Conservative Friends of Palestine in 2023, saying last year that she and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi had decided to "re-establish" the group.

The New Arab recently spoke with Drummond. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The New Arab (TNA): What sparked your interest in the issue of Palestine?

Flick Drummond: I've always been interested in Middle Eastern issues, having been born in Yemen and spent most of my early childhood in the Middle East -  before we then lived in Pakistan and India.

When I first became an MP in 2015, I thought, right, let's learn a bit more about this, because then I can become more politically involved as well. I went to Palestine in 2016 and had a really good look around then, and then went last year in May and came back absolutely horrified because they had lost hope.

You could tell that something terrible was going to happen. I didn't go to Gaza, we weren't allowed to go to Gaza, but what did happen was just horrendous. And now we've got the consequences of it.

TNA: What specifically did you find so shocking?

Drummond: I think it's the growth of the settlers, who've taken over more and more land, the permit system [which restricts Palestinians' movements]. The first time I went, we went to the military courts, which was completely outrageous.

Trying children in military courts, keeping them waiting for their court cases in prison for two years [and more].

When we were there, I think there was a professor of English who was being prosecuted for putting something negative about Israel on Facebook. It's the pettiness.

We've got this amazing country, Israel, that's doing incredibly well, and then their neighbours are being treated completely differently. I think the injustice of it all has made me want to stand up for [the Palestinians].

TNA: You mentioned earlier that Conservative Friends of Palestine was re-founded, could you tell us more about the previous group?

Drummond: I think it must have been before my time. Anyway, I used to work for CMEC, the Conservative Middle East Council. Actually, that's probably when I first got interested in Palestine, thinking back, that's in 2010. And I've followed the issue ever since.

Baroness Warsi and I decided to set Conservative Friends of Palestine up because we wanted to educate Conservative colleagues and others about what was going on. We want it to be an education rather than a lobby group or political pressure group.

There are a lot of colleagues who are terrified of standing up because then antisemitism is attributed to them, which is completely untrue. There's no reason to be called antisemitic just because you don't like what one country's doing to another.

TNA: When did you re-found Conservative Friends of Palestine?

Drummond: It was last year. When I came back [from Palestine], I had a chat with Sayeeda [Warsi] and with Lord Tariq Ahmad too because we realised that things were getting worse.

TNA: Why do you think it's important to have specifically Conservative supporters of Palestine in parliament?

Drummond: We've got a big group, the Conservative Friends of Israel, which is great, but they've got quite a strong lobby group. There are very few people in the party standing up for the Palestinians as well - I'd like to stand up for both countries.

TNA: What do you make of how the government and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have handled the war on Gaza?

Drummond: I think David Cameron as foreign secretary has done a very good job on this, I think he gets it completely, and he's been working very hard behind the scenes along with Tariq Ahmad too, the Middle East minister, to help sort it out.

I would have liked to have seen much more action really on helping with the peace process. I know it's mostly America that Israel looks towards, but it would be nice if we could have a little bit more influence as well, considering we were part of the whole group of countries that set up Israel in the first place.

TNA: When you say peace process, do you mean the process of bringing about a two-state solution?

Drummond: Absolutely, yeah, a two-state solution, the recognition of the state of Palestine. [Israel must] withdraw back to the 1967 borders, with the removal of the settlers. It's got to work both ways, though, the Palestinians then have to accept that these are the borders and that they're going to have to start working with their neighbours too.

I don't understand why we need war in this day and age, it's the same with Russia and Ukraine, it's a completely unnecessary war.

I'm not saying this one was unnecessary, I think Israel had every right to defend itself against what Hamas did, but that is something that we have to deal with too. We have to deal with getting rid of Hamas and trying to give the Gazan people their rights as well.

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TNA: Do you think Israel has gone too far in the way it's carried out this war?

Drummond: Yes, they've got very sophisticated armed forces and they could have been a lot more clinical in the way that they've gone about it, without the huge number of civilians that have been killed on the way.

TNA: Some have called it a genocide. What do you make of that?

Drummond: I don't know. I mean, that's a legal term and I'm not a lawyer. I think that will come out later on, but I would be quite cautious about that for the moment.

TNA: Last month, Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell said that the government wants to see a pause in the fighting that will then lead to a "sustainable permanent ceasefire", is that in line with your position?

Drummond: I'd like to see an immediate ceasefire, I'd like the hostages to be released immediately, I would like everybody to come to the table, [and] I think the fighting should stop.

And then we've got a massive rebuilding. I hope that the international community will all come together and help Gaza rebuild, and Israel has certainly got to have a large part in that too.

TNA: Back in November, there was a Scottish National Party ceasefire motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war. I noticed that you didn't vote either way, why was that?

Drummond: I abstained on that one because it was an opposition motion. It's playing opposition politics as well, so I abstained because I'm a team player.

TNA: Would you like to see the State of Palestine recognised immediately?

Drummond: Yes, I would. I've been saying that for a long time now.

TNA: The Conservative Party's general election manifesto says, "Our longstanding position has been that we will recognise a Palestinian state at a time that is most conducive to the peace process."

Drummond: Yes, and that is the party line, but I would like to speed that up, and I don't see any reason why we can't recognise the state of Palestine now.

TNA: In the manifesto, there's a pledge to bring back the anti-boycott bill, or the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill. What did you make of that pledge?

Drummond: I'm very disappointed to see that back in the manifesto, it's not a good bill, full stop.

TNA: Many supporters of Palestine in the UK want to see a ban on arms sales to Israel, is that something that you would support?

Drummond: I have said that if it's found out that our arms have been used to kill innocent civilians, then we might be culpable. So, we need to look very closely at where our weapons are being used. But we've got a very, very tough arms export regime, so I trust that the government are following that very closely.

TNA: What is your message to the people of Palestine?

Drummond: Don't give up hope. Please work to try and get your society so that we can have a really good political democratic system in the country and help rebuild it. And if you do that, we will do whatever we can to help you as well.